Sony's PlayStation Portable 2 exists, and no, it's not called a PSP2. Well not yet, anyway. Sony's codenamed it NGP, as in "Next Generation Portable." Generic, sure, but pretty darned accurate, considering the crazy feature bonanza the company somehow crammed into this thing.
Pulling an NGP from his pocket at a Tokyo presser this morning, Sony president Kaz Hirai said the company's new handheld was derived from five core principles: A "revolutionary" user interface, social connectivity, location-awareness, augmented reality, and PlayStation Suite compatibility. The latter refers to Sony's new cross-platform developer tool that facilitates cross-development of PlayStation games for both PlayStation devices and Android phones.
And then Hirai put hundreds of rumors to rest by demonstrating all the lovely and in several cases unanticipated things Sony's official PlayStation Portable successor will do when it ships this holiday.
Touch Me Two Times
Let's start with the NGP's new OLED screen, clocking in at 5-inches and running at 960 by 544 pixels. Contrast with Apple's iPhone 4, which employs a 3.5-inch 960 by 640 pixel LCD, or the current PSP, with its 4.3-inch 480 by 272 pixel screen. Sony claims you'll be able to view the NGP's screen clearly from any angle.
That's not all, it's also (capacitative) multitouch capable, allowing you to articulate multiple finger input by touching, grabbing, pushing, or pulling the screen.
Flip the NGP around and, lo and behold, there's another 5-inch multitouch surface (not a screen, but a surface that recognizes touch input) displaying a field of PlayStation geometry symbols (very stylish, Sony). Wrap your hands around the NGP and you'll be able to use your fingertips to interact with the device's back plane as well as its front.
Now imagine touching the front and rear panels at the same time to pull off moves in ways no one's experienced before. It sounds kind of wild, but also kind of cool. Sure, the Nintendo 3DS has dual screens, but they're both front-facing, and only one's capable of touch input.
Sticks Not Nubs
Sony admitted the most requested feature for its next handheld was dual joysticks. The NGP has them. And not just thumb nubs flush with the surface of the unit like the textured rubber disc on the PSP, but actual thumb sticks, rising above the front plane.
Sony calls these "micro analog sticks," and claims they'll deliver a Dualshock experience. Well, minus the vibration feedback. Maybe I missed it in the presser clang and clutter, but I don't think the NGP includes haptic technology at this point.
The rest of the input layout should be familiar to anyone who's picked up a PSP: The four geometry buttons on the right, the d-pad at left, the shoulder buttons along the top, and the START, SELECT, and PlayStation (menu) buttons tucked off to the side in corners.
Next: As powerful as a PS3? Really?