Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sony NGP (PSP2): Info and Reaction, and What Next?

I'm putting all the PSP2/NGP news here: new news and principal thoughts at the top in bullets, details below.

After a lot of mucking around, today Sony finally unveiled:
  • A non-final hardware design, (every picture [gallery here] says design and specifications subject to change).
  • NEW - Only some models (probably sold by phone shops) will have 3G enabled, the base version will be Wi-Fi only.
  • NEW - Backward compatible with PSP games - digital and boxed copies of old titles likely for PSP2.
  • Some lovely looking games technology demos from many industry big hitters. What I think will happen is lots of game+ editions (MGS4+, MHP3Turbo, etc) with new content, extra levels and so on.
  • A code name - NGP will not be the final system name.
  • Battery life is being quoted at 4-5 hours
  • Sony will sell the unit at a loss, so price could be lower than expected
  • Initially available in Black and White
  • Some big names still not on the publishing list (near the bottom of this post)
  • The slightly bigger design and obvious appearance of some western-oriented games covered suggest Sony is aiming this more deliberately at the west.
  • No sign of a HMDI-out, if this thing can play HD content, then outputting it to a big screen has to be a must.
First thought - If Apple had released this, the world would be covered in embarrassing stains this morning! (Although there would be less buttons)

So, the system specs are:

CPUARM Cortex ™-A9 core (4 core)
GPUSGX543MP4 +
Screen Touch Screen (16:9), 960 x 544, 16.7 million colors, organic EL display Multitouch (capacitive)
Touch pad backMultitouch (capacitive)
CamerasFront-facing camera, rear camera
SoundBuilt-in stereo speakers Built-in microphone
SensorSix-axis sensing system (three-axis accelerometer 3-axis gyro), 3-axis electronic compass function
LocationBuilt-in GPS Wi-Fi enabled location services
Key SwitchesPS Button Power Button Directional buttons Action buttons (△, ○, ×, buttons □) Left stick, right stick START button, SELECT button Volume control
Wireless CommunicationsMobile network communication (3G) IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1x1) compliant (Wi-Fi), Bluetooth

And here's the pretty machine in all its prototype-glory:



After having a couple of hours to digest everything, here are a few thoughts:

Overall it does add up to a very big deal. For a start having a quad-core processor offers power way beyond anything on the portable market (be it phone, console, tablet and even laptops are only just getting there.

The 3G Data Connection is enough to keep the unit alive and portable - way beyond what the PSP could offer - but also distinguishes it from the PSP Phone and rival systems. Everything else in the spec just adds to developer's flexibility to create great games.

As for what's outside the box, well the current design is rather retro compared to all the mock-ups and renders. I'll have no trouble loving it, but you have to hope a PSPGo-like model emerges at some point.

The in-progress interface looks a lot closer to how phones work than the PSP or PS3 do, which I guess is a good thing, the bigger screen space has been put to good use and as the front is a touch screen, there is no need for button-based navigation.




And finally, to the games list, along with trophy support (yay!) Being this powerful, almost any PS3 ox Xbox game could make it over to the NGP, but the list of games on show, in their prototype forms were:

  • Call of Duty
  • Uncharted Portable
  • Killzone
  • WipeOut
  • Resistance
  • Monster Hunter
  • Lost Planet
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Yakuza
  • Gravity Daze
  • Little Deviants
  • Hot Shots Golf

Now, while all the big names are there, and that is essential for the success of the console. I'm more interested in the new stuff - remember it took a little game like Angry Birds to really make casual gamers realise the iPhone could be a big place for gaming and it'll just take the buzz of a couple of similar titles to create a lot of interest in the NGP.

Publishers: The list is massive, in fact it is easier to list the notable exceptions:

id Software
Bungie (now they're free from Microsoft)
Blizzard (still no sign of a leap out of PC gaming)
EA
THQ
Ready At Dawn (which is a shame as they gave such great service to the PSP with God of War)
Bethesda

Finally, price - not surprisingly there is no mention but everyone seems to be fixating on the £280-£299 mark, which would be okay and a date, any time after October seems likely.

Note to self - start hitting the developers for screens, video and project schedules. Create publisher and title pages, start populating.

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