The program that allows owners of physical UMD PSP game to download the game on their Vita for a substantial discount won't be coming to the US. Known as the UMD Passport Program when it launched in Japan last year, it let users provide proof of ownership of the game in exchange for a special code that gave them download rights to the title for between $1.29 and $31, depending on the game.
This represented a discount of up to 90% off the listed Playstation Network price of the game. It was finally seen as a nod from Sony to appreciate customers who actually went out to the store to buy PSP games.
The whole issue revolves around this - if you bought a PSP game online through the Playstation Network, you'll be able to re-download it on your Playstation Vita for free. But if you actually went out and bought a UMD version of the same game, the Vita doesn't have a UMD slot and you're out of luck.
Now, Sony has announced that any gamer from that latter category will need to pay the full download price if they want to play the game on their Vita.
It's a very unfortunate situation, and it makes the Vita the first successor to a handheld system that does not offer backward compatibility. The Nintendo 3DS, for example, still plays DS games, and the original Nintendo DS still played GBA games (and the GBA still played regular Game Boy games, etc).
In an effort to make up for the lack of the UMD Passport program, though, in the US prices of digitally downloadable PSP games are expected to drop. Nevertheless, there is an obvious divide between those who can re-download a game for free, and those who paid for the exact same game, just in a different format, who will have to pay extra for that same privilege.