Sony's New PSP Turns Out to Be 'Full-featured' Console

Jan 28, 2011
Tadashi Nezu, Nikkei Electronics

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc (SCE) had a press conference along with the announcements of the "Next Generation Portable (NGP)," a successor to its PlayStation Portable portable game console, and the "PlayStation Suite (PS Suite)" service, Jan 27, 2011, in Tokyo.

"We would like to introduce the new world that the PlayStation is about to realize," SCE President and Group CEO Kazuo Hirai said.

At the conference, he explained the features of and business strategies for the NGP and the PS Suite.

SCE President and Group CEO Kazuo Hirai
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The NGP is a so-called "full-featured" portable game console, which is equipped with a variety of sensors and input devices to realize "ultimate immersion," Hirai said.

Video being played by the NGP
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As sensors that detect the user's motions, the NGP has a three-axis acceleration sensor, gyro sensor and geomagnetic sensor. As a result, it became possible to control, for example, a character or a viewpoint in a game by tilting the NGP. Also, the NGP has a camera that SCE claims was tuned for gaming on the front and back surfaces of the console. By combining those cameras with the motion sensors, it becomes possible to play AR games that capture the user's motions, figures, etc.

A viewpoint in a game being controlled by tilting the NGP
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A multi-touch capacitive touch panel was employed for the display of the NGP, and a multi-touch touchpad is mounted on the back of the console. The sizes of the touch-sensitive display and the touchpad are both 5 inches. They have the same size because SCE wanted to enhance the operability of the console.

SCE said that, by using two types of touch sensors, the NGP can "offer the experience of directly touching the game world" and "provide stereoscopic effects to game playing." The display is equipped with an OLED panel with a pixel count of 960 x 544, the company said.

The NGP comes with a touch-sensitive display.
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A game is being played by using the touchpad on the back of the console. In the game, an area that corresponds to the touched portion of the touchpad is raised.
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The touchpad on the back of the console. Many logos (ΟΧ∆□) are drawn on it.
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This time, the number of the "analog pad," which can be tilted in any direction, was increased from one to two. They are located on the right and left sides of the console so that they can be controlled by using two hands.

This is the change that has been strongly requested by PSP users, SCE said. For example, it is now possible to control a character in a game by using the left analog pad while changing a viewpoint by using the right analog pad.

The NGP has the analog pad on both sides of the console.
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3G communication capability, GPS function

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3G communication capability, GPS function

The NGP has 3G communication capability in addition to the WiFi communication capability (IEEE802.11b/g/n) featured by its predecessor. And it has a GPS function, too. SCE will launch a new service called "LiveArea" and a new application called "Near," which utilize those functions. The LiveArea offers a virtual space to promote communication among users. For example, it can show other users' progress in a game.

The LiveArea is showing other users' progress in a golf game.
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Near is an application that utilizes location information. With the application, its user can check other users' locations and the types of games they are playing based on the user's location information. Also, it is possible to show the user's "footprints" on the screen.

The locations of other NGP users can be displayed.
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The dimensions of the NGP are approximately 182 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (size susceptible to change, excluding protruding parts). Its CPU is the quad-core version of the "ARM Cortex-A9," and its GPU is the "SGX543MP4+."

As a game cartridge, it takes a card-like medium that is dedicated to the NGP and uses flash memory. Forty-eight Japanese software makers, 16 North American software makers and 18 European software makers are currently planning to develop games for the console.

The new game cartridge
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PS Suite to start with games developed for PS

On the other hand, the PS Suite is a service that provides game contents mainly to Android-based portable devices. As for the reason why SCE decided to start the service, Hirai said, "(As mobile devices are now becoming multifunctional), games can be casually played on mobile phones, tablet PCs and so forth. This trend is growing, and we could not ignore it."

SCE aims to launch the service within 2011 by offering games developed for the first-generation PlayStation stationary game console. At the same time, the company will open the "PlayStation Store" online store, which can be accessed by Android-based devices. Contents for the PS Suite can be played with the NGP.

A game developed for the first-generation PlayStation being played on an Android-based device
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SCE will start a licensing program for software developers to provide PlayStation games to Android-based devices. Specifically, it plans to offer development environments for the PS Suite in the aim of inviting new game developers.