They say often that we hurt the things we love most, and as I patiently wait for a supremely cheap Memory Card Duo to arrive, I find that a most apt phrase. I love the PSP. As a piece of technology, as a gaming device, I think the PlayStation Portable is wonderful. I love the way it looks, I love the way it feels, and I love the way it makes a little "clang" noise when I open the disc tray.
But the memory card that shipped today is intended to do unto the PSP that which Sony would never approve of. I am going to do the one thing, the only thing, Sony has been concerned about since day one -- I am going to homebrew the everloving buggery out of the PSP.
But I want you to know, PSP ... I'm only hurting you because I love you.
Let it be known that I have a moral compass that generally tries to have me avoid piracy. I don't particularly have any deep hatred of the practice, and have been known to emulate, but things like the R4 chip that haunts DS systems has always struck me as a little bit unbalanced and unfair. That's not to say I might not ever own one, but it still makes me feel uncomfortable to see a machine's entire library ripped off.
With the PSP, I had resisted the temptation of custom firmware, homebrew applications and emulated games for years. Why? Because I, like a naive child, felt the PSP could offer more. I have owned two PSPs in my life, and both times they were purchased for the retail library, not for emulation. Crazy I know, but my intentions were honorable and the relationship consensual ... until now.
I first purchased a PSP when it launched, and was distracted for a while by Sony's boasts of having a "walkman for the 21st century." Putting music, movies AND PlayStation 2 quality games on a system had suitably wowed me, so much so that I was able to overlook the fact that the only game worth owning on the system was Metal Gear Ac!D, and even that was a bit disappointing.
It wasn't long before I got rid of my PSP and picked up a DS like any sensible gamer should. The store clerk tried to berate my decision, questioned why I would trade in a PSP and get a DS. My response was simple: "I'm a gamer, I don't need to watch Spiderman on the bus." One long-haired chap in the store raised his arms and applauded the class of the move. I took my DS home, I was happy.
However, even though I had discarded the PSP and gone for something a little more dependable, I must confess that I missed the old girl. Quite why, I didn't know, since my uses for it were few and far between. Fast-forward to 2008, and the PSP's new library was looking interesting, plus Koei had sent me a bunch of UMDs to look at. I took the excuse and picked up the machine.
For a while, all was well. Gitaroo Man would regularly entertain me on plane rides, Warriors Orochi was an amazing portable achievement, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops was a lot of fun, and there were inventive, promising new titles like Patapon on the horizon.
Unfortunately, this library was only terrific if you didn't take into account the fact that it took three years to accrue that number of games, and there was barely anything beyond that to bolster what was there. Before long, I found myself back in the same situation I had been in with the first PSP -- scouring store shelves for something, anything to play on my console and coming away with better games on other systems.
I've been holding out for a long time now, willing to keep away from homebrew in order to play retail games ... but what's the point? As I think of the games I want to buy for my PSP this year, the only one I truly care about is Dissidia, a title that is not scheduled for a Western release until some time this Summer! That's half a year away. A customer does not expect to drop several hundred dollars for a game machine they don't use for upwards of six months. That's pathetic.
I never wanted to do frowned-upon things with the PSP, but as far as I can see, I've been left with no choice if I want to get my money's worth from the system. As I say, I love my PSP, and I relish any excuse to turn it on. If Sony isn't going to give me any reason to do so, I guess I'll have to make some reasons.
The ironic thing is, if Sony didn't waste so many resources on coming up with new firmware to fight homebrew, maybe I wouldn't need to install homebrew in the first place. Sony has been so zealous in its fight against piracy that it is driving its customers to pirate. All I, and I am thinking many people wanted, were some new games.
We also needed games that had replayability. The one major problem with the PSP is how it was built to evoke a home console experience on a portable device. Unfortunately, most home console games aren't ones you can keep playing over and over again, and tend to last about ten hours or so. PSP games fell into this trap, with some excellent games like God of War: Chains of Olympus, struggling to last maybe even six hours. With a library as uninteresting as the PSP's, having games that support only a very limited amount of playtime is ridiculous.
I love the PSP. In some ways, it's my favorite gaming system, although I couldn't give you a single reason why. I want to keep playing with my PSP, and the only way I'm going to be playing it for more than a handful of hours this year is if I use it for things that Sony never intended. I feel almost sad about this, after having resisted the lure of homebrew for so long, but Sony has done nothing to encourage me not to give in.
This speaks to a larger industry as well. It's high time that publishers stopped looking at ways of discouraging piracy, and more ways of encouraging legal purchases. The games industry has it all the wrong way round. Stop trying to fight pirates, start trying to embrace consumers. Perhaps if people felt like they had a reason to be loyal customers, you'd have some loyal bloody customers.
As it is, I can expect a shiny 4GB memory card (less than $17.00 on Amazon) in a few days, and I don't feel bad about hurting the console I love anymore. It's simply better this way. Pretty soon, I am going to have endless reasons to turn my PSP on, and I am going to enjoy my console with a big smile on my face once more.
Just a shame that the games industry proved itself incapable of putting that smile on a customer's face itself.