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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The PSP in China

For the first few weeks I didn't see any PSP stuff when I was in China. At first I was in the outskirts of Shenzhen, then toured around Shanghai a little, and spent a bit of time in Fujian province. Now I wasn't exactly in electronics areas... but even in the department stores there seemed to be not much PSP stuff, I saw a lot of cellphones, and a variety of cheap mp3/mp4 players. I even saw "mp5"(?) players... I'm not sure what that means.

But near the end of my trip, I did manage to see a bit of PSP stuff. Well, the consoles mainly. But it was in Huaqaing Bei and in Hong Kong where I really saw PSPs & UMD games.

I mentioned in Huaqaing Bei that there was a little shack where the owner was trying to activate a TIFF exploit of some sort on a PSP-3000. I'm not up on the latest exploits or custom firmwares, but I believe that there's currently only limited (custom) firmware ability on a PSP-3000.

In Guangzhou, not only did I see some PSPs (not many UMD games though) I also saw PSP magazines.... man I wish I'd bought one as a souvenir.... at least one of these magazines appeared to be weekly(!)-- can you imagine a weekly PSP magazine? Wow. But what was more shocking was that I saw magazines dedicated to hacking the PSP. And these weren't just shady printed-out-of-someone's-basement type of underground magazines, these were glossy professionally printed mags. I don't read Chinese, but when they have M-33 printed in big bold english on the cover, you get the picture. Flipping through them, I saw "Chick-HEN" and I'm sure other references to modding PSPs.

So finally I'm in Hong Kong.... this is THE place to find electronics, right? And of course, I saw PSP stuff, even PSP UMD games. All through my trip I was searching for a PSP game: Macross. I kept coming up empty, no one knew what I was talking about. In Hong Kong, I came across one store, a great little toy shop at the airport that I *wished* I had more time to explore-- they had mecha toys, Godzilla toys ( just hitting all my buttons!) and PSP UMD games (as well as DS games)-- and the worker there at least knew of it. He said it was a "very old" game, and they don't carry it. Oh well.

Anyway, I'm in Hong Kong and I wanted to see if I could acquire a modded PSP. I know that it's probably fairly easy to DIY, just buy a Pandora's Battery & a cheap memory stick I suppose. But I did see some sweet looking PSPs. There were quite a few of the Carnival Colours, and I saw my fave, the pearl white PSP-3000. Oooooo. Do I need a 5th PSP? Sure don't-- but I can't help but be dazzled by it's beauty. The prices for PSPs overall in China and in Hong Kong were about the same as here, maybe a bit less. But I didn't have time to hit Hong Kong's electronics area, "Computer City", so no new PSP for me.

I was surprised to come across an HMV store in Hong Kong. And they sold PSP stuff, I bought Pixel Junk Monsters, a limited edition UMD version that comes with a little cellphone charm. I dunno, I bought it for the novelty value, and it was cheap. I also bought a Gundam game, which I haven't even played yet, again just to fill the mech-game hole left by not finding that Macross game, and it was fairly cheap, again novelty factor.

But one interesting thing about PSP sales in the big stores in Hong Kong is that if you want to buy a console, you must buy AT LEAST one game along with it. You can't go into the HMV (or other legitimate big store like Fortress) and just buy a PSP system alone. Why is that? I'm not sure, but I guess it's their way of combating buying a console just to hack it? That doesn't exactly make sense, but I can't think of any other reason....

So I'm in the HMV in Hong Kong, which looks like most other big HMVs I've been in like in Vancouver or something, and there's this kid, maybe a teen, who's talking english but he looks & sounds like he's from Dubai. He's talking with his dad & mom about buying a PSP, and he's looking at the models. The PSPgo is also displayed alongside the PSP-3000's, and he points & says, "that one isn't hackable, is it?" So this Dubai family is talking about which PSPs are hackable, and the kid gets on his cellphone to phone a friend to confirm which models are hackable "to put games on"! This seems like just an "average" family, yet they are aware of the hackable rep of the PSP.

All this makes me wonder whether all the panic from third-party game pubs & devs about PSP piracy is maybe justified. I know there's a considerable hacker scene here, but I still think that in North America the average PSP buyer is not aware of custom firmware. But just from my casual experiences in China they seem a lot more aware.

It's really interesting though, that the PSP is a little more higher-profile in China, I saw more people with PSPs than I usually see here in Canada. There was a bored street vendor playing a PSP-3000, I look over and say, "Monster Hunter 2!" and he nods. I saw a few guys playing some multiplayer game in AD-HOC, one had a PSP-1000, the other had a PSP-2000 I believe. Nobody's using the PSPgo, I did show it off to a guy in Guangzhou, and he was freaking out about how cool it was, but then he asked, "can you hack it?" and I had to let him down about that. Then his girlfriend came up, he showed it to her, and guess what her question was.

Her followup statement was, "buying the [digital download] games is too expensive"... Sony should really be paying attention to the overall motivations for custom firmware. Yes we all like free, but maybe the prices of games is also a factor, right?

I was really glad to have found a 16GB M2 (memory stick micro) for my PSPgo at the Sony Store in Hong Kong. As I'm buying it, my dad asks the cashier in Cantonese, "This isn't a fake, right?" to which she replied, (basically) "Umm, we're the Sony Store, we don't deal in fakes!".... so that was funny.


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