Sony is kind of, sort of confirming the existence of the PSP2, the follow-up to its beleaguered handheld game console.
Kazuo Hirai, Sony's gaming chief, was "coy" about specifics when speaking to the New York Times, but he did offer a few big-picture ideas for the device, and at the very least confirmed that Sony's working on something. In fact, Hirai said Sony starting plotting a successor to the PSP since the day the first handheld was released.
So what's in store for the next PSP? Some combination of buttons, analog sticks and touch-screen controls, Hirai said. Rumors suggest that the device will have a rear track pad (pictured), but it's hard to tell from Hirai's comments whether that will pan out. "Depending on the game, there are ones where you can play perfectly well with a touch panel," he said. "But you can definitely play immersive games better with physical buttons and pads."
So yes, Sony is taking up the narrative that buttons are irreplaceable for certain kinds of games. It's certainly better than arguing that smartphone gaming exists in some alternate universe that poses no threat to Sony's audience, especially now that smartphone games are evolving at the hands of major developers.
Hirai also suggested that the PSP2 - or whatever it's called - and the rumored Playstation phone will be markedly different products, or at least that's how I interpreted this comment: "We don't want gamers to be asking, what's the difference between that and a PSP. We have to come up with a message that users will understand. It would have to be a product that keeps the PlayStation's strengths intact."
I'm still hoping that the next PSP and the Playstation Phone will become one platform, but it seems less likely now. Maybe we'll hear a little more about Sony's handheld gaming plans at CES in January.
This story, "The PSP2 Comes Into Focus" was originally published by Technologizer.