On December 17, 2009 the Playstation division of Sony Entertainment opened their online store for digital comics at www.playstationcomics.com. Here you can download digital versions of comics for viewing on yours Sony PSP hand held entertainment system.
What? You thought the PSP was just a video game system? It is, and it isnâ€™t. I have a Piano Black PSP-3000 model, and while I do own about 7 or so games on it, I have not actually played a game in many months. I use it mainly as a receiver to stream internet radio through Shoutcast, watch movies and TV, a portable web browser and other stuff. So a few weeks back when the update came down that actually added the digital comics viewer to the PSP, I was excited. That excitement died when I found that there where not any actual comics available for it at the time, but now the excitement is back!
To use the system you have a few different options. You can go through a Wi-Fi connection and download from the Playstation Online-Store in the XMedia Bar directly to your PSP, or go online to the afore mentioned Playstation Comics website and using the MediaGo program. I did a little bit of both, mainly just to see which was easier. While the MediaGo route was faster (depending on your internet connection speed), using the Playstation Store option in the PSP itself was much easier. As always, you will have your own preferences, often differing from mine.
At first glance, I was pretty impressed. Publishers ranging from Marvel to IDW to Insomnia where represented, and there was a nice selection of free comics to get you started. The free comics (as of this writing) include
- Aleister Arcane #1
- Astroboy: Movie Adaptation #1
- G.I. Joe #0
- Star Trek: Year Four: The Enterprise Experiment #1
- Transformers: All Hail Megatron #1
From Archie Comics:
- Archie: Freshmen Year #1
- Young Salem #1
From Disney Digicomics:
- Donald Duck and the Fussy Genie
From Red 5:
- Atomic Robo #1
- Neozoic #1
From Insomnia Publishing
- Burke & Hare #1 (Free Version)
- Cages #1 (Free Version)
- Cancer Town: An Inconvenient Tooth
From Image Comics:
- Dynamo 5 #1
From The Dabel Brothers :
- The Warriors #1
From Titan Comics:
- Wallace & Gromit #1
Out of the 11 publishers currently offering their product through the site, eightÂ are offering free issues. IDW has the most impressive offering of free issues, with five different titles. The three not offering free issues are 2000AD, Ape Entertainment, and Marvel Comics. Hopefully, these great publishers will be offering some free samples in the future.
So, let’s cover the store front a little more before we go to the actual product. No matter which store front you use, website, MediaGo or PSP, it is really a very easy interface to use. You chose your comic, add it to your cart, check out and download it. Badda-Boom-Badda-Bing, our done. The longest I had to wait for any issue was over my Wi-Fi, and the 30 MB Star Trek comic took just a hair over a minute. When I downloaded multiple issue over the Wi-Fi (six) it took just about 6 minutes. I would dare say that estimating about a minute a comic a download for an average Wi-Fi connection sounds right to me. When I downloaded with the MediaGo program, the downloads where much faster, less than a minute each. That said, I think I will be using my Wi-Fi more often, as I found the checkout process a little easier. In MediGo, I had to download each issue individually, while on the PSP I could set the whole cart up to download.
Once I had downloaded my comics and made sure they where on my PSP, I was ready to read. Once you download the PSP Comic Reader, you have a new option on your screen. Chose this comic reader, and it opens up the organizer. Here, you are given four options to accessing your comics, Browse Collection, Recently Added, Unread and Bookmarks. Each one tells you how many are under that category, so if you have four unread comics, it tells you. Likewise, if your complete collection has sixteen comics, it tells you that as well. Select Browse Collection, and you get the option to see it by All Comics, By Series, or By Genre. These are pretty self explanatory, so I won’t bore you with the details.
When you decide which comic you want to read, you select it and you are given the options to look at the summary as well as the credits. Once you start reading the comic, the impressive part starts; Auto Flow. Auto Flow is controlled by the d-pad. You press to the right to progress forward panel by panel, left to back up the same way, and up or down to move by a while page at a time. The Auto Flow really surprised me. Instead of simply going to the word balloons on each page, it is as if a camera actually sets itself up for the most aesthetically pleasing view. With one hand, using only my thumb, I was able to read a full issue of IDW’s Aleister Arcane #1 and it was an amazing experience. The screen for the PSP is crisp and clear, and Â I never had the first problem with reading the story. On the contrary, it was as if a professional cinematographer was controlling my view, lingering just moments on some panels before flowing to the dialog. It really is one of those things that has to be experinced. While reading Transformers: All Hail Megatron #1, the screen actually shook in scenes with large explosions! During Donal Duck and the Fussy Genie, there where honest to goodness sound effects, nothing major, but little audio accents here and there that made the reading more involving. That is another little perk. Recently, we had aÂ poll up asking if you listened to music while reading your comics, as a soundtrack. With the PSP, you have the option to listen to your music while you read, a feature that many people may like.
The selection of books on the site is much more than I would have expected for a day one launch. As mentioned before, with only eleven publishers, there are over 565 issues to chose from. Marvel Comics has the lion’s share with 339 issues, with IDW coming in second with 122 issues. This is rather impressive, and the presence of one of the “Big Two” lends a certain sense of worth to the mainstream reader. Okay, granted, the newest issues Marvel had release (according to the on site sorter) was November of 2008 (Astonishing X-Men #28) it is still impressive. Ever want to read the ORIGINAL Captain America Comics from the forties? Well, for just $2 an issue, now you can, or at least the first six issue. Sixties Spider-Man fan? Well you can download the first 25 issues for $2 a pop as well. Great bargain, considering how much reprints and the originals run.
I was quite skeptical at first. I had heard people complaining about the quality of the comics on other systems such as the iPhone and Palm, but the Auto Flow feature here simply is amazing. It turns it into an almost cinematic experience, and you get drawn in easily, no matter what comic you are reading. I myself have already made plans to pick up a Playstation Network Gift Card tomorrow and pick up some of the other issues, such as the rest of the Aleister Arcane and the Atomic Robo series.
There are little things that I would like to see in future updates. First, I’d like to browse by publisher. The options given are nice and work for a smaller collection, but once the number of publishers grows (as I hope it will) it may get hard to search the collection. Also, a season/trade option would be nice. While prices of 99 cents to $2 are nice, couldnlt I be offered a slight discount for getting a whole storyline? No, I would not mind buying all 5 (including zero issue) installments of the series Marvels for $2 each (only $10 total), could a dollar discount really hurt? iTunes, which is usually recognized as the model for this sort of thing, gives you a cheaper price if you buy the whole season. Doesn’t it make sense to give me a break if I “subscribe” to the monthly or pick up the “trade?”
Anyway, we will see what we will see. I was completely bowled over by the client and the selection. If you have a PSP, I would highly recommend at least downloading the free comics and giving it a try. Although this is more a review for a service than an individual issue, I want to close out by giving the Playstation Digital Comic Store a recommendation of 4.5 out of 5 stars. There are a few little glitches, but overall, it is a spectacular start.