So two big handheld consoles Out In the Wild are the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS. In Japan, the DS has outsold the PSP 80 gajillion to one. But in the States, they’re more even. The question is, which is better? And the answer is hard.
Graphics – No contest. The PSP completely smokes the DS. It’s not even close. It’s like looking at a child’s toy versus a graphics workstation. However (on the PSP), on some games, if you hold the screen at too much of an angle, suddenly you can’t see anything at all. This is because of the stupid shiny finish they put on the thing.
Ergonomics – The DS is uncomfortable to hold, it’s top-heavy, and using the stylus tends to make you inadvertently press the buttons. The PSP, on the other hand, is comfortable in your hands, works well in subway cars and is overall, just better.
Controls – The PSP’s analog controller is a waste of space. You might as well stick with the D-controller, because you can’t get any precision or control on that analog stick. It’s garbage. The DS, when playing an FPS game like Metroid, has the best controls next to mouse-and-keyboard I have ever used. An example – in Metroid, my character walks into a room – there are 4 or 5 hovering enemies, each above my vision line, not horizontally lined up. In 2 or 3 bursts, I’ve levelled them all. It’s right up there with mouse-and-keyboard, really. And I’m an old-school mouse-and-keyboard guy from the days of playing Marathon on my Quadra 630. And I’m not bad 🙂
Gameyness – The second you flip up the DS, it’s ready. You’re right in your pause screen, or wherever, and ready to get back into gear. With the PSP, the loading times are ridiculous. It makes me sweat more when I play the PSP – the fear of dying is not that I will fail, but that I will have to tolerate 2 or more loading screens before I can get back to try again. Conversely, if I die in Metroid, I’m already mid-try before the PSP would’ve finished even its first screen.
Durability – I think the DS wins here. No moving parts. Games are on memory card things.
Age – I should note that the games for the PSP tend to be more ‘M’ rated style games, and the DS tends to be more kid-friendly, but there is Resident Evil for DS, and there are cutesy games for the PSP, so I don’t imagine the line will always be so clear cut.
Looks – The DS looks like Doodoo. The PSP is shiny and sexy.
Cost – DS: $130, PSP: $250 (EDIT: I’m told it’s now $200). DS Games are $35 or less. PSP Games seem to be more, closer to $50 (or less). I think Nintendo has underpriced the market here – people are probably willing to spend more than $130 for a portable console, don’t you think? Maybe. Anyways, another interesting thing – Nintendo may very well be making money on each console sold – and _that’s_ very impressive, if that’s the case. Sony and even Microsoft can bleed out as much money as they want, selling consoles (portable and otherwise) at a loss, but good ole’ Nintendo is actually making dough, I bet.
The DS Lite coming out soon may be Nintendo’s answer to my ergonomics problems, and the fact that it looks like shit. If Sony’s next PSP simply has a Gig or 2 of cache-flash, or cache-RAM, then that could fix a lot of the problems I have with the PSP, too. So it’s definitely very close. But I have to say – the controls on the DS, at least for FPS gaming, are better than the controls on _consoles_. Really.
And an Addendum to my previous post, about Joel On Software – I think I see the difference between you and I, Joel. When your developers need a Subversion server, you install a multi-ton air conditioning unit. Whereas I would just get a small enough server that it wouldn’t need one. You integrate a Bayesian spam filter into your Bug-tracking system, but I would just make you put in a username/password, or one of those “type in this mangled text!” things. I’m not saying I’m right – I bet your solutions are more complete – but I bet mine get 90% of your results with 10% of your effort.