Sony has announced the successor to the PlayStation Portable. It has been codenamed the NGP, short for Next Generation Portable and has probably been one of the worst kept secrets - alongside the PlayStation Phone - of recent months. More importantly, it appears to have lived up to most of the many rumours that set the internet forest on fire.
The NGP's pretty much hit the industry hard with just about everything Sony could stick into its little brick housing and it looks like the Nintendo 3DS will have a run for its money when it comes to consumer value. Compared to the 3DS, which is only really adding 3D to the DS mix, Sony's brought in a whole slew of features for their next handheld, including the potential for 3G wireless service.
As though consolidating everything they've ever done with the PlayStation brand, Sony is packing a micro dual analog stick design, a 5" OLED touch-sensitive screen on the front and another touchpad of the same size on the back, front and rear cameras, motion sensors like those seen in the Sixaxis controller and even support for 3G: although Sony's confirmed that it won't come standard with every NGP SKU.
In essence, it looks like you can do with the NGP what you can with the DS or iPhone when it comes to touch control, or with the Sixaxis regarding motion control. It definitely looks like the NGP will deliver a much more integrated service as well. LiveArea was announced at the PlayStation Meeting in Tokyo and it's essentially a service that keeps users connected to their friends. You can chat with them, watch their activity, see what games they're playing and there's even support for Trophies.
Most importantly, Sony really brought down the hammer with developer support. Not only is the NGP being supported with what looks like a solid line-up of first party titles that include the likes of Uncharted by Naughty Dog, Killzone by Guerrilla Games and Resistance by Insomniac and Nihilistic, but third party developers are quickly hopping in on the action with Japanese developers Capcom, Sega, Tecmo Koei, Epic Games and even the legendary Hideo Kojima taking the stage to showcase the NGPs capabilities. You can be sure that there will be more announced at this year's E3.
There's quite a bit to get excited for. Each demo showcased that the NGP is every bit as powerful as the PS3. Although not quite up to par regarding polygons and geometry, the device still impressed visually and it's also utilizing the exact same shaders available to developers on the PS3. Not to mention the potential for unique gameplay mechanics as seen with the Uncharted demo where Kaz used the rear touch pad and finger gestures to climb, or rocking the device back and forth to generate momentum when swinging from vine to vine.
The touch-sensitive capabilities look just as accessible as what iOS devices currently offer, and with a partnership with Android, you can imagine the possibilities for new titles that will take advantage of the NGP's touchpads. On that note, the PlayStation Suite platform was also unveiled, detailing what looks like a cross-hardware platform that allows PlayStation certified titles to be released on mobile phones running Android - and, highly likely, on the PlayStation Phone as well.
The most exciting bit of info regarding developer support and gameplay was the nod to the prospect of cloud gaming. Hideo Kojima spoke on the matter saying that he's working on the "dream project' that will fulfil his prediction on the matter back when Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was released last year. Imagine playing a game on your PS3, heading out and then continuing said game on the NGP. Exciting, isn't it?
With the NGP, it does appear that Sony are trying to expand their audience from the core gamers to more casual mobile market. Nevertheless, the core gamers are definitely not forgotten. Sony's heard our cries: dual analog sticks, HD portable gaming, Trophy support and even 3G. Without a doubt, Sony's definitely ready to take on Nintendo in the handheld market. The only real issue right now is the price of the little bugger. While it won't be retailing at a crazy price like the PS3 did, you can't help but wonder what Sony will set the cost at considering all of the device's fancy doohickies. Keep in mind that the NGP won't hit the market until this year's holiday season either, giving Nintendo a pretty big head start.