On March 24th 2005 Sony entered the North American handheld videogames market with the PSP. This is Sony's first ever handheld games console and it looks set to be the must have console of 2005. Sony plan to sell over one million consoles at the North American launch, continuing the success they had when launching the PSP in Japan in December 2004. A European release date is yet to be announced, but with a rumoured June 2005 date floating around internet gaming websites, it looks like European gamers are in for an excruciating wait.

Why should you be excited about the PSP then? Well, firstly, the machine looks gorgeous. The design team at Sony have done a wonderful job, creating a handheld that you wont be embarrassed to show off in public. Its sleek black styling oozes style and the giant screen, measuring 4.3 inches and with a widescreen 480 x 272 resolution, is something that has never been seen on a videogames handheld before. Screenshots and videos will give you an idea of what to expect, but seeing it with your own eyes is something very special indeed.

The PSP is one powerful piece of hardware, with enough grunt to produce PlayStation 2 like videogames. Even early releases, such as Ridge Racer, are visually spectacular, showing the fast moving, highly detailed games that the PSP is capable of. The North American and European launch games will include games that you simply wouldn't have believed to be possible on a handheld. Old favourites like Wipeout and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater indicate the strong future the machine has ahead of it. The console is also Wi-Fi enabled meaning you can play with friends over short distances and a select few games even support internet play, and more games will support this in the future.

While a vast number of games were announced for the North American launch, a number of them have slipped back a week or two, so here's the full list of games that will be available for the PSP from day one.

Gaming isn't all the PSP is good for as it can also play movies and music. Thanks to the PSP supporting Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick Pro Duo cards, you can use the PSP as a portable media device. Video clips and music stored on your PC can be transferred across to the PSP so you can watch TV shows or listen to your favourite albums while on the move. Movie studios will be releasing films on UMD format (the discs that the PSP uses for games and movies) in the near future, so you aren't limited to using memory cards.

Many people had fears that the PSP wouldn't allow for region free gaming, but early reports indicate that this isn't an issue; US games have been tested on Japanese PSPs and there have been no reported problems. Unless something changes further down the line, we expect all PSP games to playable on a console from any region. UMD movies are different, with lock-outs definitely being implemented. Only movies bought from the region your PSP was intended for will play on your PSP.

The Sony PSP is one of the most exciting things to happen to videogames in a long time. Fore a more in-depth look at the console and a number of its games take a look at the accompanying video feature. Check the site soon for coverage of a number of US launch titles.

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