PSP gettin' new online features

The current generation of console hardware ushered in a major shift in online gaming – especially the PS3 and 360. Though the rabids will argue to death on which offers a better online experience, both consoles brought amazing online multiplayer and content distribution to the table. Sure, sure – computers have had such perks for a long while, but never before have things been as seamless as the age of automatic matchmaking and integrated download stores. Unfortunately, these features have existed almost solely on consoles; while handhelds have had some level of online integration, it barely scratches the surface of that offered by their console counterparts.

IGN is reporting that Sony will be polishing up the online feature set of their PSP, bringing its online offerings that much closer to the par set by its bigger, less portable brother.

Beginning sometime this Fall (at least, in Japan. We’re not sure if this date applies to the US), users will be able to directly access the PlayStation store to download demos and other content to their PSP without requiring a PC or PS3 acting as a middle man.

Also on the way is a method of playing ad-hoc only (in this case, meaning PSP-to-PSP) games with people around the internet. Users connect to their PS3, which will act as an intermediary for matchmaking and messaging. Obviously (and unfortunately), this means you’ll need a PS3. It’d be nice to see this also offered in a cheaper form as some sort of USB dongle and software setup, with the PC doing the communication work the PS3 would normally handle — but that introduces all sorts of potential security issues. Regardless, it’s nice to see games that may otherwise rarely be taken online being opened up to a whole new world of competition.