Import PSP and, take 2

story so far: yesterday, a bit frazzled after a week at work, I tried
to register my imported (i.e. Japanese) PSP on the European PSP portal, You need to give your serial number; I did,
and it didn’t work, so I rather quickly wrote a very hot-headed blog
entry all about how Sony was discriminating against

Game weblog Joystiq picked up on it,
but since Joystiq allows users to comment, pretty soon people started
piping up saying they had managed to reigster US and Japanese PSPs on

Hmm. So I tried
registering on again. Still didn’t work. I tried again, fudging the purchase date to
the 1st of September, selecting model no. 1003, and entering the serial
number from inside the PSP’s battery case, not the one printed on the
sticker on the underside of the PSP. And it worked. So more fool me; I
jumped the gun. Had I read the site more carefully, I would
have noticed it does say “the serial number is underneath the
battery.”  Although, in my defence, I would like to say the field where you enter your serial number
on the registertation form is, incredibly unhelpfully, exactly the same
length as the not-the-real serial number on the sticker on the
underside of the PSP!

But basically, I was wrong. Whoops. Sorry.

So I retracted
the original angry-fuming post, deleted it, and put up a quick explanation. A bit
too late – Joystiq hasn’t heard my plea to retract it, and a couple of
other websites have picked up on the story that isn’t a story.

However, what
is interesting is the reaction the Joystiq post got. As well as people
calling me a fool for jumping the gun (well, yeah, but check the
name and header for this site 🙂 ), a number of people criticised me
for “whining”. For instance:

“Boo-Hoo. What a whiner…There are certain risks you take when import
stuff from other countries….And it’s worth mentioning that the site offers a free UMD movie (spiderman 2) to those who
register, so Sony has a interest in not letting people from other
markets take advantage of this…”

firstly, surely whining is what the internet is all about 🙂 (well,
maybe secondly after the porn, or thirdly after the pirate software,
and fourthly after NSFW

But the main
criticism the Joystiq readers have of my rant is that I should have
expected to be locked out of because you ‘take risks’ when importing a
console from one territory to another
This is true, you do take risks;
I was just asking “why” that risk exists. In the past, pieces of
hardware like TVs and even consoles have carried obvious risks
preventing easy transport between countries: different places use
different specifications of electric current, and
different broadcast systems. Getting a Japanese PS2 working in the UK
requires a bit of tinkering, because it has a 110V power supply and is
designed to work with an NTSC TV set. The PSP however, is a self
sufficient unit
that, by default, ships with a universal battery charger.

It is a
mobile piece of hardware, ready for deployment all over the world. And
yet people are still telling me I should ‘expect’ to face
restrictions from the very company I bought it from? Just because I did
what I was supposed to, travel with it? Hmm. Seems like we, as
really have lowered our expectations. But then that’s to be expected, I
guess. Globalisation may be touted as a good for people but
in reality, all too often, it works only for big companies. DVDs
are a prime example of this – what on earth is the point of region
codes? If you buy a copy of ‘Lost In Translation’ in the US, it won’t
play back on a UK DVD player. But why? You bought the copy legally,
so the people who made the movie still get their money. Why should the
company who sold it you care where you use it? Region Codes
allow companies to artifically control prices, release dates and access
to content but for consumers, it make no sense at all.

The thing is, the internet really is changing all this. I hope DVDs
were the last stand for segmented, artificial
control of content (though sadly, all the stuff I’ve read about the
next-gen Windows makes me doubt this). Still, the internet is a great
leveller, and the ease of access it gives to black- and grey-market
produce is what is doing the bulldozing.
Grey market importers make pieces of kit only released in certain
regions available to all and sundry, while black market download sites
get movies and music out before its release dates and even to markets
where it wouldn’t ordinarily be released (like the amount of manga
released on BitTorrent, subtitled by fans, that wouldn’t normally be
available outside Japan).

So things look good for consumers: the more I
think about it, the more I see it as a big problem for companies to
deal with. Those Japanese companies making manga really should sort out
a way for overseas fans to buy it over the web; record companies have
to shuffle release dates to beat the P2P serives; and Sony has to
contend with importers moving its kit faster than they themselves can.
In fact, I actually think Sony deserve a bit of praise here: I fully
expected them to deny me access to, just because, but they haven’t – maybe they’ve got their heads around this strange, ever-present global market thing better than I have.

Lessons learned:
1. Global internet market = good
2. Sony = not always evil, in fact, quite good sometimes
3. Ability to publish beliefs/prejudices instantly, especially on Friday afternoon = not always good
4. = probably not worth all the aggro in the first place! 😉


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