Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / PlayStation Portable

Go To
Top: the PSP-2000. Bottom: the PSP Go.

Everywhere Just Got Better.

Short story: You wouldn't be wrong in christening the PlayStation Portable (aka the PSP) as a "successful failure." It failed in the sense that it did not enable Sony to achieve their goal of stealing the handheld market from Nintendo who, in turn, went on to achieve dominance in the handheld space for the third time in a row. But it was a success, in that it still sold tens of millions of systems (selling nearly 80% as many systems as the PlayStation). It was the closest anyone had ever come to presenting legitimate competition for Nintendo's handhelds, and it featured a number of hit games — particularly in Japan, where a few Killer Apps led to the system getting a second lease of life in the latter half of its release cycle and becoming, at least locally, a real competitor for the Nintendo DS.


Long story: in 2004, Sony was riding high off the success of the PlayStation and the ludicrous sales numbers the PlayStation 2 bought themnote , and decided to get into the handheld market, confident they could replicate that level of success in this new arena. The gaming press were just as confident. It seemed like all the factors were in place for it to happen. Sony's use of their proprietary, high-capacitynote  Universal Media Discs (UMDs) versus Nintendo's reliance on low-capacity cartridges for the DS; a more traditional, two-handed control scheme not dissimilar to that of a pre-DualShock PlayStation Controller, versus the DS's unconventional, often-stylus-and-button-centric inputs; several third-party developers onboard versus Nintendo's largely skeleton-cast show; multimedia capabilities such as movies, television shows and music stored on UMD coupled with digital downloads through USB Mini connectivity; PlayStation Network support following the launch of the PlayStation 3, allowing for ad-hoc play to the larger system, access to the PlayStation Store, and far greater processing power (which wasn't the case with the two console systems, but still a touted factor) all contributed to the notion that success was written in the sky. It seemed like the PSP could become the leader in the handheld gaming market, and finally place itself upon a throne once held strong by Nintendo.


As expected, not everything went as planned. Among the reasons for this include:

  • The battery life wasn't much better than that of other handheld challengers Nintendo had faced previously, lasting 6 hours max. While not as big of a problem as it was for older handhelds due to rechargeable batteries being more convenient than disposable ones, it still paled in comparison to the DS... and this was before factoring in the variable power draw from how often a given application utilized the optical drive. For example, playing a feature-length movie in full, off of a disc - in other words, having the optical drive constantly read data off of a continuously-spinning disc for upwards of two hours - could cut the battery life by upwards of one-third.
  • Although discs proved to be superior to cartridges as the storage medium for home consoles, the format's advantages were less pronounced on a handheld device. While UMDs still offered higher capacity for developers to better execute just what they wanted to put on the system, the optical format resulted in comparatively longer loading times, louder system noise, and increased battery usage due to constant disc spinning, seeking, stopping, and spinning once more. Without the production volume of the established DVDs or CDs, the format didn't have the huge cost differential that made discs preferable to cartridges in the 5th console generation (and beyond). Storage of multiple games was also made less efficient, due to each UMD disc being permanently encased in an outer shell, itself usually shipped in either a flimsy cardboard sleeve when bundled with a system, or in a tall plastic case if sold separately. Additionally, UMDs were less convenient to lug around due to the nature of being discs and also larger than DS carts. While both the system and discs supported Region Coding, only three PSP applications/games would make use of this feature (the Asian release of the Battlezone remake, as well as the Digital Comics eBook reader and Remote TV Viewer applications). As a means of combating potential piracy, all UMD movies were region coded, and couldn't play on PSPs from a different region.
  • Loading times aren't as much of an issue with home consoles, where a player is usually settled in, intent on playing the game in question for a while. But handheld systems are often played here and there, on the go, in pails of time players are intent on quickly filling. Taking upwards of thirty seconds to load is a major downside under those circumstances. In the later models, Sony incorporated a method which considerably shortened loading times note  for compatible games. The system also has a "sleep" function to compensate for this difficulty, which saves the current memory-state for quick flick-on later.
  • While the PSP received a couple Grand Theft Auto games early on that sold well, it didn't have many other Killer Apps for some time and game sales stalled. Meanwhile, the DS was quickly and constantly pumping out huge successes; Nintendogs, Mario Kart DS, New Super Mario Bros., Brain Age, Animal Crossing: Wild World and Pokémon Diamond and Pearl all came out in the first couple years of the system's life and flew off store shelves. The PSP did later get sales boosts from system revisions and true killer apps like Monster Hunter Portable/Freedom in Japan, but those were well after the DS took off and after the PSP had lost any lead.note 
  • Poor, often-tasteless advertising, a problem that also plagued the PlayStation 3 at various points in its lifespan. Most infamously, it resulted in the "PSP Squirrels" television ads, which instantly garnered controversy due to perceived anti-black stereotyping via the titular characters' portrayals, and the "" fiasco, a botched attempt at a Viral Marketing/quasi-Augmented Reality campaign that, if anything, hurt the system just when it was starting to get some momentum back.
  • Most important of all was the different focus. Sony was convinced there was a "handheld gaming ghetto". This meant that the smaller-scale games on handhelds were supposedly inferior to home console games. The PSP was an unsuccessful attempt to bring the sense of scale and level of production quality that were the hallmarks of home console gaming to portables. This left developers scrambling to find a balance between the huge games of home consoles and the "bite-sized" style of gaming for portables, whereas Nintendo already had plenty of practice driving that golden spike.

