Few PSP details emerge at CES

Kaz Hirai reveals game lineup for the portable's launch but offers only vague "March" release date and no mention of US price.

LAS VEGAS--When Sony announced it was holding a PSP event alongside the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, many hoped the company would reveal details about the handheld's US launch. Foremost on gamers' minds was the exact American release date and price for the handheld, which is already available in Japan for the price of JPY 19,800 ($185).

Unfortunately, anyone wanting concrete details about the US PSP launch was disappointed by today's presentation. After announcing that Sony had shipped 510,000 units of the portable in Japan by the end of December, Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Kaz Hirai said the company will "most likely release the PSP in late March 2005" in North America. The announcement is nothing new, since Sony has always maintained that the PSP would launch during the first quarter of 2005.

Hirai's vague launch-date comment echoes statements made earlier in the day by Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi. Speaking to a group of business executives in Tokyo, Kutagari said the launch date for Sony's portable "will probably be March," according to Reuters. Kutaragi also said that Sony "would like to launch in Europe during March as well" but would not give any concrete dates for either launch.

Meanwhile, back in Vegas, Hirai steered clear of any mention of the PSP's US price. Instead, he focused on Sony's strategy for the handheld and showed off its functionality. After boasting that the "PSP will serve as the disrupter in the portable entertainment space," Hirai said Sony was aiming for the device to employ connectivity with the PlayStation 2, much like the Nintendo Game Boy Advance has with the GameCube. He showed a montage of Universal Media Disc videos from Sony Pictures, DreamWorks, and 20th Century Fox. Included was a trailer for the forthcoming Will Smith romantic comedy Hitch.

Following a slick montage that showed off the PSP's hardware functionality, Hirai stated that the PSP will be aimed at males aged 18 to 34. To help woo that much-sought-after demographic, he brought out hip-hop star Xzibit to demonstrate how to transfer music from a PC to the PSP. Naturally, the process looked easy, with the album cover art appearing on the PSP's menu screen.

Following a demonstration of how to transfer video from a Sony Cybershot and then play it back on a PSP, a process that also appeared rather simple, Hirai declared, "Now on to games!" This statement cued a montage of more than a dozen games that will be released in the US, including Coded Arms, Twisted Metal: Head-On, Dynasty Warriors, Metal Gear Acid, Ape Escape PSP, Hot Shots! Golf PSP, Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower, Archer Maclean's Mercury, NBA 2005, ATV Offroad Fury, Wipeout Pure, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, and Ridge Racers.

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Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

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