Sony has revealed its launch plans for the PlayStation Portable in North America, with the console set to arrive on March 24th at a price of $249.99, and a free UMD movie disc of Spider-Man 2 to be bundled with the first million units sold.

The price point is somewhat higher than many market watchers had expected, and significantly more expensive than the price of the basic PSP package in Japan - largely because Sony has chosen not to supply a standalone console pack, and will only be shipping the console as part of a "Value Pack".

The Value Pack is similar both in contents and in price to the one that was available at the Japanese launch, and includes a 32Mb Memory Stick Duo, headphones with remote control, soft case and cleaning cloth, and a sampler UMD disc which includes a variety of non-interactive game demos.

The company plans to manufacture a million units of the PSP for the North American market by the end of the financial year on March 31st, although how many of them will have actually shipped in the region during the launch week is not disclosed.

One of the more unique features of the American launch, aside from the removal of the standalone PSP bundle from the range, is the inclusion of a UMD movie disc of Spider-Man 2 with the first million consoles shipped.

To date, no UMD movies have been released on the system, with only Square Enix' Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children movie confirmed as being in the pipeline for the format. The launch of Spider-Man 2 with the system will emphasise Sony Computer Entertainment America's focus on the device as a multimedia platform, a point which SCEA boss Kaz Hirai has hammered home in his presentations about the PSP.

"PSP will evolve and elevate portable entertainment, giving users the freedom to play full 3D games, watch movies, listen to music and connect wirelessly on their terms, their time and their place," Hirai commented today in a statement about the launch announcement.

"More than ever, today's consumer demands access to entertainment outside the home without compromising quality," he continued. "With more than 100 PSP game titles currently in development worldwide, and the ability to download and listen to digital music and view feature films with breathtaking screen quality, PSP lets users control their entertainment options, all in one package."

As yet, no details have been announced regarding the European launch of the system, although senior Sony executives have repeatedly confirmed their desire to launch the platform here before the end of the financial year on March 31st.

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Rob Fahey

Rob Fahey

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