AUSTRALIAN LAUNCH EVENT
The date. Wednesday 10th August 2005.
The place. Coolangatta Airport.
The time. 6.50am.
It was a cold Wednesday morning (for Queensland anyway), and the drive to the Coolangatta airport while still trying to wake up wasn't a very fun affair. Still, I arrive with plenty of time to spare - too much in fact. With over an hour to wait there is nothing to do. Unfortunately I don't have a Playstation Portable to play, if I did the wait would have been a lot quicker, so would the flight, and so would the train trip into the centre of Sydney. Alas it was a long and boring trip; the kind that reminded me how much I hate to travel, especially sitting in a tin can hurtling 42,000 foot in the air at - as Dark Helmut from Space Balls would say - "ludicrous speed".
|Sheraton on the park.|
So a couple of hours after leaving sunny Queensland I arrive at my destination, the Grand Ballroom at the Sheraton on the Park - right next door to Hyde Park and as with any press event the excitement grew as the event got underway at 11.15am.
After a brief introduction from Adrian Christie the first speaker to emerge on the stage was Michael Ephraim, Managing Director of Sony Computer Entertainment Australia and New Zealand. After a short introduction to Playstation, during which he confirmed Sony's expectations of 125 million PS2's sold by 2008, he played some short videos demonstrating the PSP's gaming prowess with clips of Wipeout Pure and Ridge Racer as well as the systems ability to view photographs and play movies (Spiderman 2 was shown in this clip). He also confirmed that the system would play MP3's and play music video clips - more on that later.
Michael Ephraim then confirmed that the Australian PSP would ship with version 2.0 firmware. At least, it will be included on the sampler disc and then installed automatically onto the PSP upon first use. This feature has been covered on the site in recent weeks however the big enhancement over the original software is the inclusion of an internet browser to surf the web through your PSP. Mr Ephraim's first big surprise was the Telstra Bigpond would be providing downloadable video clips through the internet in the form of AFL, Rugby (NRL) and V8 Supercars. Each will be approximately 5 minutes in length and while the exact content wasn't announced we expect these to be highlight clips of matches or rounds. Very cool stuff.
In terms of sales Mr Ephraim expects the PSP to have a pretty big impact in Australia with 200-250,000 units sold by Christmas (that's in only 4 months) and by the end of their financial year (March 31st 2006) sales of 330-380,000 units are expected. What we found a little disappointing is that the free Spiderman 2 UMD movie will limited to the first 40,000 people to register their system on yourpsp.com.au. Correct us if we're wrong but that number could be sold in the first week, if not the first day! Speaking of yourpsp.com.au Mr Ephraim confirmed that the full site had gone live that morning, the first European territory to do so! Check it out...
The second speaker to the podium was Mr Shusuke Oshima who spoke briefly about how despite some changes in management at Sony the company is still the same in terms of providing quality entertainment. What Mr Oshima did announce was the Memory Stick Pack would be released in Australia. These packs, which come in 512MB, 1GB and 2GB flavours will also include a cable to connect to PC, as well as software to transfer movies and images to the PSP. The new high speed 2GB card will sell for $429.95 - certainly for the hardcore users only.
Michele Garra from Sony Pictures was next up and after a short video clip showing segments of Spiderman 2, Hitch, SWAT, Hellboy and XXX highlighted that it was easier to list the movie studios that were NOT releasing movies on UMD then those that were (those that aren't releasing movies are Dreamworks and Warner Bros while Sony Pictures, Buena Vista, Fox, Universal and Paramount are). She confirmed Sony Pictures commitment to the PSP by announcing that the company would have 18 titles available at launch. Furthermore she confirmed that Sony Pictures is committed to releasing UMD versions of major pictures on the same day as the DVD release, with two titles - Be Cool and XXX: The Next Level, actually being released on UMD prior to DVD. She wrapped up by confirming that Sony Pictures alone would have 59 titles out by Christmas and 74 by the end of March next year with other studios adding many more titles.
|PSP's running Hollow Man and XXX2.|
The next speaker to take the stage was Denis Handlin, Chairman and CEO of Sony BMG. While he didn't announce details he confirmed that Sony BMG would be fully supporting the PSP with music video releases of concerts and video clips. No titles were announced but groups such as Franz Ferdinand, INXS, Delta Goodram and Foo Fighters were mentioned or shown in clips.
The final two speakers didn't have any earth shattering news in relation to the PSP launch. John Slack-Smith, the General Manager of Harvey Norman, confirmed his companies commitment to the Playstation Portable saying it will create a new category while offering true convergence of different media (games, images, music and video). The final speaker was James Rogers who is heading up Expose, an artistic talent search for those looking to enter the visual effects industry. He also showed a clip of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (he was one of the artists working on that movie!) and confirmed it was coming to PSP this year.
|Finally, onto the showroom...|
With the formalities over it was time to hit the floor and visit the stands of all the distributors present, which was pretty much everyone releasing titles on the system. We'll have impressions of the games in tomorrow's update.
CONTINUE TO PART TWO WHERE WE LOOK AT THE SYSTEM AND MOVIES.
CHECK OUT THE HARDWARE SPECS FOR THE PSP.