Dual-thumbstick PSP out by Christmas?

Source: British handheld specialty site Pocket Gamer.What we heard: Since 2009 began, one rumor has hung over the game industry week after week--namely, that Sony is readying a true successor to the PSP. Since being introduced to the US and EU in 2005, the handheld has been outsold two-to-one by...

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Source: British handheld specialty site Pocket Gamer.

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What we heard: Since 2009 began, one rumor has hung over the game industry week after week--namely, that Sony is readying a true successor to the PSP. Since being introduced to the US and EU in 2005, the handheld has been outsold two-to-one by its dual-screen rival the DS, some 50 million units to 100 million units. Since June 2007, the PSP has also faced competition on the multimedia front from Apple's iPhone, which ramped up its gaming functionality exponentially last summer with the launch of the App Store.

With the handheld market growing even more cuthroat with this week's launch of the Web-browsing, multimedia-enabled DSi, pressure is building on Sony to produce a compelling alternative. The most credible rumors this year have spoken of a slimmer revision of the PSP that ditches the optical UMD drive, whose moving parts can cause long load times and drain battery life. The PSP already supports downloadable games, which are stored on a Memory Stick Duo or Pro, Sony's proprietary flash-memory card format.

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Today, Pocket Gamer restoked the PSP2 rumor mill--which has inspired some impressive unauthorized concept art (pictured)--by reporting that it has spoken directly with a developer working with the new PSP. (For those keeping score, that's the same claim made by Acclaim president David Perry in February.) According to the British site, the fourth iteration of the handheld will be much more drastic than its two prior reworks, which streamlined its chassis, brightened its screen, rearranged some buttons, and added video output.

The new PSP will reportedly have a touch-sensitive screen like the iPhone and will offer a similarly sleek appearance by hiding its controls when they're not in use via a sliding panel. Among those controls will be one many PSP users felt should have been included in the original version--a second analog thumbstick. Finally, the handheld will reportedly be released in the US and Europe by year's end following an unveiling at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.

The official story: "As far as this new round of rumors--we haven't announced any new PSP hardware and can't comment on these rumors or speculation." -- Sony rep.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus something major is in the works. Speaking with GameSpot last month, Sony Computer Entertainment America hardware marketing head John Koller said over half of 2009's PSP games haven't been announced yet. "There's a lot of announcements coming up to E3 and particularly at E3," he said, further indicating that Sony is ramping up its backing of the PSP. (Emphasis added.) With software support ramping up, it would behoove Sony to reshuffle the handheld market deck by releasing an appealing new device.

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