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). (Click here for more…)
Today Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime took the stage in New York City to discuss the Nintendo 3DS launch details we’ve been waiting for. The 3D-enabled DS handheld will release on March 27 in the US for $249.99. It will come in two color variants: Cosmo Black and Aqua Blue. Ninty promises that over 30 3DS games will be available during the launch window (that is, between the March 27 and the E3 Expo in early June). These include a mix of first and third party games. Though Nintendo did not specify a solid list of launch titles, the press release mentions the following games: Pilotwings Resort, which has players soaring acrobatically over iconic Wuhu Island; nintendogs + cats, a new version of the Nintendo DS classic with a feline enhancement; and Steel Diver, a side-scrolling submarine adventure that gives the illusion that the player is peering into an aquarium. The ones you really want to play like the 3D versions of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, Paper Mario, plus the return of fan favorite Kid Icarus in Kid Icarus: Uprising are simply “in the works” with no release dates attached just yet. Some third party games mentioned at the event include Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition (Capcom), Madden NFL Football (EA), and LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (LucasArts), but again no release dates were specified.
So that pretty much does it for launch details. However, in addition to announcing price, release date, and games support, Fils-Aime took time to talk about the 3DS’ hardware and expand upon the some of the pre-installed software. Like its DS predessors, the 3DS packs two screens; the bottom one’s touch-sensitive and the top one’s 3D-enabled (no pesky glasses required). A 3D Depth Slider can be used to manipulate the 3D effect during gameplay; the slider can turn off the 3D effect entirely and all 3DS games can be played in traditional 2D. In addition to the D-Pad, a new Circle Pad provides a full 360 degrees of direction and allows for a higher level of precision during gameplay. The 3DS also packs built-in motion and gyro sensors, so it can react to the motion and tilt of the system. You’ll also find three camera built into this thing; one on the inside (facing you during gameplay) and two on the outside. Combined the latter two can capture 3D pictures and you can view them on the top 3D display. Other hardware notables: the 3DS comes bundled with an adjustable stylus (for use on the bottom touch-sensitive display), a 2GB SD memory card, and a charging cradle.
The Home Menu is where all your apps live. Mii Maker is just what it sounds like and works similarly to how Miis are created on the Wii. The difference here is that the Mii Maker will ask you to take a photo of yourself and the software will try its best to convert your real-life features into a Mii avatar. If the conversion doesn’t sit well with you, manual customization options are available to fiddle with to make things right. You also have the ability to import your Mii avatar from your Wii console by way of SD card transfer. The augmented reality-based game Face Raiders lets you take pictures of your friends and turn them into shooting targets. It’s a simple game that highlights the built-in gyro sensor since it requires you to physically lean and turn to search around for the targets and aim high and low to hit them. AR Games works similarly, but they take advantage of the pack of AR cards that come bundled with the system. All you have to do is place one of the AR cards onto a flat surface, point the outward facing 3DS camera at it, and targets come to life. Animations are superimposed into the scene; so for example if you place a card on your kitchen table the backdrop for the targets will be the kitchen table (that’s augmented reality gaming in a nutshell). The Activity Log tracks both your gameplay activity, much like the Wii Calender does automatically. It notes which games you’ve played and how long you’ve played them, as well as your physical activity, counting every step you take while carrying your Nintendo 3DS. Even when the system’s in sleep mode, it acts as a pedometer and tracks the distances you travel; the more you walk the more Play Coins you will earn. These coins can then be used to purchase in-game bonus content, if the game’s developer decides to support it. The Nintendo eShop offers access to downloadable games. In addition to DSiWare games, Virtual Console games pulled from the Game Boy and Game Boy Color catalogs will be available to download. Game videos, screenshots, demos, and ratings will also be browsable here. Titles can be purchased with either a credit card or prepaid cards. Other software notables: StreetPass Mii Plaza (more on this below), Internet Browser, Camera app (capture and view 3D pictures), Video app (watch 3D content), Sound app (listen to music in MP3 or AAC format from the SD card, plus record and play with sounds using the 3DS’ built-in mic); oh, and the 3DS is backwards compatible with all Nintendo DS games.