Despite these issues, the PSP still saw financial success during its lifespan. As mentioned, it's easily the most successful competitor to Nintendo's handheld dominance and one of the highest-selling second-place systems of any console war. Firmware updates since its launch would increase the system's capabilities, ranging from being able to play more file formats, to being able to organize media in folders, to PS3 remote play compatibility. In addition to this, later released UMD titles allowed portions of the game to be installed to the memory stick, reducing loading times and extending battery life.

However, in some countries, namely developing markets such as Morocco, the Philippines and India, the PSP was and still is the most successful handheld gaming device, where the absence of Pro Evolution Soccer and a 3D Grand Theft Auto title didn't allow for the DS, and subsequently the Nintendo 3DS, to thrive. Additionally, the relative ease of using Custom Firmware (see below) allowed small shops to make a business of installing downloaded games into the PSP for a small price (about £0.50 or $0.70 each per game).

Moreover, as has been mentioned above, while the system floundered a bit in other developed nations, in Japan, the system experienced a full-bloom renaissance, initially spearheaded by one specific game: Monster Hunter Portable/Freedom. An enhanced port of Monster Hunter G for the PS2, the addition of local multiplayer proved to be the real missing element that Monster Hunter needed to become a legitimate social phenomenon, and sales of the system were driven heavily by Monster Hunter and its sequels. Once the system began establishing a real userbase, other developers took note and developed for it as well, because MHP had inadvertently proven something else: PSP development was rather similar to PS2 development in cost and labor scope. Many mid-size dev studios, or publishers with mid-size development houses attached, had been very hesitant to develop for the PS3 because of the ballooning costs for HD development in the mid and late Noughts, and the PSP, with MHP as a proof-of-concept, proved to be an ideal platform for developers who knew and could handle a PS2-like workload and wanted to make a game more complicated than what the DS could handle but didn't want to commit to HD development costs. As a result, Japanese software development for the PSP exploded in the wake of Monster Hunter Portable, and its software list from the latter half of its life cycle - 2007 or so onward - is a who's-who of some of the greatest games of the entire Seventh Console Generation.

During its heyday, PSP was also notable for a massive homebrew community. Custom firmware was easily installed and opened a multitude of new ways to use the PSP's advanced hardware, from running various emulators (up to the Game Boy Advance and PS1), to browsing YouTube videos, reading eBooks, and even using a console as an IR Remote. A modified PSP one of the most versatile and powerful portable devices of its time, long before modern smartphones entered the market. However, the hacking scene likely contributed to the unimpressive software sales.

