Sony steals a page from the Apple playbook; rolls out pint-sized PSP

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    Sony's gaming chief Kaz Hirai displays the new Sony PSP Go at the Sony E3 media briefing in Los Angeles, June 2, 2009.
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Today, Sony officially unveiled a new portable gaming system called the PSP Go, which executives said will be available this fall in the US and Japan. The device will be 50 percent smaller and 40 percent lighter than the current PSP 3000, according to Reuters, and feature 16 gigabytes of Flash memory, integrated Bluetooth, and an application allowing users to access the online PlayStation Store.

The price tag is expected to be $249.99.

Importantly, the Go ditches the disc drive that came previous PSP iterations – a move that could usher in a new era of digital distribution for Sony. PSP Go users will have to buy their new titles directly from the PlayStation store, streamlining the buying process and potentially cutting the local video game store out of the equation. The recent game Patapon 2 tested these waters by letting PSP owners download the title directly or buy a box from their local shop that contains a vochure code for the online store.

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The device has dominated much of the buzz over the annual E3 festival, where each year developers trot out upcoming products. But many have wondered whether the PSP Go will be enough to bolster Sony's sagging sales. "Like Nintendo's done with the DSi, Sony is extending (and, it hopes, revitalizing) a portable platform that's sold tens of millions of units worldwide," writes CNET's John P. Falcone. "Considering that this is an evolutionary product – the only real appeal is the smaller form factor – the high price is certainly going to be a barrier for those who already own and enjoy the existing PSP."

Still, the PSP Go has a sleek, streamlined look, and the added features will likely be enough to buoy sales. Furthermore, much buzz today has centered on the unveiling of "Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker," a new chapter in the storied "Metal Gear" franchise – and one only available on the PSP.

Calling all developers

In other Sony news, the company said today that it would reduce the price of the Tool hardware, which allows would-be producers to create titles for the PSP. The price is dropping to $1500 – still not cheap, but enough of a bargain to attract new developers, Sony hopes. In recent months, Apple has experienced a good deal of success with its application store, which peddles the wares of thousands of amateur developers from all over the world.

Without directly mentioning Apple, a press release touts the lowered prices as a way to attract a "broader range of developers and publishers." The release continues:

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