A Question: Nintendo DSi or Sony PSP?

The question machine has plunked a spinning, golden question in front of me:

[quote]

My 8 year old son is very keen to purchase either a PSP or Nintendo DSi …however his parents have no idea which is the better option – if there is one? We would appreciate any information you can give us – even if it is just a website where we can compare the two machines. Thanks for your help.

[/quote]

Firstly, I must warn you: by asking this question you are raising one of the most fervent religious battles of our time. The religiosity of the Sony-Nintendo-Microsoft console fanboy battle makes Christianity vs. Islam look like an angry game of mini golf. At each corner of the battlefield, you will find acolytes willing to claim that their console of choice is capable of curing cancer and ending world hunger, while asserting that the competing consoles are built from the carcasses of innocent kittens.

And so I beseech you, check carefully if your son has a preference for one brand over another. If you choose not to heed this warning, you may risk unleashing the wrath of a fanboy scorned. One possible way to check for a preference is to casually drop the name of some “exclusives”: games and characters that exist on one brand of console, and not others. Here is a handy list:

  • Nintendo DS(i): Mario, Zelda, Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum
  • Sony PSP: Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Grand Tourismo
  • Microsoft (who don’t have a portable console): Halo, Master Chief, Forza Motorsport

If you get a rousing Huzzah! regarding one of these “exclusives”, you may have solved your question there and then. If on the other hand all options raise equal (dis)interest, then you have a hard road to travel. In this case, to help you (and perhaps your son) I’m going to try to outline the general ‘vibe’ of each console below, and add a spanner into the works too, just to make life hard.

Sony PSP

The PSP is unquestionably the graphics powerhouse in the current crop of handheld consoles. The 3D graphics look about as good as a previous-generation full-sized console, which is rather amazing given the size of it. The button layout (incuding analog joystick), coupled with the graphics tend to point the PSP towards more “action” oriented gamers. Think car racing games (e.g. Need for Speed, Ridge Racer) and first- or third-person action/adventure games (Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid).

With this great processing power, the PSP tends to be a little more heavy on battery usage, but not so much that you’d really worry about it. The PSP can browse the internet, play music from a memory stick, and play movies that may be available on its proprietary UMD format.

Nintendo DSi

Compared to the PSP, the DSi could be explained as more “cute” than “powerhouse”. This is not to say that it can’t play some quite nice action 3D games. However, you will find the combination dual screens, touch sensitivity, and built in cameras, coupled with Nintendo’s more “casual” approach to games, results in a tendency towards fun, unique games over games that are all action and bling.

The DSi’s media and internet capabilities have had an upgrade over the previous DS model. The options for playing around with sounds, voices and images are pretty neat, and I imagine might result in some pretty intense giggle-fests when a couple of 8 year olds take photos of each other then morph them into crazy hall-o-mirrors shapes.

Apple iPod Touch (the spanner)

I’d be remiss not to include the iPod touch here too. Judging by the success of the iPod and iPhone as gaming platforms, they are probably putting a spanner in both Nintendo and Sony’s works, not just your decision making. Even the earliest games on the iPod were producing graphics up there with the PSP, and the latest ones are blowing my mind. The iPod completely blows the PSP and DSi out of the water when it comes to internet and media capability. The main downside however, is the lack of physical controls. You’ll notice from those videos that most control comes in the form of tilting the device and touching the screen.

When you consider that some of the best games on the iPod are all of $10 (and some brilliant ones are much cheaper), while Nintendo wants $90 for theirs, it starts to become a pretty difficult call. In fact one of the downsides of the iPod is how easy it is to buy hundreds of $2 games just because they are so cheap (don’t worry, you can put a password on the iTunes account to stop your 8 year old from going wild). Admittedly, you won’t get the same giant exclusives on the iPod, but as the installed base grows, large game studios will be more and more tempted to create true blockbuster games for the iPod.

As it stands, I spend more time playing games on my iPod than I have on any other portable gaming device. But I’m 30mumble years old, so am probably not the best indicator of the portable gaming zeitgeist.

  • I’d like to link to the top 100 games for the iPod, but you need iTunes installed to view it. Try this.
  • Price: from $389

Conclusion

So there you have it. You asked me to tell you which of two consoles to choose, and I’ve outlined three options. I’m nothing if not helpful right? I think you hinted at it in the original question regarding the better option “if there is one”? I honestly don’t think there is one right option.

Here, how about this: If I imagine my 5 year old as an 8 year old, I’d probably be tempted to get him a Nintendo DSi, because it’s just plain fun, and I have a soft place in my heart for the old-school Nintendo Game & Watch, after my Dad brought back an original flip-out Donkey Kong from Japan for my brother and I when we were probably about that age. The frugal “Current Economic Situation” guy in me would baulk at the game prices though.

