Late last night (or early this morning, but it was daytime in Tokyo where the conference was held) Sony held a special "PlayStation Meeting 2011" to announce a device we all knew was coming, the PSP2. The new device was codenamed NGP, so it doesn't actually have an official name right now. It's likely that NGP means something like Next-Gen Portable or Next-Gen PlayStation or something clever that Sony wants to call it for now until they announce the real name a later date, perhaps E3.
We know it will be available this year, and it will be in the market competing directly with the Nintendo 3DS and Apple's iPhone and iPad. Unfortunately, no price was announced, but judging by the tech they showed off…it's not going to be cheap.
For now, we can look at the specs we do know about.
1) 5-inch OLED multitouch screen at 960×544
The screen is huge for a handheld. While the older PSP sported a 4.3-inch screen, the NGP will have that lovely 5-inch screen. We say lovely, because initial impressions from the event say it looks beautiful. The touchscreen is no doubt thanks to the popularity of devices like the Nintendo DS and the iPhone.
2) PlayStation Suite
An emulation of first-generation PlayStation games (meaning PlayStation, the console that put Sony on the map as a game maker). This will be available for the NGP as well as Android platforms for what Sony Computer Entertainment boss Kaz Harai said would be their first "cross platform" experience. This means that various devices will be "PlayStation Certified" which is essentially a license a device will carry that tells users that their Android phone has Sony's seal of approval for a "PlayStation quality experience."
3) Rear Touch Panel
This idea is intriguing. It's a touch panel on the backside of the device used for controlling certain elements of a game. Viewers on this side of the globe didn't get to see it, but they said it was used in a demo of Uncharted, and the player was able to control certain aspects of the game (such as hopping over a wall) by using the rear touch panel. It seems that the idea is to give users the ability to touch without having their finger obstruct the view.
4) Dual Analog Sticks
This is a feature that has been requested by many. Sony even went to say that this was the most requested feature from owners of the orignal PSP. Looks like they listened, because the NGP has two analog sticks. The interesting part is that they aren't the little nub we used to have with the original PSP. These are actual little analog sticks protruding from the device, they have a larger range of motion. The only concern we have is how these things will do when stuffed in a pocket.
5) SixAxis Controls
Like Sony's PlayStation 3 controller, the NGP has SixAxis controls. It detects tilt and motion for use in games. One example was again the Uncharted demo. While the game's character Nathan Drake was hanging from a vine, they used the tilt to make him swing back and forth. In a game of Hot Shots Golf, they used this feature to "look" around the golf course.
6) 3G, Wifi, GPS
A whole bunch of connected and location-type features. The NGP will actually be the first handheld gaming system that will come with carrier plans. Nothing was announced for the US, and keep in mind that the event was in Japan. Still, American press was invited to the event. Chances are we will hear more about this at E3.
They also talked about and Application called Near, which will use that connectivity to let users discover others in their area. This is much like Nintendo's Street Pass for the 3DS. An example would be playing on the bus on the way to work. Users can see if anyone else is playing and what they are playing.
There is another feature that allows people to see what game is popular in their area. This will no doubt help sell games as users start discovering more titles they like based on game popularity.
This is the new name for the UI in the NGP. It's a hub that lets you see everything around you, such as the stuff mentioned above as well as see what your friends are doing. Think of it as your Xbox LIVE dashboard or PlayStation XMB.
8) Flash-Based Media
From the sounds of it, the NGP will still be using physical media (unlike the PSPgo and the iPhone) in the form of special flash memory-based card. We are more than sure it's a proprietary format, but should have many advantages over the original PSP, which used optical discs called UMDs: Battery life should be greatly improved, as well as loading times and it will have no moving parts.
Additional info from the Official PlayStation Blog:
Key NGP features:
- Multi-touch 5-inch organic light emitting display (OLED) as the front display
- Multi-touch pad on the rear of the device
- Dual analog sticks
- Two cameras (front and rear)
- Software titles on small, dedicated flash memory-based cards
- Three motion sensors, gyroscope, accelerometer and electronic compass
- Wi-Fi and 3G network connectivity
- PlayStation Network access, including ‚Äú‚ÄúLiveArea‚Ñ¢‚Äù, ‚ÄúNear‚Äù and ‚ÄúActivity‚Äù log features Trophy Support
- NGP will be able to play PSP titles, minis, PS one classics, video and comics from the PlayStation Store.
Wait until E3?
Unfortunately, Sony did not announce a price. Based on everything they showed off, that's probably a good thing right now as it doesn't look cheap. They boast that it can display graphics similar to the PlayStation 3, in fact Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear series, explained that he believes that cloud computing is the future, and mentioned his idea for a game (which will be detailed at E3) in which a player can begin playing on the PlayStation 3, then carry it over to the NGP when they have to leave home. It sounds like a great idea, and many of us have probably dreamed of the possibility, but it seems that Kojima Productions may be the first studio to pull it off.
As for the rest of the games, most of them were really just demos of games ported directly from PlayStation 3 that served as nothing more than a way to say, "See? It looks really good."
For now, we probably won't hear all that much, maybe some rumors on pricing and a bunch of reports on how it's 3DS vs NGP vs iPhone. In the end, gamers win. They have all these options at various price points. Why not just enjoy it all?