Sony's brand new handheld, the PlayStation Vita, has a lot of good things going for it, and unfortunately, backwards compatibility isn't one of them. As the Vita has ditched the UMD format for proprietary memory cards -which are admitedly very expensive - many PSP fans were left wondering what would happen to all of their old UMD games. Sony has announced their solution with the somewhat bittersweet UMD Passport, which will allow users to register their old UMD games so they can be downloaded on the Vita.
We say bittersweet because registering one's UMD does not give them a free digital copy of the game, just a discount on the game's MRSP. The price of the discounted titles is said to be between $7 and $13, however the program has only been seen in action on Japanese systems and accounts, so it could change when/if the service hits North America.
Sony has also announced that only one UMD can be tied to an account, meaning if you were planning on trading games with your friends to get Valkyria Chronicles 2 on discount, you're out of luck. Sony has yet to state how exactly they will be able to tell whether a UMD has been registered more than once, but if they are able to do so then it's very perplexing as to why they wouldn't just offer the titles for free to those who have already bought them. But some additional details may hint at reasons.
Games that are downloaded via the UMD Passport can be used on PSP's, PSP GO's and PS Vita's. According to Sony's latest changes concerning content sharing, players can only have a game on two activated PSP's and PS Vita's. What this essentially means is that someone take a free copy of a game and share it with three other people. It's unfortunate that players will have to pay for games they've already purchased, but there would undoubtedly be people who would abuse this system, and it's Sony's responsibility to protect not only their IPs, but those of other publishers in the PlayStation Store.
There is a bit of a silver lining, as the downloads will come with plenty of new features especially for the Vita like dual analog control, and an in-game digital manual.
Sony plans to have over 200 titles compatible with the UMD Passport system, to be announced in November. With Sony's emphasis on the digital realm, perhaps this move is the first step in taking digital distribution more seriously than they did with the PSP GO.
What do you think of the UMD Passport system? Should Sony be giving UMD owners their games for free instead of discounted?
The PlayStation Vita launches outside of Japan on February 22nd.
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