Patapon 2 for PSP: Ready for a World Without UMDs?

by PocketGoddess on May 7, 2009

I picked up Patapon 2 at GameStop yesterday–as you may know, the retail boxed version is $19.99, while the PSN download edition is $14.99. You may be wondering why I paid the price premium since the retail version is nothing more than a box, instruction manual, and a download voucher, but I had some store credit so I didn’t actually have to spend any money.
There was no tax either, since it was store credit, so the price difference was minimal. FYI even if you use a PSN card purchased at retail, you will pay tax on downloaded games if they’re taxed in your area. That’s a real bummer if you get a $20 card–it won’t buy two $9.99 games unless you use a credit card to add funds to your PSN wallet.
The other reason is that I wanted to see if folks who bought the retail version got early access to the game, and the answer is yes. PSN updates always seem to come pretty late in the day on Thursdays, so I got a little more than a 24 hour head start on everyone who chose to wait for the direct download. Not that big a deal, but it was interesting to find out.
The bad news is that I’m not sure that going download-only is such a great idea for large games. The box stated that 610MB were required for the download, though on PSN the game’s size was reported at 362MB. I have a 16GB MS Pro Duo, so size isn’t a problem for me, but I’ve read several comments on the web that state folks are passing up this game specifically because a UMD isn’t available. I can understand that–I found it to be a lengthy and somewhat tedious experience myself. It took just over 30 minutes to download the game on my home WiFi network, and another 8 minutes for the game to be installed on my PSP.
I really enjoy playing PSN games on my PSP, and I’ve bought quite a few: Echochrome, Everyday Shooter, No Gravity, Super Stardust Portable, and I’ll even admit to Luxor. I really like purely digital games because they’re always with me (I don’t have to worry about switching out UMDs) and the load times are much shorter. The service is great for relatively small games, but I’m not sure that the service is ready for larger games like Patapon 2. When I’m using my PSP I’m ready to play, or to listen to my music, or watch videos–not wait almost 40 minutes to download and install a game after I purchase it.
Of course all of this might be moot in the near future–rumors are swirling that Sony will announce a new PSP at E3 next month that will not include a UMD drive. Part of me is thrilled by this news, not because I hate UMDs (they’re OK, but they do create a lot of clutter) but because I wonder about the idea of backwards compatibility. Will there be some method to obtain digital copies of my older games and movies, or will I have to hang on to my old PSP 2000 in order to play them? Will the new device have a substantial flash drive included, or will we be expected to continually swap out Memory Sticks?
I have no problem with the format other than the fact that 16GB is the largest card available. I have several games, lots of demos, a few videos, and about six hundred songs on mine, with just over 7GB free. I’m set for now, but if upcoming titles like Motor Storm: Arctic Edge and Little Big Planet are download-only titles, I may be on the market for another Memory Stick sooner rather than later.
Only time will tell what the future holds. Hopefully Sony will release information about whether this one-time download-only experiment is a success or a failure. I see a digital-only future as a distinct possibility, but only if the next PSP has faster WiFi and includes a better storage solution.

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