The PlayStation Portable (PSP) appears to have enjoyed a successful, if limited launch in Japan this past weekend. Available in stores since last Sunday for a price of 19,800 yen ($190 USD), only 200,000 consoles were available at launch, which convinced most stores not to take pre-orders. This led to particularly long queues for the handheld, even by Japanese standards, with 1,500 to 2,000 people queuing for up to 24 hours at Yodobashi Camera in Tokyo.
PlayStation boss Ken Kutaragi has announced that Sony will attempt to keep up with demand, but that a lack of components will make it almost impossible to increase the production rate.
A second batch of consoles is expected to ship on December 22nd, but is not thought to contain more than 100,000 units. The company had previously hoped to deliver 100,000 new units to retail each week after release, but this is now looking increasingly unlikely.
In contrast, the Nintendo DS launched with 500,000 consoles available and sold out of 89 percent of these immediately. It now seems unlikely that Sony will have this many available at retail even by the end of the year – making a comparison between the performance of each console all but impossible.
(It should be noted, though, that the main Japanese gift giving period is over the New Year, and so the currently unavailability of consoles is not quite such a dire problem as it would have been if it occurred at the same time in the West.)
Despite the positive press that enormous queues will generate both inside and outside Japan, some feedback by owners of the new console will raise eyebrows with consumers, publishers and retail alike.
According to reports, although simplistic puzzle games, which do not need to regularly load from disc, do indeed result in a battery life of around six hours (the figure stated, with numerous caveats, by Sony) more complex titles, such as the highly rated Ridge Racers, apparently reduce this to under 2 hours. Load times of up 20 seconds have also been reported for some titles, as well as the traditional dead pixel problems suffered by all new LCD devices, including the DS.
There is also continued confusion as to whether the device will, like Nintendo's Game Boy, be region free. Somewhat ambiguous statements from Sony have claimed that games will work on any version of the console, but it has been noted that the packaging for the Japanese games all appear to have a regional logo, similar to those used on DVDs.