Earlier this week, a retail insider tipped gaming and tech site Ars Technica with the scuttlebutt that Sony's upcoming PSP game Patapon 2 would be sold only through digital distribution channels. The tip proved to be accurate, as today Sony confirmed for GameSpot that Patapon 2 will not be sold in stores.
"This is a test-case scenario for this type of model, and is a one-time thing," a Sony representative said. "We continue to work closely with our retail partners, and UMD [the proprietary format used for retail PSP games] is not going away."
While digital distribution has long been an emerging trend in the gaming industry, it appears to have gained significant traction lately in the handheld market. In October, Sony Japan confirmed that it would be releasing all of its future PSP games in downloadable form day-and-date with their retail debuts. That same month, Nintendo unveiled the portable DSi, a key feature of which is the system's ability to download games directly from a DSiWare store.
If more rumors like the Patapon 2 news pan out, the move to digital distribution may pick up even more speed soon. In February, Acclaim cofounder David Perry posted on Twitter the juicy gossip that Sony is ditching UMD entirely for the PSP 2, presumably making a move to a digital-distribution-dependent business model. Sony didn't comment on the accuracy of that rumor, save to point out that Perry doesn't have an official relationship with the company and to emphasize that "UMD isn't going away."