The hunt for a PSP in time for Christmas

My little brother just decided he’d like to merge his November birthday present and his Christmas presents in the hope I’d get him a Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP).

The hunt

I decided to beat the seasonal rush and get one now and checked out my usual on-line suppliers of merchandise… Amazon, out of stock despite their Google advert claiming otherwise, Play and MX2 out of stock (Play now have it back in stock for £179.99 including Donnie Darko UMD). A few other stores I’d not used were also out of stock or rather vague on the whole issue.

I hit our main town known as St. Peter Port – or just “Town” – and found that Woolworth had sold their last one today, Guernsey Computers had a waiting list that would probably be two weeks at best, Gruts had a head-shake and a shrug. Number 19, known for it’s overpricing policy and twangy curry smell, had decided to sell grey Japanese import models for a whopping £179.99 (bear in mind we don’t have VAT here….) This is the same place that last week had Red Dwarf VII for £21.99… while Woolworth had it for £13.99 – a 57% mark-up over another shops retail price!

A quick trip to the secondary town area known as The Bridge led me to Southside Computers and NSEW (formerly PC Island) which yielded similar useless responses.

One might wonder if these stores are not capable of putting an “out of stock” notice over their huge piles of empty Sony PSP Value pack display boxes that adorn their window displays.

I recalled that The Bridge is home to a smaller less well known store called Big Byte. They deal with the usual gaming gear as well as a sizable retro and used section and so I headed there.

Here a PSP Value pack, genuine UK edition set me back just £145.99, in-stock there and then. They also have a deal where you get two games for an extra £30 bringing it to £174.99 (these two games are listed at £29.99 each on Play).

They’ve still got a few PSPs left as I type this and are expecting a few more in but I don’t believe they do mail order so Guernsey residents only. Call them on 01481 240444 – they are opposite where Microgames used to be.

Intentional stock shortages?

All this lead me to wonder what Sony is playing at. I can only imagine the problem with consoles and the manufacturer subsidizing the cost of the system is that they don’t want to sell too many at Christmas. Perhaps it’s a hit on their accounts or maybe the slightly disinterested receiver of such a gift doesn’t pay back the cost of the console buy purchasing a few games.

This probably explains why Sony is offering the current “Giga packs” which seem to be much more readily available for £265 (ex VAT) and include the PSP value pack contents, two games , a USB cable and a 1GB memory stick. The price of these components individually comes to £280 (ex VAT) hardly much of a saving but then this isn’t about giving you a good deal it’s about Sony minimizing that subsidy by ensuring you buy some products with a positive profit margin.

Subsidizing the console is a pretty standard affair, the Xbox360 is loaded to the hilt with the latest techniques to prevent you from running anything unapproved.. or more specifically not helping Microsoft claw back their massive per-unit hit. Sony’s PSP has been bypassed a couple of times, the latest technique allowing you to downgrade the 2.0 internal software back to exploitable 1.50 so you can run third party games and tools.

This can be a bit of a pain with some titles such as requiring 2.0 software. I’m only actually interested in one piece of third party software, ScummVM, which lets me run my favorite old point-and-click adventures on lots of hardware and as of v0.8.0 that list includes 2.0’ed PSPs :)

The whole concept is in total contrast to the mobile phone market where the networks subsidize the price of the phone and the manufacturers (including Sony) are clambering to make it as easy as pie for anyone to develop for their phone going so far as to provide tool kits and samples to do so.

Maybe Sony and Microsoft should satisfy the geeks among us with non-subsidized versions of the consoles that will happily run unsigned code as well as the legal stuff. Sony have done something similar with the hobby-developer PS1 Net Yaroze and the Linux kit for the PS2.

Now that would be a nice Christmas gift…


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