Sony said today that its next-generation gaming handheld could be delayed beyond the end of this year because of disruptions to its supply chain as a result of the quake and tsunami in Japan.

Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America told Bloomberg that the PlayStation Portable’s successor, dubbed the NGP, may be delayed, arriving in just one region this year instead of all three regions at once. That’s not good for Sony because Nintendo has launched its 3DS, and it’s selling quite well; Sony potentially has nothing to match it through the next Christmas selling season.

“It may be the straw that says maybe we get to just one market by the end of the year’,” said Tretton. That may give developers in some regions more time to complete games for the launch. Sony has previously said that it planned to launch the NGP in the fall.

Handheld launches are relatively rare events and require the entire game development community get behind them to produce games so that sales can take off. The NGP is potentially a big deal because it will play Sony PlayStation style games as well as Android Market games. Sony launched its original PSP in 2004 and has sold tens of millions of units, but Nintendo has sold about twice as many DS units as the PSP.

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 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.