Okay, so this is the week it's finally going to be revealed. After more than a year of denying that they were even considering it, followed by several months of clumsy misdirection where they almost convinced us it was going to be a phone, feature a touch screen and cook a mean plate of pasta carbonara, Sony is expected to officially announce the existence of the PlayStation Portable 2 this Wednesday.
And I'm not sure whether to be happy or terrified.
History -- otherwise known as the original PSP -- tells me I probably ought to lean toward the latter. Sony's first foray into handheld gaming had plenty of memorable successes (God of War: Chains of Olympus, the Hot Shots Golf series, some of the PSP minis), but these were always overshadowed by copious misfires, the way an NFL quarterback's career 400-yard day is overshadowed by the cover-your-eyes interception that blows the game. The Universal Media Disc (UMD), the clumsy data platform that, unlike Sony's Blu-ray, utterly failed to transform the way we load and store data on handhelds. Or the interminable whirr-and-grind load times that plagued the PSP six years after its release. Or the fact that the number of new PSP games kept dropping faster than Ricky Gervais' popularity at the Golden Globes. The Japanese, apparently, still love the PSP; all U.S. gamers could ever see was Gywneth Paltrow in a fat suit.
The sequel gives Sony a chance to correct all that. The UMD? Gone, reportedly. Sony is saying the PSP2 is as powerful graphically as the PlayStation 3, and they're also touting a connection to a 3G phone network, which would mean you could download content anywhere, rather than having to rely on the local Starbucks wi-fi. How you'll store it all isn't clear, since it looks as though Sony will be hanging onto the memory-card model. Remember to factor that in when you're tabulating your gaming budget.
I'd love to see the PSP2 live up to even half of its expectations, but given that Sony has promised us the world and delivered a Totino's pizza on more than one occasion has me cocking a cautious eye. And we haven't even discussed the question of developer support: Part of the reason the debut of Nintendo's 3DS, due to be in our grimy mitts in about two months -- felt so exciting is the array of developers who lined up to support it. Here's hoping Sony has a similar murderer's row ready to rock the press conference.
Cost could be the other killer. Nintendo has already set the bar for the next generation of handheld gaming devices at $250 for the 3DS -- that's $100 more than the launch price for the original DS back in 2005, which tells you exactly what Nintendo thinks playing 3D games without having to wear goofy glasses is worth. It's impossible to imagine that Sony finds a way to undercut that price without consumers asking why they wouldn't be better served just buying a PlayStation 3 for $50-$100 more. Particularly given that Sony's also expected to roll out a PlayStation phone (with a touch screen, maybe?) later this year to compete directly with the iPhone, a device that could, depending on its features and processor strength, also end up competing with the PSP2. Or killing it. Who knows?
Gamers love speculation almost as much as they love Mountain Dew and Chili Cheese Doritos. All three are gonna be abundant for the next nine months.