The new device will bring PlayStation 3-quality games to the portable space for the first time.
With Nintendo delivering the first autostereoscopic 3D gaming experience to the world on February 26, Sony Computer Entertainment has shown its latest PlayStation Portable device to the Japanese press. Codenamed NGP (next generation portable entertainment system), the new device will ship by the end of this year and bring PlayStation 3-quality games to the portable space for the first time. NGP is a separate portable gaming device from the rumored PlayStation Phone that Sony Ericsson has been developing, which is expected to debut at the Mobile World Congress in February.
Michael Pachter, video game analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, expects the NGP to retail for $250. He forecasts Sony will sell 15 million NGP devices in its first year.
Sony is also going to compete directly with Apple and its iPhone and iPad gaming business by offering PlayStation games on Android phones and tablet devices. PlayStation Suite (PS Suite) will allow consumers who own any of the growing number of Android phones and tablet devices from companies like Motorola, LG, and HTC to purchase PlayStation games from Sony and other game publishers through a PlayStation Store. PS Suite will launch later this year.
This marks the first time that PlayStation games will be available on any device not made by Sony. PS Suite games will also play on the new Sony NGP portable device. In addition, Sony will offer a PlayStation certification program that will allow new game developers and publishers to create games for PS Suite.
NGP will replace Sony’s PSP (PlayStation Portable), which launched in 2004. The NGP will be slightly larger and wider than the current PSP 3000 model that Sony has in stores today. NGP will feature a multi-touch 5-inch organic light emitting display (OLED) display, which offers higher visual fidelity than the current liquid crystal display (LCD) that PSP uses. Unlike the Nintendo 3DS, NG4 was not designed to handle 3D. NG4 will come equipped with serious processing power thanks to its quad-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU and SGX543MP4+ GPU, which will allow high definition PlayStation 3 games to run seamlessly in the portable space.
"There is a lot to like, and Sony has a huge library of content,” said Pachter. “The device looks pretty powerful, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some pretty sophisticated games, and the 3G capability and relationship with Android means we’ll see a ton of Android apps on the device as well.”
“Combining OLED display and powerful chipset with motion and touch controls in conjunction with quality game experiences available only on dedicated gaming devices, the new Sony handheld puts iPad or smart phone back into perspective as platforms for time-killing 99 cent games,” said Billy Pidgeon, video game analyst, M2 Research. “ NGP also renders PSP utterly obsolete.”
Sony showed a reel of NGP games that included first-party PS3 titles like Little Big Planet, Resistance, Uncharted, Killzone and Hot Shots Golf. In addition, third-party games from Capcom (Lost Planet, Monster Hunter), Sega (Yakuza), Activision (Call of Duty) and Konami (Metal Gear Solid) were also shown.
Although the device was built for gaming – there’s a multi-touch pad on the rear for "touch, grab, trace, push and pull" controlling options and two analog control sticks on the front – it will also play music, movies and TV shows. Sony is abandoning its Universal Media Disc (UMD) format in favor of flash memory based cards, which will allow for storage of larger games and entertainment files.
NGP will offer multiple ways for consumers to connect online with the PlayStation Network, including 3G support, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Beyond online gaming, this will allow players to surf the Web, download games and entertainment, and stay socially connected both through in-game communication and through traditional social networking sites.
NGP also comes with a camera on the front and on the back for the sharing of digital pictures. This also opens up augmented reality gaming options, which Sony has already employed with PSP games like EyePet and Invizimals.
Every device will come pre-installed with “Near,” a new location-based application that will take advantage of the built-in GPS. In games, this will allow users find out what their friends in the vicinity are playing now or what they were playing recently. Players can meet their friends and new players virtually, regardless of what games they are playing, simply by sharing their game information across different dimensions of time and distance.
Sony has been dominated in the portable games space by Nintendo and its Nintendo DS line of products, which have sold over 135 million devices worldwide. Sony has sold over 64 million PSPs. More recently, Sony and Nintendo have faced competition from new smart phones and tablets. CES 2011 showed off new rivals that both companies will compete with this year, including a growing number of NVIDIA Tegra 2-powered devices that will bring PC-quality gaming experiences to gamers.
“3DS will have difficulty matching NGP on performance, but the 3D capabilities and Nintendo's strengths in portable device hardware and software will help to offer a differentiated experience,” said Pidgeon. “Nintendo will also benefit from a head start on launch, but will need to make the most of that advantage. NPG is going to be very tough competition, particularly in online gaming capabilities where Nintendo has much to prove.”