Take that, Apple and Nintendo! Sony announced that it will launch a next-generation portable entertainment system. Sony claims the new portable system will be as powerful as its PlayStation 3 game console.
At an event in Tokyo, the Japanese electronics giant showed off the NGP, a code name for what Sony calls the “ultimate portable entertainment experience.” The replacement for the PlayStation Portable, first launched in 2004, will debut at the end of the year. It’s about time Sony made its move, since the PSP is getting trounced 2-to-1 by Nintendo’s DS and has also been outrun by Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch devices, which are increasingly being used for gaming.
This likely means we’ll have another big year for hardware launches in portable gaming, as Nintendo is launching its 3DS handheld system, which can display glasses-free stereoscopic 3D, in March. Apple is also expected to launch an iPad 2 and and iPhone 5 this year. All of those devices will also compete with smartphones and tablets galore. (Sony is expected to launch a PlayStation Phone at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona next month).
The NGP will offer a combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context, Sony said. The NGP will focus foremost on immersive gaming, just as the PSP did. But the new device will have both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. (That means that, with a little software, it could be used as a phone). The device will let users tap into experiences where they can encounter, discover, connect, share and play with friends while on the move.
Sony says the device will have a stunning organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display that is five inches diagonally. It will also have a multitouch screen, a high-performance central processing unit, a graphics processing unit, as well as a multitouch pad in the rear of the system.
The device will also have an oval design, shaped to fit a user’s hands. It will have two analog sticks, for playing games in the traditional PSP mode. Every game title for the NGP will have a space called LiveArea, where users can share the application running with other players. Users can access games — provided by both Sony and third-party developers and publishers — via the PlayStation Network.
Users will be able to see a live feed of achievements of other gamers who are playing the same game. The device will also have an application called Near, which is a location-based service that will be pre-installed with the system to let users find out which friends are in the vicinity. Users can meet those friends over the wireless network and share game information with them.
The device will have a new storage media, a small flash memory-based card, for NGP software titles. The games will have expandable higher capacity in the future, as memory technology improves and becomes more densely packed. The NGP has two cameras on its front and rear so that users will be able to do video conferencing. It also has three motion sensors, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and electronic compass. All of that will make it into a precise motion-sensing machine.
Sony also announced something called PlayStation Suite in conjunction with the NGP. That means that newly released games for Android-based portable devices can also be played on NGP, so NGP users will be able to access a huge library of casual game content normally played on mobile phones.
The device has what will likely be a screaming fast ARM Cortex A9 quad-core microprocessor, as well as an SGX543MP4+ graphics chip. The screen can display 16 million colors and has a high-definition 16:9 aspect ratio. It has built-in speakers, directional buttons, 802.11b/g/n wireless networking, Bluetooth, and the typical buttons associated with the PSP.
The inclusion of the PlayStation suite marks the first time that Sony users will be able to enjoy PlayStation content on an open operating system. It essentially means that Sony games will be able to run on Android smartphones and other devices. Sony will certify each device as to whether it can play PlayStation games or not. The smartphones will have to run Android 2.3 or later.