Sony's PSP2, aka NGP - Doomed from the Start? (and a quick mention of Sony Ericsson Xperia Play)

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Bill Loguidice's picture

Sony officially announced their PSP successor, code-named Next Generation Portable (NGP). Details here. As you can see, its main technical features of note are a high resolution 5" inch OLED touch screen on the front, a multi-touch pad on the back, two analog sticks, and two cameras. It also has six-axis motion sensing system similar to the PS3's controller and a three-axis electronic compass. Typical for Sony, it's another "kitchen sink" handheld, with the only notable omission being 3D, a la the Nintendo 3DS. Unlike the 3DS - and even though I'm a long-time owner of the original PSP - I'm finding little to be excited about with Sony's new handheld. The PSP failed - relatively speaking, of course - because it did nothing to distinguish itself as a portable. Sony's strategy was to offer a portable console, which many people have no interest in. There appears to be a similar strategy with the NGP. The PSP was somewhere in-between the PS1 and PS2 in terms of power, the NGP is somewhere in-between a PS2 and PS3 in terms of power. If you look at the software list from the link, it's the same types of titles you get on the PS3. While there will be the usual augmented reality and sharing features (again, just like the Nintendo 3DS), the idea of a dedicated portable like this in today's world of smartphones and tablets seems a bit counter-intuitive, and it doesn't have the 3D angle Nintendo's 3DS features. As such, I'm skeptical of the NGP's success.

Rather further under the radar is the announcement of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, an Android phone that appears to offer PSP-like gaming and some ability to run the same type of software (albeit of the lowest common denominator variety, potentially taking some of the bloom off of owning the superior gaming platform if developers target both). This strategy makes somewhat more sense in that consumer energy is really behind smartphones these days, but to my mind Sony should have done the Xperia Play AND made the PSP2 a 7" Honeycomb tablet with the full complement of gaming controls and beefed up hardware. This way they could also sub-license to Android and Honeycomb vendors "PSP-powered" gaming technology. That to me would have made a far greater impact. As it is, I think Sony is not going to make much of a dent with the Xperia Play because Android-powered smartphones (technology-wise) are a fast moving target (and phones tend to get replaced every two years anyway), and the NGP - no matter how inherently cool - is not a distinctive enough technology to pull enough people away from the 3DS and their existing (or future) smartphones and tablets, the latter two of which already make formidable modern day gaming platforms. Sorry, Sony.

Agree or disagree with my assessment? Sound off in the comments!

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TripHamer
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I would disagree

I think it's a brave new world in terms of handhelds we entering into and anythings possible. Who's to say that the 3DS will not flop in a year? Nothings certain. Time will tell of course.

Just some quick thoughts.

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Rob Daviau
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Sony's PSP2, aka NGP Actual Gameplay

Well let the Hype begin, supposed actual gameplay (whatever that truly means marketing wise these days) of Sony's new wonder machine:

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Bill Loguidice
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Impressive!
Rob Daviau wrote:

Well let the Hype begin, supposed actual gameplay (whatev3er that truly means marketing wise these days) of Sony's new wonder machine:

Definitely looks awesome if it will indeed approach that quality. As a gamer it certainly has me excited, though again I worry about the price. Hopefully we're being shown real footage this time, not target renders like we initially got with the PS3...

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Chris Kennedy
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The phone

Honestly, I would stand up and applaud Sony for this. The only hesitation comes from their try at the portable gaming market so far - the PSP wasn't really that successful, and the PSP Go was an embarrassment.

I think the best thing they can do is release an android-based Smartphone that has that pop-out gamepad. There could certainly be flaws in the design, but they are really trying to find that perfect synergy between game system and phone. Pop out keyboard? No. Pop out gamepad? I'll take it.

The idea of playing games - any "meaningful", non-twitch games - on a smartphone has been rather ridiculous to me up to this point. It all goes back to the underrated aspect of gaming. Play control.

If the 3D gimmick of the 3DS doesn't have enough of a wow-factor, I expect Sony to kill Nintendo in the portable market. If Nintendo turns around and suddenly says they have a phone (so far they say they won't), then things might change.

I think the number one company Sony is going to first compete with is themselves. They are REALLY good at shooting themselves in the foot. But - If they have learned their lesson in hardware decisions (UMD vs no-UMD, etc) as well as marketing, then they have a diamond here.

The next step would be to go against Apple, and Apple has years of a head start with phone penetration and their app store.

