Bad news for PlayStation Portable gamers hoping to lug their UMD (disc-based) games over to Sony’s imminent PlayStation Vita — it’ll (probably) never happen. That’s the word from the mount (aka Sony), despite a program in Japan, dubbed “UMD Passport,” that allows Japanese PSP owners to register their UMD games online, then download them to a Vita.
The PS Vita will play PSP games, of course, but only ones you’ve bought and downloaded from Sony’s PlayStation Store. The games then run from a memory card (Vita native games come on tiny cards instead of mini-discs). The upsides of playing PSP games on the Vita include the option to use the Vita’s second right-hand analog stick, and an upscaling option that includes a smoothing filter designed to make the games look better on the Vita’s larger 5-inch, 960 x 544 pixel, OLED screen.
It’s not clear why Sony isn’t rolling out a U.S. equivalent to the Japanese program. (The larger install base? Piracy concerns?) The company still makes money off Japanese online UMD game registrations, charging a fee that amounts to selling the online versions at a discount. By cutting U.S. — and, it seems, European — customers out of this program, they’re eliminating an upgrade incentive for PSP owners looking to carry their game libraries forward while mitigating the substantial outlay for the new system. The Vita costs nearly as much as a PlayStation 3, selling for $249.99 (Wi-Fi) and $299.99 (Wi-Fi + 3G). Plus — since it comes without inbuilt storage — it all but requires the purchase of proprietary Sony memory cards that start at $20 for 4GB.
I’ve dropped Sony a line asking for elaboration on the decision. Recall they did the same thing with the PSP Go, forcing Go buyers to re-purchase the digital versions of games they already owned on UMD. But that was worldwide — there’s precedent for a U.S. program here.
What do you think, Techland readers? Should Sony offer a mechanism for validating UMD ownership and a corresponding discount for online purchases?