Handheld platform does the decent thing and drops territory lock-outs
Sony's forthcoming handheld console will follow the example of the Game Boy Advance and feature no region coding for its games, according to SCEE boss David Reeves - who also confirmed that the system's RAM has been upgraded.
"Probably [..] games will come out with no regional coding," he stated in an interview on an official Sony website, which has since been withdrawn. However, pressure from Hollywood means that movies distributed on UMD discs for the device will still have to be region locked.
Although Sony has enforced region locking on its consoles in the past, the practice makes little sense on a handheld device, since people are expected to carry their systems with them on trips abroad and must therefore be able to purchase software outside their native country or region.
On the question of UMD movies, Reeves said that the company was hoping to offer significant incentives to get people buying the format. "I think they will come up with quite a few surprises", he said, "so that you'd want to buy a movie on UMD as well as having it on DVD. Maybe."
The recently appointed SCEE president (who took on the role after former president Chris Deering was promoted to overall president of Sony Europe) also finally confirmed the company's decision to upgrade the amount of RAM in the PSP system, which we originally [reported on] last year.
"It will have 30MB of RAM, now, which it didn't have before," he stated - and development sources have confirmed that the final specification for the system does indeed sport 24MB of main RAM, 4MB of video RAM and 2MB of general purpose media processor RAM. Full development systems for the platform are expected to ship to developers in the coming weeks, according to Reeves - replacing the PC-based emulators currently in use for early game creation work.
Speaking more generally about the forthcoming handheld platform, which Ken Kutaragi has described as the "Walkman for the 21st century", Reeves was adamant that the system should not be seen as an attempt to create a replacement for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. "It's not, as people have said, a new Game Boy," he said. "There are so many other features that you can add onto it, whether it's GPS or GPRS even."
Regarding the power of the handheld, Reeves said that at present it lies somewhere between Sony's existing console systems - although the hardware in the device is very similar to the PS2 in its capabilities, and as such, he expects that games on the platform will evolve as it progresses. "I think what Phil [Harrison] would say is that people who get an early start - probably someone like Square - will take it beyond PS2," he explained.
The first PSP software was [shown off at GDC] last week, and the device is set to make its public debut at E3 in mid-May. The physical appearance of the system is a closely guarded secret (Reeves confirmed that the picture of a prototype which was used in a Sony presentation was purely a mock-up, and said that he hasn't seen the final device yet), and few if any developers have even seen pictures of the system.