Look at the videos already out there - Here you have engadget playing an emulated Super Mario Bros 3 on a smartphone...with a built-in gamepad.

Winner.

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clok1966
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I have to say I agree with

I have to say I agree with pretty much all of what you said, but for different reasons. the new PSP is just and upgrade, better controls (one of my sore points with most handhelds) and some more spit and polish. Nothing new here (to me). its bigget hurlde will be competeing with the 3DS..I dont think 3D is going to bring that much inovation.. but who knows.

I see the 3DS being huge, but loseing steam quick when there is simply no good reason to use a 3DS over the Dsi (which I think is maybe the best Handheld made in a long time).

Silly quetion, is the 3DS backwords compatible with the DSi?

Bill Loguidice
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BC
clok1966 wrote:

I see the 3DS being huge, but loseing steam quick when there is simply no good reason to use a 3DS over the Dsi (which I think is maybe the best Handheld made in a long time).

Silly quetion, is the 3DS backwords compatible with the DSi?

Yes, the 3DS is fully backwards compatible and you'll be able to transfer your DSi downloaded games over (it can only be on one system or the other). I don't see the "losing steam" thing, since once people switch, they switch. DSi software will seem "old" in comparison. That's what happens with all these systems, console or handheld. Initially you want the backwards compatibility to feel like you're not losing your investment, but after a while you just focus on the new stuff.

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clok1966
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you could be right
Bill Loguidice wrote:
clok1966 wrote:

I see the 3DS being huge, but loseing steam quick when there is simply no good reason to use a 3DS over the Dsi (which I think is maybe the best Handheld made in a long time).

Silly quetion, is the 3DS backwords compatible with the DSi?

Yes, the 3DS is fully backwards compatible and you'll be able to transfer your DSi downloaded games over (it can only be on one system or the other). I don't see the "losing steam" thing, since once people switch, they switch. DSi software will seem "old" in comparison. That's what happens with all these systems, console or handheld. Initially you want the backwards compatibility to feel like you're not losing your investment, but after a while you just focus on the new stuff.

You may be right, my predictions so far have been pretty spotty. With nintendo posting a 34% drop last year and 74% drop the fist 9 months of this fiscial period.. I think my prediciton on the Wii as a passing fad is correct (but I must admit thats all of Nintendo, not just the Wii). One could argue everybody who wants Wii has one.. but software sales are off just as bad as hardware.. and nintendo actually sells the most Wii software.... the fad is dying (my opinion).. the bright spot is Nintendo got some real healthy bank up to this point.. Its compatition is still building sales (360 and PS3) while the slaes of Wii are dropping fast.

I still think Sony is an inovator (hardware wise) the PS3 is really an incredible machine, to bad Sony banked on its NAME and didnt give credit where credit was due with 3rd party licences. I think the whole 3rd place thing really shook um up.. and unfortnalty they ran around like chickens and did all the wrong things.. and very few right things. The PSP is alos a Awsome machine, that was hamstrung by the UDM.. really not that bad a move by Sony, limited Piracy options, and much like Nintendo (still does) increased licencing fee's as they make the carts/UDM. But with so many format changes in the last few years there is a back lash I didnt think they seen comming. The 'we dont care" attitude was also BAD. many of the comments "people will want to work to pay" really are not shocking in JAPAN (where they where said) but when wrote about in the US they are not the right thing to say.. Culture diffrences are huge, talking to people in Japan about WORK and Money is alot differnt then here...But not a single news story mentioned that.

overall I still agree with to little to late.. Sony is still useing the old standard "bigger/ faster/ better" it can work.. but we are seeing "new" work alot better nowdays then the old standards. You cant fault them for doing it with handhelds.. Problem is not many people want a 360/PS3 handheld.. they want a FUN easy to play handheld.. they dont care if the last next gen game wil play. Lok at Iphones (and androids). the games people play are not 3D (most of them) they are purely based on FUN.. and I think SONY missed that with teh PSP...

And I may be missing it with the whole 3DS thing.. 3D does sound fun... if it tranlates to fun, Im just not sure. I am very excited to see it (im sitting here smiling and noding my head as i type as I am really excited to see it).. but ...the price is holding me back. As you meniton the 3DS is backwards compatible.. that is a excellent thing. Where I see that going wrong is if 3D is just so-so game wise.. why have a $150 more expansive handheld when its main draw is never used? The actual machine and games will tell the tale, Im sure of it.. and the Oh ah! at launch will sell it like hotcakes.. but tiwll it last.. you may be right the Wii lasted about 3 more year longer than I thought it would.

