Sony unveils the PSP successor, brings PS games to Android devices with PlayStation Suite

Today Sony hosted PlayStation Meeting 2011 in Japan, and there they announced the successor to the PSP (codenamed NGP) and provided details on how they plan to expand the PlayStation brand to Android devices.

Let’s start with what you’ve been waiting oh-so-long for.  The oft-rumored PSP2 has finally been unveiled.  But don’t call it that; Sony has branded the new device “Next Generation Portable” or NGP for short.  Though at first glance the NGP aesthetically appears similar to its predecessor, additional control options and the spec sheet will blow your mind.  The NGP packs a 5-inch 960×544 OLED capacitive multitouch display (OLED screen technology allows for great viewing angles, and the screen resolution is 4x greater than the PSP’s), a powerful quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, a quad-core Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX543MP4+ GPU, dual analog sticks (as opposed to the PSP’s single analog nub), front and rear-facing cameras, built-in GPS, WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth, microphone, stereo speakers, the same Six-axis motion sensing system that’s featured in the PlayStation Move controller (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), and there’s a three-axis electronic compass.  Buttons-wise, you’ll find the usual suspects: the D-Pad, action buttons (triangle, circle, cross, square), left and right shoulder buttons, start, select, volume, power and PS buttons.  And I’ve managed to save the coolest new input implementation for last. The NGP packs a rear-mounted multitouch pad; it’s the same size as the front-facing OLED display, so the location of your finger is mapped directly to the game screen.  This new kind of input allows for “touch, grab, trace, push and pull” finger gestures and will open up a whole new world of gaming opportunities for developers.  All of this is stuffed inside a “Super Oval Design” form factor that is, again, similar to the PSP (there is no slide-up mechanism as featured in the PSP Go).

So that’s the hardware side of things.  Next let’s talk NGP software.  The main menu is where all your apps and games live.  Some of the apps include Browser, Photos, Friends, Messages, Trophies, PS Store, Content Manager, and Settings.  The traditional XMB UI has been replaced with something entirely new.  You can scroll through multiple home screens by flicking up and down (as opposed to what you might be used to in iOS and Android).  Battery life, time, WiFi and 3G data signals are displayed across the top of the screen.  Sony detailed LiveArea, a “game-oriented communication platform.”  Every game made specifically for NGP will have its own LiveArea space that promotes social interaction with other gamers.  In addition to viewing an Activity Log listing friends currently playing a game and achievements won in that game, you can also engage in real-time conversations with friends, view and purchase DLC, and launch the game all within LiveArea.  Game developers can also use this space to provide gamers with the latest information about their title.  An location-based application called Near will track your every move on a map and inform you about the most popular titles played in an area, detect what others are playing in your vicinity, and purchase games that interest you from within the Near interface.  Also, you can pull up a history of who was nearby at a specific location, view a map of gamers by avatar, see what games they’ve recently played, and rate them.  A bit creepy, sure, but location-based entertainment can be fun, right?  Next up Sony talked about augmented reality gameplay aided by the NGP’s built-in cameras and gyroscope.  A game called Reality Fighters will superimpose animated fighters onto your kitchen counter, for example.

During the presentation Sony called up a number of developers and demoed a handful of games.  Live demoed games included Uncharted, Little Deviants, and Hot Shots Gold Next.  These games highlighted the NGP’s rear touchpad and augmented reality capabilities.  The following developers showed off PS3-level cutscenes: Capcom (Monster Hunter Third, Lost Planet 2), Sega (zombie-infused Yakuza), Tecmo Koei (Dynasty Warrior), and Konami (Metal Gear Solid 4).  MGS creator Hideo Kojima shared the most intriguing bit of info out of all the guest developers.  He said, “What I’d like to realize is playing on your PS3, and when you go out, you put the game on your NGP, and when you come back home, you can once again use your PS3 and large screen TV.”  He continued, “This dream is going to come true in the near future. And right now, I’m working on this project of the dream. I’m sorry, I can’t reveal this now. But we’d like to present what we’re doing at E3.”  Activision made an appearence to announce that Call of Duty is coming to NGP, but unfortunately gameplay was not demonstrated.  During a trailer even more games were hinted at making their way to the new device and they include mega first-party hits like Killzone, Little Big Planet, Resistance, and WipEout.

Other lingering bits of information surrounding the NGP.  No surprise here but Sony’s ditched UMD for an entirely new game medium that is a flash-based card (it looks like an SD card, for comparison).  In addition to games, these cards can also hold game save data along with DLC.  Note that since the UMD slot is gone, the NGP will obviously not be backwards compatible with original PSP titles (unless, of course, they were downloaded digitally). Oh then there’s this bombshell: the NGP will be release this holiday season (so soon!).  Price has not been disclosed yet, but I’d advise you to start saving now.

Now it’s time to shift topics to the PlayStation Suite, Sony’s attempt at bringing “PlayStation quality” gameplay to devices other than their consoles and portable handhelds.  Specifically, they will be branching out to Android smartphones and tablets.  PS Suite acts as a cross-platform software framework designed to attract developers to make games for a wide range of devices.  PS Suite games are “hardware-neutral” meaning that they will be playable on all sorts of form factors.  For example, if an Android phone does not pack a D-Pad, action and shoulder buttons (like the upcoming Sony Ericsson Xperia Play), said device will still be able to play the game because some games will support a UI overlay of PS-style controls.  Sony hopes that once developers see how intuitive it is to make PS-quality games for mobile Android devices, they will hop on the NGP bandwagon and start making games for Sony’s baby.  However, keep in mind that all PS Suite games will be compatible with the NGP.  In order to make sure PS Suite games are top-notch, Sony is readying a “PlayStation Certified” license program that will “ensure the delivery of PlayStation quality experience across various devices.”

Here’s the plan.  Sony is going to provide PS Suite content this year starting with original PlayStation games (i.e. PSone classics).  A concrete list of games is not provided, but at the presentation the following titles were mentioned: Cool Boarders 2, Syphon Filter, MediEvil, Rally Cross, and Wild Arms.  Eventually Sony will bring the PlayStation Store to Android devices.  According to the press release, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) is required to access PS Suite content.

And that about does it for now.  Between now and Holiday 2011 we can expect to receive more information about the NGP (think price, an exact release date, an actual name, launch titles).  But for the time being, check out the gallery below and take a closer look at the Sony’s next big thing.  The competition just heated up, didn’t it Nintendo? 3DS, meet your new rival.

[Via PlayStation Blog; Sony, here & here]

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