Gaming press the world over expected to hear news of the next iteration of the PlayStation Portable console at a PlayStation conference in Japan on January 27th. But the exact details revealed about the device, codenamed Next-Generation Portable (NGP) for now, took almost everyone by surprise. The NGP is crammed full of the latest tech, which not only brings a considerable deal of functionality to the NGP, but iT's also capable of delivering graphics comparable to those of the PlayStation 3 home console.
The NGP will sport a striking, 5-inch OLED display (the latest and greatest technology used in digital television displays). This display also doubles as a capacitive touchscreen that supports multitouch gesture input; think more along the lines of the iPhone than the resistive, stylus-driven touchscreen of the Nintendo DS.
For the first time, the NGP will bring a much-requested second analogue controller (a stick similar to that on the PS3 as opposed to the PSP’s analogue "nub”) to a handheld console. This is alongside the typical PlayStation D-pad and face buttons, Start and Select buttons, a PlayStation button, two shoulder buttons and a rear, 5-inch touchpad (for touch input that doesn’t obscure your display). Additional features include front and rear cameras, the Sixaxis motion-sensing technology of the PS3, a three-axis electronic compass, built-in GPS, Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth.
And all this is before we even get to the grunt behind the NGP: an unprecedented quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor coupled with a SGX543MP4+ graphical-processing unit (GPU).
One of the first things you’ll notice about the NGP is that it doesn’t use the Xross Media Bar (XMB) used by the PSP and PS3. Instead, in order to better utilise its touch capabilities, the NGP runs LiveArea: a Web-connected, touch-driven interface that allows the user to easily access the device’s core features from one screen. It also allows you to keep track of what your friends are playing and, using the device’s GPS, even what other NGP users in your vicinity are playing. Also, in a first for a PlayStation handheld, the NGP will feature trophy support for your PlayStation Network account.
Little is known about the titles in development for the NGP at this early stage (more is bound to come on that front at E3 in June!), but here’s what we do know: there’s a new Uncharted title in the works exclusively for the NGP, along with Killzone, Call of Duty, Wipeout, LittleBigPlanet, Resistance, Hustle Kings and Hot Shots Golf titles. Although Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was demonstrated on the NGP at the PlayStation meeting, it’s believed this was for tech-demo purposes only (in order to prove that the NGP is capable of PS3-quality visuals).
The games will be sold at retail on flash-based cartridges, which will also host save-game information for the respective title. We also know that the NGP will be backwards compatible, supporting the likes of PSP downloadable titles, PlayStation Minis, PSOne Classics (presumably via the newly announced PlayStation Suite service for Android devices) and various media from the PlayStation Store.
Sony’s NGP is expected to release in the holiday season in Japan, following shortly afterwards in other territories. Stay tuned to Game Console for all the latest NGP news!