Opinion: Back to 1981 with the PSP Go
18th Nov 2009 | 16:39
Emotional extremes recently ensued on receipt of a parcel containing a PSP Go. Having had a go on a Go, as it were, at E3, and been impressed by its industrial design, excitement instantly struck. Half an hour later - when I was near to getting the infernal object up and running - I had passed through annoyance and disillusion had set in.
To be fair, there was a specific problem: my office Wi-Fi is broken (or at least sufficiently broken that it won't work with PS3s, PSPs and Xbox 360s, although notebook PCs and my iPod Touch have no problem with it). Which shouldn't have been a problem: Sony's newest and dinkiest console comes with a USB cable, so I would hook it up to my PC, get it up and running and start downloading games to it. Hopeless optimism.
First, I had to install Media Go, its media-management software, on my PC, from the supplied CD. Not a particular imposition. Until I fired it up. At which point it informed me that it wouldn't let me on the PlayStation Store, because I needed to download an updated version. When I finished cursing, I downloaded the update. 15 minutes later, with steam coming out of my ears, I finally managed to launch Media Go. Only to discover one of the least impressive items of software in the history of mankind.
To be fair, it is good for things like trawling your iTunes library for music although, annoyingly, it doesn't recognise iTunes Playlists - a problem if, like me, most of your iTunes music was ripped from self-recorded rather than shop-bought CDs, so has no details of track name, artist and so on. A minor point, but symptomatic of Media Go's lack of attention to detail and the likely wishes of its users.
Doggedly, armed with a code from Rockstar which would let me download Beaterator, I persisted, finally managing to access the PlayStation Store, redeem code and begin downloading. A process which, naturally, made watching paint dry feel like playing Modern Warfare 2.
Here we don't go
Aeons later, the download concluded and excitement returned. Only to be cruelly dashed when I attempted to persuade Media Go to pump it over the PSP Go. No go. I was informed that I'd have to download a firmware update for the PSP Go, before I could even copy Beaterator over to the PSP Go.
Casting around in vain for the "Update PSP Firmware" button in Media Go - the absence of which downgraded my opinion of the software from "Lacklustre" to "Downright useless" - I eventually located the updated firmware via some concerted Googling. Cue yet more downloading.
By now, wisps of steam were billowing from my ears. But that wasn't even the end of the story. Having downloaded the firmware, I connected the PSP Go to my PC, thinking that Media Go would at least pump it across, or let the PSP Go find it on my PC's hard disk. But no. Stumped, I resorted to the manual, which proved to be one of those recently-fashionable cut-down affairs containing merely the most obvious and unnecessary information about the machine, all glossed over with the minimum amount of detail.
Buried near the back of it, I found a URL for online PSP Go help. There, I discovered that getting the firmware onto the PSP Go is pretty much the same process as getting new firmware onto a debug PS3, except that you can use a nice USB stick with a PS3, but the PSP Go only takes Sony's proprietary, overpriced Memory Stick Micro (M2) cards.
Vista to the rescue
Eventually, I solved the problem in Vista, by accessing the PSP Go's internal storage through Explorer, creating the requisite folder within a folder (as with debug PS3s) and copying the file over. At last, the PSP Go was able to locate its new firmware and update itself. And if I hadn't been familiar with updating the firmware on a debug PS3, I would never have been able to work out what to do - what hope is there for general punters? But finally, after the updating and rebooting process, I could download Beaterator to it.
Back to 1981
So, several hours after removing the PSP Go from its box, I had managed to get something playable onto it. Frankly, it was a miracle that the thing hadn't found itself being chucked across the room at some point. It felt like the PSP Go had been trying its damnedest to convince me that, actually, despite what everyone says, downloading games isn't the future after all - for sure, it took me longer to get a game installed on it than it used to take to coax games from a tape-recorder onto my old ZX81, even allowing for a couple of the ZX81's inevitable keyboard short-circuits.
The thought "Bring back solid-state cartridges" flashed through my mind. I event felt a twinge of nostalgia for UMD, surely the most proprietary and unloved format ever?
Things, admittedly, would have been slightly improved if I had been able to get the PSP Go working with a wireless network, which would have offered direct access, at least, to the PlayStation Store, and direct download of the firmware update. But I would still have to have endured well over an hour's worth of downloading. This was less than a week after the machine had launched in the UK - how come the media management software and firmware were already out of date?
I would be surprised if there was a single PSP Go customer who hadn't either trawled through the PSP Go's help forums or emailed Sony's online help-desk. It's a good job that the PSP Go is as expensive as a PS3 Slim, otherwise Sony would be inundated by people seeking technical assistance.
Whoever was responsible for Media Go should be shot - or at the very least, sacked - and Sony should be working right now on adding a button to it which, with one click, seeks out firmware updates, downloads them and pumps them straight to the PSP Go.
Until it does that, the brave new digital-download world of the PSP Go will continue to feel as forward-looking as the brave new world that Sir Clive Sinclair introduced us to at the turn of the 1980s. Nice one, Sony.
The above is an opinion piece by freelance journalist, Steve Boxer and does not necessarily reflect the views of CVG. Stay away, legal hounds.