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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Sony PSP sets sights on UK gamers
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Sony PSP
Sony is touting the PSP as a portable entertainment centre
Sony's new handheld games console, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), is finally going on sale in the UK on 1 September after months of delay.

The PSP is arriving in Europe nine months after it hit Japanese stores and six months after the US.

The gadget is a games console that can also play films and music, and be used to browse the web wirelessly.

It marks Sony's first foray into handheld entertainment, which has been dominated by Nintendo's GameBoy.

Some shops in the UK have already sold their allocation of machines, which retail for 179 (249 euros). In the US the console sells for $249 (138) plus tax.

"It is only so often that an iconic gadget comes along. The iPod is one of them and this is the next one," said Jason Jenkins, deputy editor of T3 gadget magazine.

"There is something about it that transcends a normal product. This is definitely the must-have gadget for Christmas."

Beyond games

So far, Sony has sold more than five million PSPs in the US and Japan. The company is looking to sell a million in the UK by Christmas.

For the games industry, the PSP offers a much needed shot in the arm as it is expected to tempt more people into the world of gaming.

It's difficult to see where Nintendo goes from here. The PSP is so good and can do so many things, I can't see what their strategy is going to be
Jason Jenkins, T3
"History suggests that the video game market is driven by new technology launches," said Simon Soffe, spokesperson for Game, Europe's largest retailer of video games.

"We've been taking orders for a long time and are geared up for a lot of demand. We expect demand will outstrip supply, at least initially."

More than 30 games titles will be available at launch, including the critically acclaimed Wipeout Pure and Ridge Racer.

The release of a PSP version of the best-selling Grand Theft Auto, probably in October, is expected to boost sales.

But Sony talks of the PSP as a portable entertainment device, with more than 30 film titles already on sale for it and more coming.

The head of Sony Computer Entertainment UK, Ray Maguire, said the PSP was designed to appeal to more than gamers.

"We want to engage people through interesting content," he said, explaining how Sony plans to use built-in wi-fi to offer downloadable video and music clips.

Handheld battle

The machine is Sony's first portable games machine, challenging the dominance of Nintendo's handhelds such as the GameBoy Advance and the DS.

But Mr Maguire shrugged off the notion that Sony was going head-to-head with Nintendo.

Nintendo GameBoy Micro
Nintendo is fighting back with a sleek version of its GameBoy
"The PSP is in its own space," he said. "The PSP delivers so much more than any other individual device.

"Ours is a market of people who are looking to go further than current devices."

Nintendo is the daddy of handheld gaming. Its GameBoy is the best-selling console ever, while its latest machine, the DS, has sold more than six million units worldwide.

"It's difficult to see where Nintendo goes from here," said Mr Jenkins of T3. "The PSP is so good and can do so many things, I can't see what their strategy is going to be."

Nintendo is fighting back by releasing a new, smaller version of its GameBoy, called the Micro, in November.

It is also counting on new releases such as Nintendogs for the DS, where players look after a virtual dog, to keep sales of its hardware buoyant.

It is hoping that Nintendogs will help it reach a sales target of a million DS consoles in the UK by Christmas

"As happened in the home console market, there is room for several brands as they appeal to different kinds of customers," said Mr Soffe from Game.

"Each different brand is doing so many different things. There is so much to attract consumers."

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