Fils-Aime mentioned that the 3DS is Nintendo’s most connected video games console ever made, and he’s not lying. First let’s get this awesome update out of the way: friend codes are no longer specific to each game you buy, there is only one code and it’s attached to your 3DS. Once you swap friend codes with someone, they will remain on your friend list and you can always check their online status no matter what game you’ve got running. Now to some fun new features: StreetPass and SpotPass. StreetPass is capable of exchanging game information with other Nintendo 3DS systems as owners pass one another. An example of StreetPass functionality is the aptly titled StreetPass Mii Plaza. Much like its Wii counterpart, the 3DS’ Mii Plaza will congregate your Mii avatar with all the other 3DS owners you happen to pass by, say, on the street (and your avatar will jump onto the 3DS of the person you pass). In addition to sharing your avatar, other information can be exchanged over StreetPass including maps for games, high scores, and custom character data for different games. This might be obvious but it’s worth pointing out–if you don’t want any information to exchange on the fly (because all this can happen while the 3DS is in sleep mode tucked away in your pocket) you can disable the StreetPass function. Next up is SpotPass and this essentially connects to 3DS up to public or private at-home WiFi hotspots. Once connected, the system can receive new content and updates even when it’s in sleep mode or charging.
Peer in the gallery below to get a closer look at the 3DS hardware, and look after the break to watch the 3DS virtual tour and catch a sneak peek at the software launch lineup. Also, don’t forget to check out my hands-on preview of the 3DS from E3.
This is one slick concept machine. Razer, the maker of high-end precision gaming products, revealed a concept mobile PC designed for gamers on the go. The Razer Switchblade is based on the Intel Atom processor and packs an ultra-sensitive, 7-inch capacitive multitouch touchscreen (1024 x 600) and a dynamic tactile keyboard. The keyboard is the most intriguing part of the design; key layout and configuration can be changed on-the-fly based on game content and user requirements. For example, it can serve as a standard QWERTY keyboard as you’re browsing a website inside a browser and the next minute it can morph into a keyboard made specifically to play a game like World of Warcraft where the keys become quick access points for magical potions and spells. So how does it all work? Easy; just like the top half of the device, the keyboard is actually a large LCD screen in disguise with physical keys layered on top of it. Inside the custom Razer OS skin the user can tweak the keyboard to make the keys function however they want. Customization is left up to the user’s imagination. Sure, you can make the keys display video playback controls such as play, pause, fast-forward, etc.; but Razer is a gaming company at heart and they are hoping that gamers will find the customization options to be helpful in optimizing the way they play games on the go when a full keyboard and mouse combo are not present.
As awesome as that keyboard hopes to be, keep in mind that the Switchblade is still a portable notebook. Razer’s custom skin can be hidden to reveal a standard copy of Windows 7. There are also USB ports (so a mouse can theoretically be connected), a mini HDMI port, and a webcam. Bluetooth and WiFi are also inside. The company is still determining whether or not to pack 3G capability with it. That’s right–this concept notebook unveiled at CES 2011 is actually coming to market in the near future. Razer is mum on exact release date and price, but you can expect to see this portable gaming machine attempt its transformation of the mouse/keyboard paradigm sometime within the next year or so. Full PR after the break.(Click here for more…)
Earlier this week at a company event in Japan, Nintendo revealed the release date and price of the Nintendo 3DS. It will sell for ¥25,000 (about $299 USD) when it hits the Japanese market on February 26, 2011. Not from Japan, huh? Ninty only hinted at a US and Europe release date: March 2011; they did not disclose US pricing details, but several industry analysts are pegging a $249-$299 price point. When it ships in Japan, the 3DS will be available in two color variants, aqua blue and cosmo black. The portable game console will come bundled with a charging dock and a 2GB SD card.
