Following months of speculation and insider leaks, Sony at last unveiled its follow-up to the PlayStation Portable. It’s codenamed “NGP” (next-generation portable), which I can only assume means that Sony isn’t planning on calling it the “PSP2.”
The new device is a powerhouse of hardware, with tons of cutting-edge features packed into its sleek, stylish frame. At a special event last night, Sony worked hard to make the NGP out to be a high-tech cross between the power of a PS3 and the social capabilities and capacitive touchscreen of a smartphone or iPad.
That’s right: the NGP comes with a touchscreen — and not only that, but the rear of the device is equipped with a touchpad of the same size, allowing for new ways of playing. The front screen is 5″ wide, offering 960×544 resolution, and it’s not LED — it’s OLED, the next-gen screen tech that’s brighter, clearer, and draws less electricity to run. It has the usual arrow and PS action buttons, along with two analog sticks (compared to one on the PSP), making it more like a PS3 controller. It also uses the same Sixaxis accelerometer and gyroscopic sensor that’s inside the PlayStation Move controllers. Other specs include some striking similarities to the iPhone: 3G and Wifi connectivity, a three-axis electronic compass, built-in GPS, Bluetooth, and both front and rear cameras. No idea if Sony is planning a “FaceTime”-like video chat feature for those dual cameras, but they did mention that ARGs (augmented reality games) would definitely play a big part of the new device.
NGP will support downloadable games as well as a new physical media that’s basically a specialized flash memory card. The best part about this is that flash cards are upgrade-proof, meaning that future games will be able to use flash cards that hold more data but maintain the same physical size. Sony says that DLC and saved games will be stored directly on these flash cards as well.
Social networking is a major component of the NGP, with full PlayStation Network access and a whole new application called “LiveArea” that makes it easy to keep up with your friends’ activities. LiveArea will work with every game, automatically displaying the latest stats and activities of your friends on whatever games they’re playing. Another feature called “Near” will keep track of where you take your NGP, and show an interactive map that displays the locations of your friends when they’re nearby.
Franchises with titles announced for the NGP at Sony’s special event include:
- Call of Duty
- Little Deviants
- Hot Shots Golf
- Reality Fighters
- Gravity Daze
- Smart As
- Hustle Kings
Sony also announced a new initiative called “PlayStationSuite,” which will bring last-gen PS features and games to specially-licensed and authorized smartphones (such as the leaked prototype that’s been making the rounds). The NGP handheld will be compatible with all PlayStationSuite content, and will be backwards-compatible with PSP downloadable content as well.
No pricing has been announced yet — although with all that advanced tech crammed into such a small package, there’s no way it’ll be cheap — but Sony expects to deliver it to the marketplace by the end of this year.