Bill Loguidice
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In response to Clok, I think

In response to Clok, I think it's important to remember that in regards to the Wii and the bloom being off the rose, they were STILL the best selling console for 2010 and have such a big lead that whoever ends up at number two (most likely the PS3 because the 360 has minimal Japanese sales) won't be even remotely close when all is said and done. You're correct about software sales for third parties being far weaker on the Wii versus PS3 and 360 - relatively speaking - but that's also due to the fact that first party stuff from Nintendo is pretty much a guarantee of big sales. Since the Wii has less of a hardcore audience, they'll naturally gravitate toward the familiar Nintendo IPs versus the other two systems, where game sales have a bit more balance.

The x factor of course is when the next generation of consoles begins. It's very likely with the Wii reaching saturation point, but still having big sales, Nintendo will want to release their next system as early as holiday 2012, but it probably won't be necessary. They could easily hold out until 2013, finish off milking the Wii, and not do any damage to sales of their next system (or their own reputation). I really believe that both Sony and Microsoft will be waiting until AFTER Nintendo releases whatever they release because they have technologically sufficient HD and online consoles to effectively compete for at least a little while after Nintendo launches with whatever it launches.

It's amazing to think that we're in the sixth year of this console generation and there's still no hint when the NEXT generation of systems will release. I still say that's good for gamers to have this period of stability. I honestly don't think the games are suffering. If anything, they're benefiting.

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Kutaragi (not verified)
The next generation of

The next generation of portable gaming doesn't begin until we say it does!

Nous
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Some clarification

Hi Bill, ok I just read your opinion (interesting, to say the least) and I'll just copy paste my response exactly as I posted it on the gamegavel forum:

I am not sure I understand what Bill is saying to be honest. It seems contradictory.

So, the future of handheld gaming belongs to increasingly capable convergent devices - no argument there! Though there are different things a dedicated gaming handheld, like the 3DS, PSP or PSP2 can offer.

The 3DS's unique selling point is the 3D screen - which has pros and cons, is limited in many ways in how it can be used, at what distance and angle, and for how long, and so on. The touch screen, using older tech as it is, is not a feature that separates it from everything else out there anymore. Same goes for its gaming performance or capabilities, analog nub, dpad, buttons, and so forth. Same goes for its price! None of those things are unique selling points anymore - two of which have been crucial to success before, namely 1) casual gaming monopoly via unique touch screen gaming, and 2) very low price point with extremely long battery life.

Heck, even the games that were not possible on the DS before, but are now emphasised on its successor (3rd party titles, etc) are actually NOT of the casual mass market type - good casual games require nothing more than a DS after all - but instead "PSP" types of games! Outside the familiar mario/zelda/icarus/kirby/etc franchises of course ... those stand alone.

The PSP2's selling point is, well it's that it's a dedicated gaming handheld with capabilities that will remain unmatched for years to come (2 or 3, at least). It also adds features, like the touch screen, the touch panel, increased connectivity, superior multimedia and internet potential, that enable it to offer the best a casual user may want. But it's clearly not a casual device for casual gaming users - it COULD be used as one, but then why add an extra device to your arsenal when you can do that casual stuff extremely well on your iPhone 5, or what have you.

So while I agree that casual gaming (that which the majority of the population will be interested in) is not what dedicated gaming handhelds, especially non-inexpensive ones, are designed for, this was never going to be the case anyway.

I just don't see how the 3DS has anything to offer that distinguishes it from what's available now or even in comparison to the PSP2, in the same way that the DS did.

About Xperia Play ... Sony didn't just also announce a phone device, they announced a gaming platform of their own that will run on Sony approved android handsets in the future (minimum requirements apply). That's a completely separate thing from the PSP2 as the devices it'll be running on will only have a fraction of the PSP2's performance to run games - and like I already explained, even emulating the original PSP (which is as capable as a Gamecube or even PS2 for all intents and purposes) would be technically impossible on common smartphones, even the cutting edge ones. It's still a different audience, with different needs - a different market that has a completely different shape in terms of requirements and needs. I am excited about the Playstation Suite for android - it's the one hope to unify gaming on popular tablets and smartphones, outside iOS that is.

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