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Sony abandons PlayStation Vita UMD Passport plan in North America

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As reported by Kotaku earlier today, Sony is ditching plans to allow new Vita owners to download PSP titles that they currently own on UMD disc. Sony rolled out this program in Japan at launch during December 2011 and all Japanese owners can register their UMD titles on the Vita by paying a fee based on the value of the game, thus Japanese owners can avoid having to repurchase the titles at full cost on the PlayStation Vita digital download store. New PlayStation Vita owners in North America on February 22 will have to keep the PSP in order to access old titles or repurchase older games at full price to utilize the software on the newer handheld system. 

PSP-UMDBy announcing this decision two weeks prior to the launch of the PlayStation Vita, Sony fans that held onto old PSP games in hopes that the titles could be transferred to a new PlayStation Vita will get significantly less money or trade-in value for the titles than six months ago. However, PSP owners would have still had to pay an average of $13 per title for each game they already owned according to The Escapist, an expensive solution for anyone that wanted to enjoy classic titles. Since over half of the PSP library is only available on UMD disc, new Vita owners may find the Sony Entertainment Network store lacking for PSP content. 

While North American UMD collectors are out of luck, people that own digital PSP titles will be able to re-download the games on the PlayStation Vita. However, owners of the Vita may likely gravitate to newer titles over classic PSP games due to the higher resolution output of the portable device. For instance, the five-inch PlayStation Vita screen offers 960×544 resolution while the PlayStation Portable only offered a 480×272 resolution. It’s also possible that Sony was hesitant to launch the UMD Passport plan within North America due to the poor performance of digital content on the PSP Go, but Sony has had good luck selling digital content through the PlayStation 3. No announcement has been made on the availability of the UMD Passport program for the European launch also on February 22. 

Vita-PlayStation-Store-2The PlayStation Vita received a significant update in Japan recently that now allows the device to shoot MP4 video at 640×480 resolution with 128Kbps AAC audio support. While this level of resolution is lacking compared to nearly all digital cameras and most smartphones, the upgrade puts Vita in line with the 640×480 pixel resolution of the Nintendo 3DS camera. Sony also rolled out a Map Mode for Japanese owners that allows them to look up phone numbers and addresses similar to Google Maps on a smartphone. From Map mode, owners can send their location to friends through a text message.

In addition, the LED lighting on the Vita specifies the power state. For instance, flashing blue is for standby mode, flashing orange indicated that the battery is nearly out of power, a solid blue light means the Vita is plugged in and powered up and a solid orange light displays when the unit is charging while powered down.

The update also included a method for Vita owners to put the unit into safe mode without turning the Vita on. By holding down the power button for a while, the unit moves into safe mode and allows the Vita owner to take advantage of Sony’s geocaching app called Near. Similar to Nintendo’s StreetPass, Near shares information between two Vita owners that pass each other in the street.  Sony has made no announcement if the recent update sent out to all PlayStation Vitas purchased within Japan will also arrive with the launch of the Vita within North American and Europe.