A PlayStation 3 in your pocket, and maybe a game store too

Brian Crecente

Sony’s Next Generation
Portable sounds like a portable gaming machine powerful enough to
replace the Playstation 3 home console, but it’s actually meant to
augment the experience, Sony Entertainment of America President Jack Tretton says.

Unveiled at a press event in Tokyo
last week, the NGP offers controls that feel surprisingly similar to
the Playstation 3’s controller. Significantly, it is the first major
handheld to have two thumbsticks, so developers making games for the PS3
won’t have to reinvent the wheel when they bring the game to the NGP.

And the handheld, due out toward the end of 2011 at a
still undisclosed price, also has quite a few extra bells and whistles.
It includes two cameras, a built-in compass and motion sensing, 3G
connectivity, a beautiful OLED touch screen, and a pad on the underside
of the device that is touch sensitive. This underbelly sensor allows
gamers to virtually push up into the game world with a touch.

The combination of sensors and controls, Tretton
says, will deliver a new game play experience including “the opportunity
to interact directly with games in three dimension-like motion, through
‘touch, grab, trace, push and pull’ movements, controlled by the

“NGP is the newest addition to the PlayStation
platform ecosystem and is positioned to be complementary to the
experience offered with PS3,” Tretton said. “NGP is the perfect
dedicated system for consumers looking for cutting-edge portable
entertainment experiences.”

The 3DS seems to push Nintendo’s whimsical approach to gaming even further into “non-gamer” territory.

Announced just a week after Nintendo took the stage in a New York City event to unveil the price and release date for its glasses-free 3D portable gaming machine, the 3DS, the timing of Sony’s NGP news could easily be seen as deliberately thunder-stealing. And while Nintendo’s
3DS is set for a March release and NGP is only promised for sometime
this year, there’s a good chance consumers are going to start comparing
the two.

But I don’t think the two devices are really competing for the same audience.

The 3DS seems to push Nintendo’s
whimsical approach to gaming even further into “non-gamer” territory,
delivering an experience made as exciting by its unusual technology as
it is by the games you will play on it.

The NGP feels more like a Playstation 3 on the go, a
device that could allow you to finish playing the game you started on
your PS3 and television, sitting on your couch, with a portable that
offers nearly the same experience through similar graphics, power and

Tretton said that while they look at the “competitive
environment” when designing a new device, the NGP was developed as part
of a portable strategy within Sony Computer Entertainment.

What he’s getting at, I believe, is the NGP’s
greatest potential, that ability to blur the line between home console
and portable console.

There are several things we still don’t know about this device in addition to the price.

While Sony
showed off the NGP’s diminutive new storage medium, a piece of plastic
about the size of an SD flash card you might use in your camera, the
company didn’t talk much about it. It did say that the card can store
the full software titles plus add-on game content or the game save data
directly on to the card. But not how you will buy games.

Retailer GameStop was essentially cut out of the game-selling process with the release of Sony’s last portable, the PSPGo. That device had you purchase games directly from Sony and download them. No store was needed. The retailer wasn’t pleased.

This time around it seems as if Sony is still in talks with GameStop and other retailers about how exactly its many games will be sold.

“You will be able to download NGP games or other
content from the PlayStation Store to a storage media via the Internet,
or buy the new game medium at retailers,” Tretton said when I asked him
about it. “We will announce further details when ready.”

Contacted last week for comment, GameStop told me they were under a non-disclosure agreement with Sony on the subject, something that hints at more news to come.

Sony hasn’t said
whether the device will have a hard drive or whether owners of the NGP
will be able to save games themselves to this new card.

This final piece of the puzzle, along with the price,
could be a significant deal maker or deal breaker for the company and
its latest portable.

With the game industry’s big E3 show set to kick off this summer, Sony has one more chance to wow gamers with an affordable price and an innovative approach to game sales. And that’s what I hope Sony is planning to do.

It certainly sounds like it is.

“At first glance I think it’s clear that NGP is
designed to offer the kind of high-quality unparalleled interactive
entertainment on-the-go that is only possible on PlayStation,” Tretton
said. “Our fans expect that the kind of innovative technological
developments that define PlayStation’s legacy be represented in each
product we bring to market, and with NGP we’re aiming to deliver.

“We’re looking forward to sharing more on NGP in the months ahead.”


(c) 2010, Kotaku.com (Gawker Media).

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