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Play halts sales of US PSPs

Everyone else is getting minted.

Major UK online retailer Play.com has announced that it is suspending sales of imported US PlayStation Portables, pending discussions with SCEE, but imports of the console are believed to be reaching unprecedented levels.

The new handheld system will not be launched in the UK until September 1st, but has already been available for five months in Japan, and since late March in the United States.

"We have decided to suspend the sale of US PSPs on Play.com until we have had chance to discuss the UK import situation with SCEE and see what plans they have for the launch of the European version," Play.com's Simon Perrée explained in a statement today.

"The internet makes the games market a global industry, we have been aware for some time that many other e-tailers are supplying US PSP consoles and software to UK consumers," he continued. "We fully support the UK software industry, and have taken this decision to demonstrate our position, and hope that other e-tailers follow suit."

Like Nintendo's handheld consoles, the PSP has no region-lock on its games, and the device ships with a universal power pack that works with European power supplies - while favourable exchange rates mean that some importers are now offering the console to consumers here for little more than it will retail for in September.

As a result, import sales of the console into the UK - especially over the internet - are believed to be at levels previously unseen for any new hardware launch.

Online importers contacted by our sister site GamesIndustry.biz were unwilling to discuss exact figures or provide named quotes, but the message from most was clear - PSP is doing more business for them than any other console has done, with even some of the more established firms having difficulty keeping up with demand.

"We're seeing a snowball effect," one e-tailer told us this week. "One customer buys a PSP, and then we see several of his friends making orders over the following weeks. It's a really desirable piece of kit, and people don't want to wait - lots of our orders now are from people who've never imported anything before in their lives."

With three and a half months still to go before the system arrives in Europe, it seems likely that SCEE - who were unavailable to comment on this story at the time of publication - will seek to stifle the flow of import devices into the region, but with many of the leading importers are located outside the EU, the company's options in this regard could well be somewhat limited.