Like many handhelds and Sony consoles, the PSP underwent several revisions over the years. The major one was the PSP Slim (or PSP-2000) in 2007, which slimmed the body, reduced the weight, simplified the UMD drive, introduced USB charging, and included a brighter LCD screen and a video out port that allowed it to play on TVs. In 2008 the minor Slim & Lite revision (or PSP-3000) came along with a better LCD screen, a microphone and the ability to output component videonote . Finally, in 2011 Sony announced the PSP Street, a budget PSP that has a simple plastic finish, lacks a microphone and has mono speakers and a very simplified bottom button row. Interestingly, the Street's UMD drive opens up the entire back shell of the device, rather than just where the UMD goes. It also has no Wi-Fi, meaning it cannot connect to the internet. This meant no PlayStation Network, no PlayStation Store, Digital Comics, Downloadable Music, TV Shows, Films, Games, and no means to play any of the aforementioned unless you had a UMD.

That exception aside, the PSP is capable of downloading retail titles available for it through Sony's online storefront, as well as smaller games, video and Downloadable Content for existing games. Furthermore, a special incarnation of the PSP, 2009's PSP Go, was specifically built around digital distribution, having no support for the UMD medium. Despite fears from older PSP owners, Sony insisted that the Go was never meant to replace the PSP. Response was lackluster at best, with reports that some stores wouldn't even stock it. note  Up until the release of the Xbox One All-Digital Edition ten years later, the Go was the only console revision by the big three to be digital only, home or handheld. Many gamers and brick-and-mortar retailers hope it stays that way, for various reasons.note 

Since the PSP was released in 2004, and Sony historically released new consoles every six years, by 2010 there was a storm of rumor and speculation over what would come next. The announcement didn't hit until January 27, 2011. Sony's new device, named the PlayStation Vita, was released later that year. The Vita officially allows any PSP games sold on the PSN store to be played, along with PS1 and Mini games. Notably, the Henkaku system hack and Adrenaline custom firmware program allows the entire PSP operating system to be directly emulated on the Vita, enabling total PSP backwards compatibility on the Vita with all PSP hacks and other goodness conferred by this original environment available.



  • One R4000-based MIPS32 "microprocessor assembly" with floating point and vector floating point units.
  • Another R4000-based MIPS32 "media engine" similar to the microprocessor assembly, containing various multimedia hardware (such as decoders).
  • Both cores are rated at 333 mHz, but generally operate at 222 mHz to preserve battery life. A handful of games fully unlock the processor, and a system with custom firmware can permanently set the CPUs to 333 mHz, increasing performance at the cost of battery life.


  • The original PSP shipped with 32 MB of RAM, which was upped to 64 MB in the 2000 and subsequent models to allow for shortened load times with aggressive caching.
  • Aside from system memory, the PSP contains two sets of dedicated memory, 2 MB for graphics processing and 2 MB for multimedia processing through the media engine.
  • Data can be stored on any number of different versions of Sony's proprietary MemoryStick technology.


  • One custom 166 mHz dedicated graphics co-processor with support for advanced graphical calculations such as vertex blending and tessellation.
  • Featured a 4.3-inch 16:9 TFT LCD screen displaying a 480 x 272 image in 16.8 million colors.
  • This chip can ostensibly generate 33 million flat-shaded polygons per second, but that's a theoretical maximum.
  • The system comes with partial hardware rendering, instead of strictly software rendering that the PS2 had. This got around some compatibility issues, like with texture compression, while still allowing some flexibility with the vector units.


  • 1000 series models had a 3.6V 1800mAh battery, which could be upgraded officially to a 3.6V 2200mAh battery. Typical battery life is 4-6 hours. Later models used a 3.6V 1200 mAh battery; however, due to using more energy-efficient components, the 2000 and 3000 series models had roughly the same battery life as the original 1000 series, and older battery packs will work with the newer models. The PSP Go uses a 3.7V 930 mAH battery pack not officially intended to be user-replaceable; however, the battery is not soldered to the logic board.
  • One ARM9-based WLAN chip capable of connecting via 802.11b.
  • Early models shipped with an IrDA port, apparently just for kicks, because it was not officially supported nor used in any first-, second- or any-party software.
  • Late-model firmware enabled the "ad hoc party" feature, allowing PSPs to create virtual local networks via the internet.
  • The 2000 and 3000 models have an AV output connector.

Notable Games/Series:

    open/close all folders 







Alternative Title(s): PSP, PSP Go


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: