You Should Demand More From Sony's UMD Passport Program

Posted by patrickklepek (4127 posts) -

I’m not sure I’ve witnessed a more blatant cash grab that came and went without a lick of righteous fanfare from the consumers it gouges more than Sony’s recent revealing of the UMD Passport program. To be fair, it initially passed under my radar, too.

I know, I know, we’re all busy playing through The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim--but still. Listen.

The biggest problem with UMD Passport is not that it costs anything, it's the lacking standards.

UMD Passport is Sony’s long-awaited service to give PSP owners a way to magically transport their UMD-based games on the handheld’s soon-launching successor, Vita. Vita does not come with a UMD reader, which means those games are as good as garbage without access to a digital version to play on Vita. Sony talked about implementing a feature like this when PSP go was a thing but it never materialized.

Sony has not announced UMD Passport outside of Japan, and did not answer my latest query about it.

To take advantage of UMD Passport, users must download a “UMD Passport” application to their PSP, insert a compatible UMD, and Sony somehow verifies that UMD (the exact process isn't known). Once that’s done, you gain access to a digital version--for a cost, anyway.

And that’s where it gets weird really fast.

Simply charging for access to a digital copy isn’t worth getting up in arms about. Bandwidth, while cheap, isn’t free, so while one could argue that Sony should take the hit and encourage goodwill amongst early adopters, passing up on a the chance to ask for a little bit of cash in an age of endless monetization is, at this point, expected. It would make sense, then, to implement an across-the-board cost to make the digital conversion, a fee that would cover Sony’s bandwidth costs through PlayStation Network and provide publishers with compensation that encourages everyone to participate in the UMD Passport program.

No such standard exists. While it’s not plainly spelled out in Sony’s announcement (which is roughly but easily translatable through Google), it’s implied that publishers are determining what to charge for this, and it’s clear publishers have zero problem erring on the side of happily padding the bottom line.

Patapon 3 costs more to convert than Hot Shots Golf 2, but without any clear reason why.

The confusion begins with Sony itself unable to lay out what it should be charging for going digital, with Patapon 3 and Gran Turismo costing 1,000 yen ($12.89), while Hot Shots Golf 2 costs 500 yen ($6.44). The only difference between them seems to be release date and labeling--Hot Shots Golf 2 is part of the “best of” lineup in Japan, and was released late 2007. Gran Turismo (2009) and Patapon 3 (2011) came later.

There is no reason for these games to cost any different, except for Sony to be calculating that some games are worth more than others to consumers, giving them a convenient way to ask for more. The easy-to-buy licensing argument is dispelled by Patapon 3 being wholly original.

When this carte blanche approach to price assignment is handed over to third-parties, it’s far worse.

Pachi-Slot Simulator: Treasures transfer Daito Giken Official enclosed Goddess ~ ~ PORTABLE--yes, that’s the actual name--is a pachinko title that costs 5,040 yen ($64.95) right now on Amazon.co.jp, and the Paon Corporation is asking that anyone who has already purchased the game on UMD to pay 2,500 yen ($30.93) for the digital copy. That’s nearly 50% of the original price price--sheer arrogance, and one of that doesn’t try to hide its unadulterated consumer exploitation. It's staring you in the face.

PSP quickly became a go-to platform for tinkerers, and that's only grown more true.

Sony could have a weakly credible argument about allowing publishers to determine pricing if publishers were doing so based on the relevancy of piracy to each product, but as unlocking these digital copies requires the consumer to have a copy of the actual UMD, that doesn’t hold water. One assumes non-UMD holders would have to pay even more.

Anti-consumer moves like these drive people towards piracy by sheer irritation. Make no mistake: Vita will be broken at some point. No device can avoid piracy; each one can only hope to push that day further back.

While piracy is never justified, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where a Vita owner wants to play the games they already own on a platform that’s fully capable of doing so, and pausing at the hoops they're asked to jump through. Players are consumers, and deserve respect. Such a user may look over and see publishers seizing an opportunity to squeeze dollars from them and pounce at the chance for subversion. As a platform holder, Sony has the ability--and duty--to keep this under control, but it says everything that Sony’s own games don’t adhere to any coherent standard.

What makes this all the more confusing is Sony's progressive approach to MotorStorm RC, which will be released on both Vita and PlayStation 3. No matter which version you purchase, you'll gain access to the other one. Futhermore, in a conversation with GameIndustry.biz, developer Evolution Studios suggested the game may not even cost full-price, a result of aggressive pricing for mobile games changing the dynamics of the industry. One part of Sony does not appear to be talking to the other.

It may be too late for Japanese consumers--is Sony really going to tell the Paon Corporation it suddenly has to charge exponentially less?--but Sony Computer Entertainment America has an opportunity to make this right. The UMD Passport program has not been announced for anywhere outside Japan, which means there’s time for policies to change before they’re set in stone. It may not come here at all, but in the event that it does: do the right thing, SCEA. Don’t screw your own fans.

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (4127 posts) -

I’m not sure I’ve witnessed a more blatant cash grab that came and went without a lick of righteous fanfare from the consumers it gouges more than Sony’s recent revealing of the UMD Passport program. To be fair, it initially passed under my radar, too.

I know, I know, we’re all busy playing through The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim--but still. Listen.

The biggest problem with UMD Passport is not that it costs anything, it's the lacking standards.

UMD Passport is Sony’s long-awaited service to give PSP owners a way to magically transport their UMD-based games on the handheld’s soon-launching successor, Vita. Vita does not come with a UMD reader, which means those games are as good as garbage without access to a digital version to play on Vita. Sony talked about implementing a feature like this when PSP go was a thing but it never materialized.

Sony has not announced UMD Passport outside of Japan, and did not answer my latest query about it.

To take advantage of UMD Passport, users must download a “UMD Passport” application to their PSP, insert a compatible UMD, and Sony somehow verifies that UMD (the exact process isn't known). Once that’s done, you gain access to a digital version--for a cost, anyway.

And that’s where it gets weird really fast.

Simply charging for access to a digital copy isn’t worth getting up in arms about. Bandwidth, while cheap, isn’t free, so while one could argue that Sony should take the hit and encourage goodwill amongst early adopters, passing up on a the chance to ask for a little bit of cash in an age of endless monetization is, at this point, expected. It would make sense, then, to implement an across-the-board cost to make the digital conversion, a fee that would cover Sony’s bandwidth costs through PlayStation Network and provide publishers with compensation that encourages everyone to participate in the UMD Passport program.

No such standard exists. While it’s not plainly spelled out in Sony’s announcement (which is roughly but easily translatable through Google), it’s implied that publishers are determining what to charge for this, and it’s clear publishers have zero problem erring on the side of happily padding the bottom line.

Patapon 3 costs more to convert than Hot Shots Golf 2, but without any clear reason why.

The confusion begins with Sony itself unable to lay out what it should be charging for going digital, with Patapon 3 and Gran Turismo costing 1,000 yen ($12.89), while Hot Shots Golf 2 costs 500 yen ($6.44). The only difference between them seems to be release date and labeling--Hot Shots Golf 2 is part of the “best of” lineup in Japan, and was released late 2007. Gran Turismo (2009) and Patapon 3 (2011) came later.

There is no reason for these games to cost any different, except for Sony to be calculating that some games are worth more than others to consumers, giving them a convenient way to ask for more. The easy-to-buy licensing argument is dispelled by Patapon 3 being wholly original.

When this carte blanche approach to price assignment is handed over to third-parties, it’s far worse.

Pachi-Slot Simulator: Treasures transfer Daito Giken Official enclosed Goddess ~ ~ PORTABLE--yes, that’s the actual name--is a pachinko title that costs 5,040 yen ($64.95) right now on Amazon.co.jp, and the Paon Corporation is asking that anyone who has already purchased the game on UMD to pay 2,500 yen ($30.93) for the digital copy. That’s nearly 50% of the original price price--sheer arrogance, and one of that doesn’t try to hide its unadulterated consumer exploitation. It's staring you in the face.

PSP quickly became a go-to platform for tinkerers, and that's only grown more true.

Sony could have a weakly credible argument about allowing publishers to determine pricing if publishers were doing so based on the relevancy of piracy to each product, but as unlocking these digital copies requires the consumer to have a copy of the actual UMD, that doesn’t hold water. One assumes non-UMD holders would have to pay even more.

Anti-consumer moves like these drive people towards piracy by sheer irritation. Make no mistake: Vita will be broken at some point. No device can avoid piracy; each one can only hope to push that day further back.

While piracy is never justified, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where a Vita owner wants to play the games they already own on a platform that’s fully capable of doing so, and pausing at the hoops they're asked to jump through. Players are consumers, and deserve respect. Such a user may look over and see publishers seizing an opportunity to squeeze dollars from them and pounce at the chance for subversion. As a platform holder, Sony has the ability--and duty--to keep this under control, but it says everything that Sony’s own games don’t adhere to any coherent standard.

What makes this all the more confusing is Sony's progressive approach to MotorStorm RC, which will be released on both Vita and PlayStation 3. No matter which version you purchase, you'll gain access to the other one. Futhermore, in a conversation with GameIndustry.biz, developer Evolution Studios suggested the game may not even cost full-price, a result of aggressive pricing for mobile games changing the dynamics of the industry. One part of Sony does not appear to be talking to the other.

It may be too late for Japanese consumers--is Sony really going to tell the Paon Corporation it suddenly has to charge exponentially less?--but Sony Computer Entertainment America has an opportunity to make this right. The UMD Passport program has not been announced for anywhere outside Japan, which means there’s time for policies to change before they’re set in stone. It may not come here at all, but in the event that it does: do the right thing, SCEA. Don’t screw your own fans.

Staff
#2 Posted by prinnydood (1 posts) -

No thanks. Though I am interested in getting a Vita, if I wanted to play my UMDs, I would rather replay it on my original PSP.

#3 Posted by RecSpec (3803 posts) -

The whole memory card thing has soured me on the Vita.  Sony just loves to shoot themselves in the foot before a launch these days.

#4 Posted by adoggz (2065 posts) -

this only matters to anyone who is going to buy a vita so it doesnt matter.

#5 Posted by SiN13 (234 posts) -

iPhone gaming has killed the portable platform for me. No longer am I going to lug around multiple devices when I can just get a quick fix from my phone. The only thing that could bring me back to a dedicated handheld are the great first party exclusives and even then I'd just be playing them while laying in bed before I go to sleep. At that point I might as well turn on my console.

#6 Posted by Cyrisaurus (455 posts) -

So you want us to say "Hey Sony, don't do this, ok?" and they'll say "ohhhh, alright. Sorry about that".

:/

#7 Posted by SolidOcelot (322 posts) -

I'm hanging on to my PSP and never had any intentions of utilizing this program

#8 Posted by Scrumdidlyumptious (1640 posts) -

Luckily I'm going into this without having owned a PSP so I'll only be ripped off on memory prices! Hooray.

#9 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

So does this mean that the PSP library would be available through digital means? That I could just buy any game anyway if I don't have the UMD? Or would it be limited to games that were explicitly added to PSN?

#10 Posted by Sinful (211 posts) -

Don't tell me what to do Pat. I'll go to Fox News for that.

#11 Posted by kyrieee (379 posts) -

I think the criticisms are valid, but most people are only ever concerned with playing old games on new platforms right around the time of the new platform's release. A year or so into the new platform's life nobody gives a rats ass about the last generation games anymore, with very few exceptions. Yeah this is dumb, but not enough people will care and it will just slide by.

#12 Posted by Ehker (235 posts) -

I'm too lazy to raise a pitchfork like this inflammatory article wants..

This is a special new form of backwards compatibility between carts and digital downloads, which not only has licensing issues between publishers allowing it, there's also the issue that nothing stops people from selling the UMD after getting the digital version.

#13 Posted by exenpipp (12 posts) -

Why does Americans have to make such a big thing out of everything? Why do they have to complain all the time?

Just be satisfied with your life!

#14 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10919 posts) -

Am I the only person here who thinks the craziest thing about this is that people in Japan are willing to pay $65 to play pachinko on PSP? Not that the rest of it is at all justifiable or anything.

Moderator Online
#15 Posted by wh1terav3n (657 posts) -

@Cyrisaurus said:

So you want us to say "Hey Sony, don't do this, ok?" and they'll say "ohhhh, alright. Sorry about that".

:/

Is it better to just say, "Hey Sony, I'm okay with you screwing me any way that you want, thanks!", and they'll say, "You like being screwed? Because we totally have more ideas on new, original ways to screw you!"?

#16 Posted by onan (1284 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

So does this mean that the PSP library would be available through digital means? That I could just buy any game anyway if I don't have the UMD? Or would it be limited to games that were explicitly added to PSN?

Most if not all PSP games are already available digitally through Sony's Media Go digital distribution platform on PC, and through the PSP and PSN stores.

#17 Edited by Vorbis (2750 posts) -

I'm not getting a Vita to play old PSP games, If anything playing them on the Vita is just going to mean having to buy more memory cards.

I don't feel the need to grab my pitchfork and torch over this.

#18 Posted by Grissefar (2842 posts) -

Dear Patrick,
 
This article is a little too loaded for my tastes, which is something I have only come to expect from Alex.
 
Thanks for the concern though - I guess it is good to shed some light on shady activities that would otherwise go under the radar.

#19 Posted by Vexxan (4620 posts) -

Sorry Sony, think I'll stick to my PSP for old games.

#20 Posted by thirteenyahs (128 posts) -

Hey guys, let's not buy the Vita.

#21 Posted by Bribo (599 posts) -

Any announcements on UMD movies? I wanna watch Van Helsing in this thing.

#22 Edited by Ehker (235 posts) -

I don't know why Patrick comes off so angry, and wonder if he'd be happier if Sony just said it wasn't going to bring the program over to America. After all, used market is huge here compared to Japan, so I don't think publishers will be thrilled flooding the used UMD market with games they're still trying to sell new. It would be bad business for them, and makes converting physical media to digital detrimental to the new UMD sales.

#23 Posted by daviddoel (27 posts) -

@kyrieee said:

I think the criticisms are valid, but most people are only ever concerned with playing old games on new platforms right around the time of the new platform's release. A year or so into the new platform's life nobody gives a rats ass about the last generation games anymore, with very few exceptions. Yeah this is dumb, but not enough people will care and it will just slide by.

I agree with this.

I agree with you Patrick, it's dumb that Sony is gouging Japanese gamers like that. But I have little interest in playing PSP games on my Vita to begin with.

#24 Posted by drew327 (576 posts) -

Another sign of our entitled generation- why should we expect Sony to go the extra mile on this? You bought your UMD for a UMD device, play it on that. I'm not making them give me .mp3 downloads of a library of mini-discs I bought. I don't expect any passport program at all.

#25 Posted by RE_Player1 (7558 posts) -

90% of my PSP library is digital. Those games will transfer over too Vita for free. The other games I have on UMD aren't great and I wouldn't even transfer them over if Sony paid me. This isn't a huge problem for me but I guess people have the right to demand more.

#26 Posted by Seanakin66 (158 posts) -

Of course, the absolutely most easy thing to do is NOT to buy a PSV at ALL.

#27 Posted by AngelN7 (2970 posts) -

@Vorbis said:

I'm not getting a Vita to play old PSP games.

I don't feel the need to grab my pitchfork and torch.

Yep I don't know what's the big deal if you want to play old PSP games just play them on your PSP , when Sony and Microsoft began to sell old PS2/Xbox games I didn't see people getting up in arms about it , I think only Nintendo has been backing up backwards compatibily.

#28 Posted by jkuc316 (981 posts) -

I think that anything that Sony does wrong now is always going to be front page news on GB.

#29 Posted by DarthB (251 posts) -

Why does it always feel like Sony is actively trying to give gamers good reasons not to buy their shit?

#30 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

Interesting article, Patrick. It seems like it's getting unwieldy in Japan, considering there is a lack of regulation on what is happening. Hopefully the program won't stay the same when it comes to North America, mainly because the lack of restriction sounds totally crazy.

#31 Posted by WiqidBritt (578 posts) -

the reason no one really got all up-in-arms about this is because people who "own" a lot of PSP games... don't really have UMD copies lying around. It wouldn't surprise me if the Vita was just as open to piracy as the PSP was.

#32 Posted by BR4DL3I9H (259 posts) -

This is a complete scam. I would completely understand a nominal fee being asked for to make the conversion, but these amounts are ridiculous. The funny thing is that Sony is viewed as the hardcore portable system by a lot of people, so this kind of action is not going to fly.

#33 Posted by Boiglenoight (534 posts) -

@MooseyMcMan said:

Am I the only person here who thinks the craziest thing about this is that people in Japan are willing to pay $65 to play pachinko on PSP? Not that the rest of it is at all justifiable or anything.

While this is the craziest thing about the people of Japan in this article, this is a far cry from the craziest thing people of Japan are wont to do. Also, I'm not paying money for digital copies of games I already own. Those stupid heifers.

#34 Posted by louiedog (2335 posts) -

Demand more, but expect exactly this from Sony.

#35 Posted by bhhawks78 (1203 posts) -

The cost of proprietary memory in this case is as bad as the 360 situation EVERYONE bitched about but noone is here.

Sure 250 is nice, but honestly? 350 with internal storage+ non proprietary jacked up memory would cost a user less if they download anything.

#36 Posted by GalacticGravy (548 posts) -

This is outrageous. The 9 people that buy a Playstation Vita outside of Japan will be furious!

But for serious I don't like being nickel and dimed. The real reason to raise hell about things like this is that you can't let them get away with it even on a smaller level. If this system of UMD swapping works as it currently plans to, it might become a Sony standard. Then when everyone is used to paying for this they'll introduce a new policy that makes you pay more for something else. It'll roll until you're bled out $90 a month for services that don't need to cost that much.

#37 Edited by Lovert (10 posts) -

I'll just have to keep playing my pachinko games on the psp then :(

#38 Posted by MideonNViscera (2257 posts) -

I know if the fees were like $5 across the board I'd probably be converting every single game I owned, but for more I probably wouldn't do any. I say probably because I don't have a PSP.

#39 Posted by ObsideonDarman (650 posts) -

This sounds like a really dumb idea if they do decide to bring it over to America and Europe.

#40 Posted by bricewgilbert (183 posts) -

@Ehker: Sony has made it a point to say that they can tell when someone uses a UMD already. Don't ask how, but they claim they can so they aren't charging for fear of piracy.

We are consumers. Consumers who are being ripped off. Complain and don't put your money into this garbage. The backlash toward people that think this way is disgusting.

Online
#41 Edited by Crono (2655 posts) -

I really could care less because I am not buying a Vita with the thought of playing old games on it. They aren't ripping us off. This is a specialty service for those who are interested. If you're not interested, you don't pay the specialty fee for the process. Does it seem contrived? Slightly - you already bought the games - but you bought them for a PSP, not for a Vita.

#42 Edited by Drebin_893 (2911 posts) -

I like Patrick, and I tend to really enjoy his writing, but it's annoying to see all these 'Consumer Empowerment!' articles. Supply and Demand should dictate the prices, if the publishers have misjudged demand, then no one will buy it and equilibrium will be found. I agree with educating consumers, but at some they need to decide without someone standing over them telling them how much better they deserve.

#43 Posted by Dixperiken (95 posts) -

There are only a couple of games I would want to port over (P3P, FF: Crisis Core) but if I have to pay exponential amounts of money to do that then I just won't. The convenience of not having to find my PSP when I want to play those games is not worth my very limited money.

#44 Posted by rbanke (191 posts) -

Get up in arms about Sony making some kind of effort to reduce the cost of people wanting to migrate their UMD's to digital, while letting them keep their UMD which potentially could be passed around for others to do the same?

Yea, i'm not bothered by this.

For those who have UMD's and want to play them on their Vita, this is a better route than any one else has ever done in a situation where the media changes (see re-buying Nintendo games on every platform). They could simply not do anything as they did with the PSP Go (where it actually made MORE sense than this does since it was the same platform), or do what they are doing, or a mail in program. Also, games absolutely have different values, so why would they charge a flat-rate for every game when there is likely a way to scam the system. You are likely getting a similar discount on that more expensive game as you would a cheap game anyway.

again, I don't see the problems here.

#45 Posted by bricewgilbert (183 posts) -

@Ehker: PSP software sales at this point are not very high. Sony has said that once you "scan" your UMD it can't be scanned again, so I don't buy that the used market is a huge issue. Even if it were why would it matter anymore? Selling UMD's used after the format and console are dead aren't something anyone would need to worry about.

Online
#46 Posted by megalowho (965 posts) -

I think if Microsoft proposed this as the only means to play retail 360 games on their next gen console, people will be up in arms. Judging by the responses here this seems like a case of not directly affecting people enough to care. It's still an anti-consumer cash grab that gets me a bit worried about the future of digital delivery in walled gardens like consoles and portables. Whatever publishers think they can get away with, they'll certainly try.

#47 Posted by gregoryc (153 posts) -

Japanese pricing of games has always been odd to me. I don't like this policy that Sony is going to use in Japan, but it does not affect me, as I do not live there, nor do I own a PSP (or will buy a Vita) and I'm doubtful this will occur in America if the system tanks on December 17th. Good luck Sony, I think you're alienating more of your fans.

#48 Posted by Capella (68 posts) -

Well, I might be concerned about this if it were necessary to play games I already own on a platform other than the one I already own to play them on. I think most people who have UMD games will likewise not be rendered incapable of playing them just because the PSV comes out.

#49 Posted by xbob42 (497 posts) -

@Drebin_893 said:

I like Patrick, and I tend to really enjoy his writing, but it's annoying to see all these 'Consumer Empowerment!' articles. Supply and Demand should dictate the prices, if the publishers have misjudged demand, then no one will buy it and equilibrium will be found. I agree with educating consumers, but at some they need to decide without someone standing over them telling them how much better they deserve.

The problem is that stupid consumers make things worse for the rest of us because there's a whole fuckton of them.

#50 Posted by rbanke (191 posts) -

@bricewgilbert said:

@Ehker: PSP software sales at this point are not very high. Sony has said that once you "scan" your UMD it can't be scanned again, so I don't buy that the used market is a huge issue. Even if it were why would it matter anymore? Selling UMD's used after the format and console are dead aren't something anyone would need to worry about.

Do you have a link to where they said that the UMD's can't be used for this more than once? I have not seen them say that.

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