Sony just lifted the veil from one of the most anticipated hardware releases in years – certainly the most rumor filled. Can the PSP2 possibly live up to all the hype? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. It’s everything we’ve heard about and then some.
It’s 3 PM in Japan, 1 AM here in the Midwest, and Sony’s press conference is about to begin. The lights dim, the music cranks up a notch, and Kaz Hirai takes the stage in front of hundreds of people from across the world. The event is called “PlayStation Meeting 2011,” and it’s the place where the folks at Sony are expected to launch their new handheld, the PSP2.
The first big announcement of the meeting is the PlayStation Suite. It’s a new initiative and development framework that will allow PlayStation content to work with Android phones and tablets. Sony will perform testing on devices and certify them if they meet the guidelines.
Android devices will get access to the PlayStation Store, which will sport not only cross-platform titles, but games designed specifically for the touchscreen market. First generation PSP games and original PlayStation games are on the way, and will be available before the end of 2011.
This sounds pretty exciting. If I’m able to play the same game on my PSP, my phone and my PS3, I’ll be thrilled. It will be especially nice if saves transfer over, or are on the cloud. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have three different copies of ‘Puzzle Quest’, all with different save states. Hideo Kojima, creator of ‘Metal Gear Solid’, agrees. He has big plans for cloud-based saves in gaming
Next up is the PSP2, right? Well, yes and no. Apparently, Sony is going with the name “Next Generation Portable.” Why? I have no idea. It could be the worst system name ever. Why not call it “Handheld Gaming Device”? Way to take an easily branded system and give it an ultra-generic name, Sony!
Aside from the awful name, Sony’s new handheld is pretty amazing. The NGP boasts a five-inch 960×544 OLED touchscreen, rear touch pads, six axis motion control, a front camera, a rear camera, 3G, Wi-Fi, and GPS. Yes, it also has twin analog sticks, so you can actually play shooters and 3rd person action games. These aren’t the nubs from the PSP either; these are proper analog sticks.
It looks, from a distance, just like the traditional PSP. There’s no support for UMD, but the system will take flash cards. That’s a change from the physical media-free direction Sony seemed to be headed with the PSP Go. It’s unclear whether the cards used by the NGP are SD cards or something proprietary.
From what Sony has shown, the visuals are nothing short of amazing. It’s not PS3 quality, but it’s not far off, and that’s saying quite a lot for a handheld. With early games already looking this good, you can bet they’re going to blow us away once developers really know how to code for the system.
Upcoming games include a ‘Killzone’ title, an ‘Uncharted’ game, ‘Wipeout’, ‘LittleBigPlanet’, ‘Resistance’ and more. ‘Uncharted’ was the big title for the press event. Sony showed off several different methods of control, all of which seemed to work beautifully on the stage. It’s hard to say for certain without going hands-on, but there’s no question that the game looks astonishingly good.
Sony seemed pretty high on their touchscreen, and even more enthusiastic about the rear touch panel. When showing off a game called ‘Little Deviants’, they were able to touch the back of the system to create hills on the screen – an interesting use, for sure.
The NGP (it’s still a terrible name) offers a slick user interface inspired by those of touchscreen phones. Load times are, too. According to Sony, loading a game will be as fast as loading an app. I think we can all agree on how nice that is.
Location Based Entertainment is a new feature that allows you to see the games that people around you are playing. That’s not a bad idea if you’re trying to get some gaming in on the bus or while waiting for a plane. Something like that could really help the success of multiplayer games in the U.S.
If you find a game being played in your area, you can go directly to the PlayStation Store to buy it, or launch it if you already own it. You can rate games, check out the games that other people own, and more. It all seems like a really good way to get multiplayer gaming going on a handheld system.
Sony seems really into the idea of using the NGP as a camera in games. In ‘Hot Shots Golf’, for example, you can move the NGP around to look at the world. It’s like you’re looking at the world through a very small window. It’s interesting, but I don’t see the practical application yet.
There really aren’t any big game announcements outside of the Sony titles, but with ‘Uncharted’ in there, the NGP might not need them. If Drake makes an appearance at launch, the system could be a hit right out of the gate.
PlayStation fans will certainly be counting on Hideo Kojima, Square-Enix and a host of others to create great content for the system. Tech demos have already been shown for PS3 cut-scenes rendering in real time at still impressive graphic levels.
We won’t hear any real 3rd party game announcements until E3 in June, which is where I’m hoping we’ll get the price too. I’d be amazed if it came in at the same price that the PSP did at launch. Right now, I feel like there’d be no stopping this thing at a $299 price point.
It’s a lot to absorb. With so much innovation in one handheld, it’s definitely exciting. There’s more to the NGP than I think anyone anticipated, and the device offers a tremendous amount of possibilities.
Now that the event is over (3 AM), it’s time to stop reading the very excellent live-blogs provided by IGN and Engadget, and get some sleep. You can bet I’ll be offering up some commentary on the system and how it stacks up to Nintendo’s 3DS in the next few days.