Source: Tech and gaming news site Ars Technica.
What we heard: While Sony has yet to officially confirm its existence, the PSP2 has been the subject of much speculation in recent months. One rumor has the fourth iteration of the handheld sporting an iPhone-like touchscreen and two thumbsticks. Another, propagated by Acclaim chief creative officer David Perry, says it will ship without "the stupid battery-sucking UMD disc drive." Both rumors have the new PSP as launching towards the end of 2009.
Assuming Perry's sources are sound, Sony may soon begin acclimating PSP gamers to the idea of digital-only media with the release of Sony Japan's Patapon 2. According to Ars Technica's source, when the rhythm action title ships in the US on May 5, it will not be available on the UMD format. Instead, gamers will be able to pick up the title for $15 through the PlayStation Network. Alternatively, retailers will carry a boxed copy for $19.99 which contains only a download code, and no UMD.
Bolstering the veracity of its claim, Ars notes that the same source successfully augured a number of other industry secrets, including the Xbox 360's price cut in September 2008. It's also worth noting that Sony has already taken steps toward an all-digital platform, with its Japanese arm announcing as part of the 2008 Tokyo Game Show that all new PSP games in Japan would be released as downloadable media in addition to on the UMD format.
In the short term, however, Sony's official stance on the matter has been pro-UMD. At the time of Perry's comments, a Sony representative flatly stated to GameSpot that "UMD isn't going anywhere." Of course, John Koller, Sony's director of hardware marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, also told GameSpot recently that "there's a lot of [PSP] announcements coming up to E3 and particularly at E3," ones that will augment the string of high-profile games revealed earlier this year.
The official story: Sony had not responded to GameSpot's request for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Ars Technica's source has proven reliable in the past, and the incessant rumbling of a UMD-less PSP2 seems to portend a transition of this sort. Tentative not bogus.
[UPDATE] Sony has since confirmed to GameSpot that Patapon 2 will indeed be UMD-free. "This is a test case scenario for this type of model, and is a one-time thing," a rep told GameSpot. "We continue to work closely with our retail partners, and UMD is not going away."