It was the worst kept secret since, I dunno, hands. It was a secret so poorly kept that, having already kept it poorly enough that everyone knew about it anyway, Sony even managed to announce it by accident, on video, a few days before E3. It was a secret so poorly kept that Sony America boss Jack Tretton joked he was surprised anyone turned up. But now we actually have a PSPgo in the office, it turns out the shy old girl was keeping a few of her own secrets.
But before we get onto that, let's remind each other what we're on about. The PSPgo launches on 1st October for £224.99 / €249.99, although you can trim that down by shopping around. It's fundamentally the same system as the PSP-3000 in software terms, notwithstanding a few nips and tucks in the firmware, but instead of UMD games it feasts exclusively on downloads, stored either on the internal 16GB flash disk or Memory Stick.
Externally, however, it's a radical shake-up, as you can see in today's Eurogamer TV Show. Whereas the two iterations of the Slim & Lite concentrated on reducing bulk through internal miniaturisation, the PSPgo adds to that with a slide-screen design that shields the d-pad, analogue nub, start/select and face buttons from view when closed, and a smaller, 3.8-inch LCD screen. With the UMD drive removed, the whole thing is considerably smaller even than the PSP-3000 - losing about half a centimetre each in width and height and a whopping five or so across its length. Next to the original PSP, it is as ants appear to man.
Despite the reduction in size and weight, the PSPgo also packs in some new functionality. Bluetooth support means that you can sync it up to a headset, which will be handy for SOCOM fans, but it also means that you can make it talk to a PS3 controller - either Sixaxis or DualShock 3. This means that, with a component cable making use of the surviving external display support, games like WipEout Pulse and Ridge Racer 2 - or indeed anything else - can be played as though on a home console. For those of you who fancy taking advantage of the PlayStation Store's growing volume of PSone games, that's an interesting prospect.
Not that it's unpleasant to play games natively. The compact design means that the analogue nub has had to be positioned closer to the centre next to start/select, inside the d-pad and face buttons, which are in more comfortable positions. The nub itself is smaller, and I'm finding it easier to grip than the old one, while the now-microswitched d-pad and face buttons (you know, clicky) are likeable enough alternatives to the squidgy originals. Shoulders are fine, and the original external controls - the PS, volume, brightness and music buttons, and power and Wi-Fi locks - can all be found distributed around the exterior, along with all sorts of LEDs.
As with all handhelds, however, there are some quirks to consider. For instance, there's no raw USB port anywhere on the exterior any more. Not mini-USB, not micro-USB. There's no slot for your existing PSP component cable either. Instead there's a presumably-all-purpose new port for the PSPgo's power connector, which is about the same thickness as the iPhone/iPod charging cable, about three quarters the width, and terminates in a male USB connector. This can either go into your PC or PS3 for file transfers and charging, or into a regular-looking AC adapter. Expect some replacement cables to arrive on the market around launch, then, and probably a dock.
This makes for some peculiar contortions to get at some of the new functionality. Sony appears to have missed a trick with the PS3 pad support, for example, which would have been great for PSP owners who didn't own a PS3 but wanted to use the pad and an external display. Sadly that's not really an option, because a PS3 is required as an intermediary to sync the PSPgo to a Sixaxis or DualShock 3. The process is relatively painless, but seems less than optimal, especially as you have to retake the PSPgo's Bluetooth vows if it talks to a PS3 in the meantime.
Plus, you might as well chuck out your Memory Stick Pro Duo, because PSPgo uses the new Memory Stick Micro, or M2, sometimes seen in mobile phones. All very well if you've got one, but you might not. I didn't. On the plus side, games can be stored on the PSPgo hard disk or the M2, by the looks of it, potentially doubling your capacity when using the currently-maximum 16GB option. Transfer speeds over USB to the hard disk and M2 are comparable - about 90 seconds for a 700MB file.
One other notable change is that the battery can no longer be removed. As for how long it lasts, I've not had the PSPgo long enough to run any decent tests (and it has to go home today - boo!), but despite bouncing around some of the onboard demos and sampling various media for several hours, it's still going strong with two bars left. I'd love to be more precise, but for some reason the battery information option has disappeared from the system menu in the new 5.71 firmware included on our unit.
Thanks to the device's previous guardians, I've also had to stare in a mixture of lust and sadness at the installed copies of Gran Turismo PSP, LittleBigPlanet, Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier and MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, none of which can be coaxed into working. Apparently this is down to a firmware issue, although the error message mentions that the wrong PSN account is in use - a reminder that with the PSPgo now reliant upon downloadable content you'll need to be the authorised user.
So, all things considered, would I buy one? The answer's much the same as it was with the PSP-3000, really: It's a nicer device, despite the reduced screen and oddly-positioned analogue nub, and providing Sony can come up with an adequate way to transition my old UMD favourites like Lumines and Puzzle Quest to the Store without forcing me to fork out more cash, I'll be content enough with the new world order.
What's putting me off, however, is the price, and the irritating decision to "upgrade" Memory Stick compatibility and render my old component cable obsolete. With that said, as a new entry point to Sony's oft-maligned handheld business, this is a handsome update, even if Apple will probably continue sleeping soundly.
PSPgo launches in Europe on 1st October for £224.99 / €249.99 SRP. Check out the latest Eurogamer TV Show for a walkthrough of the device.