Join the Conversation

13 Comments

  1. I’ve owned both a PSP and a DS (and DS Lite + DSi) since launch day. Despite the PSP’s power, it’s been a bit of a let down. Virtually none of it’s games are as engrossing, long lived or well designed as the games on the DS. As Ben mentioned, the PSP sucks up battery life, is a pain to keep clean and scratch free and has broken on me twice (compared to my 4 year old DS which has taken its fair share of tumbles and keeps on truckin).

    If I were an 8 year old (wasn’t thaaat long ago), I’d be down with the DSi. The replay value of games like Pokemon Platinum and Mario Kart is through the roof. Games like GTA:Chinatown Wars show so much potential for the DSi to grow into a platform for older gamers as well, so it’s future proof.

    Another thing to consider is the Homebrew scene. If your 8 year old (*or geeky parent*) is up to the challenge, both the PSP and the DS can provide satisfying tinkering options. (Not to mention things like the R4 for the DS). Ahem.

    Plus the DSi is a camera/music player/internet beast.

    Be sure to listen/ask your kid what he’s after, nothing worse than getting the wrong console. I know. 🙂

  2. Don’t look at the devices, look at the titles. Nintendo have a much larger range of kid friendly games imho. PSP like it’s larger brother is targetted at older gamers, hence the titles are generally higher rated.

  3. HI THERE WOOOO THERE THERE ARE THE NEW VERSIONS OF THE NINTENDO DSI AND PSP GO WICH WILL REPLACE THE DS LITE AND THE OLD PSP YOUR LOOKING AT ABOSLETE TECHNOLOGIES THE NINTENDO DSI IS OUT WITH 2 CAMRAS 256 MB OF MEMORY SD CARD SLOT INTERNET WEB BROWSER 2 3.25 INCH SCREENS FASTER CPU BRIGHTER SCREENS TAKES PICTURES AND HAS MUSIC PLAYER TOO MULTI-PLAYER GAMES DOWN LOAD GAMES FROM THE DSI SHOP CALLED DSI WARE PSP GO IS ALL DOWN LOAD ABLE CONTECT AND HAS A 3.8 INCH SCREEN ALSO BRIGHTER SCREEN 16 GB OF MEMORY WITH A MEMORY STICK SLOT TOO AND THE PSP GO WILL BE OUT IN OCTOBER 1 OF 2009 SOO DONT BUY HIM A OBSOLETE DS OR PSP GO WITH THE BRAND NEW GAMING CONSOLES THE DSI OR PSP GO JUST DONT WANT YOU TOO WAST A LOT OF MONEY ON OUT DATED TECHNOLOGIES ON OLD CONSOLES

  4. HI THERE MY FUALT FOR NOT UNDERSTANDING THE QUSTION I THOUGHT YOU MENT THE ORIGANAL DS AND PSP NOT THE NEW DSI AND PSP GO IN OCTOBER 1 2009

  5. How come there was no mention of the DS Lite? It’s an advancement on the original DS and comes with the GBA slot that the DSi doesn’t. I’ve got an original DS, a DS Lite, a DSi and a PSP, and of all those handheld consoles, the DS Lite gets the most use with the kids. While the DSi does have the cameras and the ability to play music (AAC format, I recall, not MP3), the photo editing software is pretty basic and gimicky, in my opinion, and the sound editing function is fun, but lightweight. Even my kids lost interest with those applications pretty quickly – but the games, they keep on playing (Rhythm Heaven, Pokemon Platnium, Nintendogs and Chinatown Wars for me!) The also love the ability of the DS to be able to “chat” to each other using the chatroom function.
    At the moment, my money’s still on the DS Lite – which is priced better than the DSi, too. The DSi is a great piece of kit, but just a little too highly priced at the moment.
    And while I love my PSP, it just doesn’t have enough killer games at the moment, apart from God of War: Chains of Olympus and perhaps Patapon 2) at the moment – although that could all change this year with some solid titles (Assasins Creed, GT, another Metal Gear Solid title coming out this year.
    Sorry for the length, but in my opinion the best value handheld at the moment is the DS Lite. You get an updated form factor on the original and the great games. It’s win-win :mrgreen:

  6. i say a dsi is a copy of a psp but u can change the clouer of stuff on dsi
    but the psp has better graphics. i say psp 😀

  7. I would go for the PSP any day. I don’t, and never have, really seen the DS as a “console”. It’s more of a gimmick I think, and doesn’t really give you the full gaming experience.

    Regardless, I still think both the DS and PSP are getting to old – the concept is just not fun any more.

    Personally I’d like to see Apple roll out some kind of portable games console. Imagine how awesome it would be..

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