Although the PSP is designed primarly to play games, it can also store digital photos, play MP3 files and play video. There are a number of portable video devices on the market already – pocket computers, mobile phones and media players. But none have had the crucial support of the film studios who are already producing films in formats suitable for the PSP. The PSP also has the added attraction of a widescreen format and a bright screen that makes it possible to watch outdoors.
It helps that Sony has its own film studio but Fox, Universal, Paramount and Buena Vista have also pledged to produce films for the device. Of the majors, only Warner and Dreamworks (rather critically) have yet to embrace the format.
Films for the PSP come on a new disc format, the Universal Media Disc (UMD). The disc can hold three times as much data as a CD – enough for a ‘DVD-quality’ movie. According to the BBC, more than three million UMD movie discs have already been sold in the US, with two films – Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse and House Of Flying Daggers – selling 100,000 copies each in the first month since launch.
But despite being a hit in the US, UMD is not faring so well in the classic early-adopter market of Japan. A recent survey of Japanese PSP users found that only 10% had used it to watch a UMD movie. This may be due to the explosion of file sharing culture where high broadband penetration and file sharing software such as BitTorrent is enabling users to download films and TV programmes off the Internet illegally. Moreover, most of this content can be easily converted to watch on the PSP with some pirates already providing ‘PSP friendly’ versions of films and shows. Ironic that a company such as Sony may be giving consumers the very tools that they need to undermine their business.