At the company event Nintendo detailed a number of software enhancements. The Mii Studio app magically transforms a still image of yourself (taken with one of the 3DS’ cameras) into a customizable Mii avatar. The Mii Plaza app takes advantage of the 3DS’ ability to recognize other 3DS handhelds in close proximity. Whether you’re actively playing a game or walking the streets with your 3DS in standby mode tucked away in a bag, the system will recognize and pull information from nearby 3DS users. At any time you can hop into Mii Plaza to discover a growing community of Miis from all the 3DS owners you pass by throughout the day. Similarly, a new wireless “tag mode” featured in the upcoming Super Streetfighter IV game will quietly seek out other 3DS owners to battle against. A minigame will pit one of your in-game collectable action figures against a nearby opponent when your 3DS is in standyby mode; and standard wireless 3DS to 3DS battle royales with in-game characters is supported, too. Other 3DS apps include a web browser, an ebook reader, notes, and support for augmented reality gaming.
Remaining loose ends.. The final 3DS hardware is very similar to what we saw at E3; the only noticable exterior change is that the analog nub no longer matches the handheld’s color scheme–it remains gray in each color variant. The 3DS software lineup was shared in a brief video preview. Upcoming titles include Animal Crossing 3DS, Mario Kart 3DS, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS, Paper Mario 3DS, Dead or Alive Dimensions, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, Resident Evil: Revelations, and Resident Evil: The Mercenaries. It’s also been reported that Game Boy & Game Boy Color games are coming to the 3DS’ virtual console store. Look after the break to see the software lineup video in addition to demonstrations of Mii Studio, wireless “tag mode”, and a 3DS introductory video–all in Japanese, of course!
On a separate topic, Nintendo also used the company event to formally announce the Wii Remote Plus. It had been rumored for some time, but now it’s official: the Wii MotionPlus accessory (that grants greater 1:1 motion capability) will soon come permanently built into a Wiimote. Nintendo showed off the newly redesigned controller in four colors, white, black, light blue, and pink. Launch date and price have not been disclosed for any country. Check ‘em out in the gallery below.
After a flurry of rumors Nintendo finally revealed its next handheld to the world with the 3DS. Its overall design does not depart from its predecessor the DSi. There are two screens; the top is 3D-capable (widescreen 3.5 inches), the bottom is touch-sensitive. No glasses required! Button and camera positioning remains almost the same. New additions include a home button, a Slide Pad (it’s an analog nub), a 3D Depth Slider that allows you to control the 3D effect from 100% to totally off, and a third camera positioned next to the one on the front allowing for 3D picture-taking. It also packs an accelerometer and gyroscope. All in all the 3D effect was quite pleasing and added a new sense of depth to the demonstrations and trailers. It definitely takes a couple minutes to adjust your eyes to the screen but once that’s done the depth perception becomes a welcome addition to gameplay. Your initial reaction will be “woah, this is neat.” It’s worthy to note that there is a 3D boundary when you’re holding the device in your hands. If you tilt the 3DS ever so slightly or try to have someone else watch what you’re doing from a slight angle the 3D effect gets completely distorted and essentially disappears. As for the analog nub, it feels and works similar to the PSP’s nub and will likely make for some new interesting control schemes for 3DS titles.
Speaking of games, the 3DS section of the Nintendo booth did include a couple playable games but they were extremely barebones and there only to give people a glimpse into the 3D effect. Samurai Warriors 3D had me fighting off an incoming army of ninjas. Thought the 3D effect was there, the gameplay was rather stale and did not make for such a great experience. On the other hand, StarFox 3D brought a sense of nostalgia over me and I quickly became immersed in the playable demo as I took flight in the skies and shot lasers at enemy planes. A vast amount of 3DS handhelds were loaded with 3D environments that you could only explore by manipulating the camera angle with the nub. Resident Evil Revelations cutscenes look fantastic in stereoscopic vision. All in all, the 3DS is an impressive piece of hardware and I’m excited to see how Nintendo continues to build on the platform as we near its release in 2011. 3D is starting to become a trend in the movie industry and now in video games thanks to the PS3 and 3DS. It’ll be interesting to watch the competing companies vie for the top spot with one bridging the gap between 2D and 3D gaming with glasses and the other doing it without them.