Sony has finished work on PlayStation Portable hardware and still intends to ship the console this year, Sony COO Ken Kutaragi told a press briefing in Japan yesterday, although the company has yet to announce pricing or release date details and Kutaragi declined to say whether or not the unit would cost more than the Nintendo DS ($149).
Yesterday, reports started drifting around that had the PSP retailing in Japan at 33,000 yen (around 167 UKP / 244 Euro), but Sony has since described any talk about price as "speculation" and refused to confirm or deny pricing plans for any territory.
"We won't announce the price of the PSP today," Kutaragi told the assembled hacks yesterday, adding that he hoped to announce it "after we hear the voices of our users, distributors, and developers at the Tokyo Game Show." Sony plans to have 100 playable PSP units at the show and more than 20 playable games.
Yesterday's Sony briefing also revealed a bunch of new games on the way from the likes of Atlus, Namco (Taiko no Tatsujin drum/music game), SNK (3D King of Fighters game), From Software (Tenchu) and Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment (Lumines, a "sound and light action puzzle game" to be published by Bandai).
Sony certainly needs the PSP to make an impression at the Tokyo Game Show after mounting speculation that the handheld will slip to 2005, and rumours of discontent amongst PSP developers surfaced recently.
Kutaragi also said that plans for movies on UMD - the proprietary disc format the PSP will use - are now in the final stages, although there are currently no plans to let users record anything to UMD. Apparently it might happen "if the market starts to get stabilised and things are going well," but if it does it will come after a period of consultation with companies about recording formats, copy protection, standards and so on.
For now though the message is that the hardware is finished, and software availability and the critical reaction are the main factors. "It wouldn't be good if there were a stack of games released at launch, and then a long period afterward without game releases," Kutaragi said, presumably calling to mind the PS2 launch in some people's minds. "So we need to look ahead. We want to make sure that we have a steady release [schedule] before announcing the launch date."