Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: UMD Movie Madness

Friday, September 02, 2005

UMD Movie Madness

One day after the Australasian/European PSP launch and forums across the net are once again alive with new owners moaning about dead or stuck pixels on their screens. They're a vocal minority however. Most people apparently don't have any, and of those who do, few of them consider it to be an issue. Yoshihiro (see last post) bought himself a French v1.52 PSP yesterday and is said to be busy working on a PC application that will make up part of his yet-to-be-released firmware downgrader.

What has turned out to be interesting about the Australian launch is the UMD movies. Sony have been very clear that UMD movies would be region locked just like DVD movies. Indeed, the Hollywood studios insisted upon it. Up until now, that was taken as a given. Japanese UMD movies wouldn't work on US PSPs and vice versa.

When I walked into Sony Central today, they swore blind that this was still the case. I then pulled out my Japanese PSP and suggested they try it. They grabbed the nearest Australian UMD movie (Hellboy: Directors Cut), I popped it in my PSP and guess what? It worked. Despite the clearly marked "Region 4" logo on the case, it loaded straight up and played just fine on my (Region 2) PSP. Owners of US PSPs have also reported success in playing Australian UMD movies on their units.

So what is going on? Have Sony changed their mind? Have they slipped up? Were they just pretending there'd be region locks on Euro/Aus UMD movies to discourage importers? The real story isn't clear yet, but I'm leaning toward option 2. This feels like a mistake.

Sony were under some time pressure to meet the Sept 1 launch and perhaps they didn't double check everything. It seems apparent that some of the first batch of Australian UMD movies were pressed without a region code being set (ie. they're set to the region zero default, which will work on all PSPs). Sony also made a minor slip-up with their first Australian download pack for WipEout Pure. It comes up as "Corrupted Data" when viewed on the memory stick duo. It still works in-game though, so it's no big deal. (Memo to Sony: If you want to fix this, you may want to correct the typo in the directory name reference in the PARAM.SFO file.)

I guess we'll have to wait and see whether any of the second batch of Australian UMD movies work on imported PSPs to determine whether the lack of region coding was actually a mistake or not. I don't imagine the movie studios would be too impressed should their movies continue to be region-free. Another PSP retailer I spoke to today said all of his current UMD movie stock worked on his US PSP, though from my own tests I can confirm that some Australian UMD movies, such as "Be Cool" are correctly region-locked.

To those of you waiting for a significant PSP price-drop: don't hold your breath. Sony have Australian retailers under contract to sell all 1st-party PSP products at the current RRP until March next year: $399 for the PSP and $79 for 1st-party games. Should they breach this, the threat is that they'll be cut off from delivery. Major chains will likely drop the prices slightly anyway (as Sony wouldn't dare cut them off), but smaller games retailers will probably have to toe the line. Retail profit margins are slim anyway.

Enjoy your new PSPs everyone.
For lots more PSP coverage, check out my articles at Game Power Australia. More of my reviews will be online there shortly.


Blogger Robin said...

UPDATE: It appears the reason I could not get "Be Cool" to play on my Jap PSP was not because of region coding at all. Like all the other current Aus UMD movies, "Be Cool" is not region locked, but does apparently require firmware version 1.52.

12:44 pm  
Anonymous tackle said...

hey keep the blogging up I enjoy reading it, very easy way to keep somewhat updated, thanks!

9:13 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm willing to wait until the very end of the generation before I buy a PSP. Luminees is the only game of interest to me at this time. I can wait and/or hope for a port.

10:57 pm  

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