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If you own a PSP, then you probably know that last year an update rolled out bringing comics to the PSP. Then in December, the digital service actually started. Every week since then, the Playstation store (PSN) has rolled out new and old issues of comics every Thursday. If you own a PS3, don’t bother trying to look at the store. It’s only available by accessing your PSP or by downloading MediaGo for your desktop computer. Of the two, I recommend Media Go. It’s free, fast and you don’t have to find a WiFi signal.
The Good – The screen is amazing. The books really look sharp and the size is just big enough. Nothing is blown out or pixilated. Really I can’t say enough about it. The interface is perfect. You will use the right D-pad button to move to the next panel with the ability to zoom out at anytime. Also, depending on the effort the publisher puts into it, they can do neat things like making the screen shake for explosions or heavy footsteps. For splash pages, the screen scrolls over the page allowing you to take it all in. The home screen shows your entire library and then breaks-down into further options such as: Newly added, unread and bookmarks. For the bookmarks add a save point to the book you’re reading so that the next time you load the comic it will start where you left off. Another unique feature to the PSP is the addition of an audio commentary track. The creators can record, and upload audio tracks about the process of the book. Sadly, it’s a very under-used feature.
The Bad – There are a lot of publishers on board, but they’ve yet to update their library since the service launched. Image Comics had one free issue of Dynamo 5 for the first three months of the service and just recently added the next four in the series. Other publishers like Marvel, pop out twenty or so issues a week. You’d think this is a good thing, but most of those issues are two to three years old. I’ve personally read almost every issue they’ve released. Granted it doesn’t seem like I’m the demographic they’re trying to sell to, but I should be. In order for digital comics to succeed they need paper readers to start buying. For the most part a lot of the publishers seem rushed to put product out rather than taking their time with a decent one. You may make a lot of money just dumping out products on the i-store but core readers are what keep the product going not impulse buyers.
The Pricing – I feel the pricing needs to be discussed on its own. The majority of the books are fairly priced and well worth the purchase. Others are free. Companies like IDW have books priced at a $1.99 which is a steal from their print prices of $3.99. Then there’s Marvel… Uncanny X-Men #1 was added to the store with a price of $1.99. Now I understand that it’s not 1963 and I don’t expect it to be 10 cents but two dollars to read a classic comic is too much. It’s as if they’re exploiting the fact that most people will never read the original printed issue. An issue that came out two years ago is still relevant to comics coming out today. Sadly, Uncanny X-Men #1 has no relevance to the story or even the characters of the X-Men making it ridiculously priced.
Highlights - IDW is leading the pack when it comes to content. Not only with a back log of recent books but also new issues launching the same week as the printed version. They use the bookmark feature, the screen rumbling feature and the audio commentary. Usually first issues go for 99 cents or free, and they don’t spare the content. I personally have read more IDW books on my PSP than I ever did before. I’ve actually gone back and purchased trades of books just so I can loan them to people to read, because I was that impressed with the product they’ve put out. The service also has indie comics and that’s where they really hook me in. Now companies like Ape Comics, Insomniac Comics and Red 5 Comics just need to put out more content.
Overall - The service is off to a great start. There are concerns about the quality of some of the product but hopefully publishers will become more familiar with the program and use it to its fullest. It also needs more publishers to join as well. Companies like BOOM! Studios are missing out, especially since they’ve given books away for free on MySpace before. The best part about this is that it’s a win for comic fans, now comic releases dominate twice a week.
If you’d like to check out Sony’s website you can do so here.