Sony has officially announced that North America will not take part in the UMD Passport program, which allows PlayStation Vita owners to buy digital copies of physical PSP games they already own in order to play them on their Vita. See also PS4 release date, specs and rumour round-up.
Japanese gamers have been enjoying the UMD Passport program since the PlayStation Vita launched in Japan. The program lets Vita users punch the unique codes found on the physical copies of their PSP games into a Playstation Network app and pay a fee between ¥100 (US$1.29) to ¥2,400 ($31) for a digital version of the game, which can then be played on their new Vita. While the news that this program won't be available in the U.S. is certainly a downer to prospective Vita buyers, it really isn't terribly surprising. The prices for digital licenses in Japan were inconsistent, with a copy of Gran Turismo costing ¥1000 ($13), while Persona 3 Portable would cost ¥1500 ($19), and Hot Shots Golf 2 was set at 500 yen ($6.40). The Japanese program also offered initial support for just 200 PSP games, with many more available for full price on the PlayStation Network store.
The good news is that most of the digital PSP games available for purchase on the PSN store are sitting at $10 to $20, with a few newer games costing up to $30. Chances are, the prices for new digital games on the PSN store are roughly the same as those you would have paid under the UMD Passport program.
The bad news is that this isn't the first death knell for backwards compatibility; the Xbox 360 and PS3 have done away with extra chips to play games from the last generation of hardware and traded them in for digital copies on their respective online storefronts. The latest Nintendo Wii does not offer any GameCube controller ports, and the release of the DSi meant the end of the GBA slot. Until Sony reverses its decision or announces an alternative, PSP owners won't be able to transfer their UMD library onto the Vita. Thankfully, those who own digital PSP games should still be able to access and play their games on the North American Vita. The decision to bring the UMD Passport program to Europe is still in the air.
Sony will release the PlayStation Vita on February 22 stateside. Look for PCWorld's full review in the coming weeks.
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