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Sony will release digital versions of all new games alongside physical copies so gamers can download and begin playing games immediately on its newest portable gaming device, the Sony Next Generation Portable (NGP).
Digital distribution has become pretty popular because it removes the traditional barrier to buying games — having to drive or walk to a brick-and-mortar retail store and purchase it. Stores like Steam, a digital distribution front run by Valve, capitalize on impulse buying habits of gamers by making it extremely easy to purchase and immediately begin playing games. Digital distribution is also popular with developers because it removes the risk of having to create large numbers of physical copies of each game — which publishers may or may not actually end up selling.
Sony already sells a large amount of its PlayStation Portable — the company’s current handheld gaming device — titles on its online store at the same price as the physical copies. The games are also considerably larger than most games that cost between $1 and $5 on other app stores — so there’s still a higher price and time barrier that developers have to overcome to convince gamers to make the impulse buy. There are some titles that have staggered release dates too, with the physical copies of the game coming out before they are available through the online store.
Sony jammed a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor into the device at a time when most phones are just now getting dual-core processors. The company says that the performance will be a lot like the PlayStation 3’s visual rendering powers, which are pretty formidable already. Sony also recently introduced the PlayStation Suite. It gives developers a way to publish NGP games on Android phones — and bring Android games to the NGP.
The NGP is Sony’s hedge against Nintendo’s latest portable gaming console, a 3D-powered device called the 3DS. While Nintendo has focused on bringing some new ideas to the table — such as a touch screen and using multiple screens — Sony has typically tried to make the most powerful console. The PlayStation Portable, for example, has more power than the Nintendo DS but is a much more traditional handheld gaming device. Sony is basically betting that it can win over gamers with the largest and most accessible game library and some beefy tech.
The device will likely cost around $299 at debut. Nintendo’s new 3DS, which will be released on Saturday, sells for $250, and Apple’s iPod Touch models start at $229. This kind of Sony device will appeal to the company’s core crowd of hardcore gamers.