Last night's Tokyo announcement of the PSP2, now known as the Sony Next Generation Portable, revealed details that had been previously mentioned in a variety of rumors. To a large extent, those rumors proved correct: no UMD drive, but a 5-inch high-resolution OLED screen, 3G capabilities, front and rear touch capabilities, and--yes--dual analog sticks are all part of the NGP's design.
However, much as with the first announcement of the Nintendo 3DS, a lot of key details are still undefined.
This takes the forefront, considering the disappointing life of the PSP and PSP Go. The Nintendo 3DS looks like it will have only "3 to 5 hours" of battery life--and that's according to Nintendo. Now, sources say the Sony NGP will have a similar battery life, at 4-5 hours. A 5-inch-screen, quad-core, advanced-graphics portable like the NGP doesn't leave us with a lot of hope for long plane trips, but we still won't know how well the battery actually performs until a real unit is in our hands for an extended period of time.
Sony's handhelds have pushed the upper range of cost at their debuts, with both the original PSP and the PSP Go having a launch price of $249. Nintendo has usually offered a lower-cost alternative for handheld gamers, but the Nintendo 3DS will debut at a relatively high $249, too. Considering all of its advanced technology, can the Sony NGP keep pace with the 3DS, or will it cost more? Would $300 be too much? How about $400?
The Nintendo 3DS arrives on March 27 in the U.S., with a small handful of titles in tow. The NGP will almost certainly see a 2011 release, with details likely to be finalized at E3 in June. A September-range release seems the most likely, but anything's possible.
While a few games have been demonstrated so far, it's unclear how diverse the NGP/PSP2's games will be, and whether or not many of them will be ports of popular PS3 titles. Uncharted has been unveiled. Can others follow suit? Also, we're curious whether a larger library of classic PS2 games will become available for download, much like the PS1 games already in the PSN Store.
Although the NGP is doing away with the clunky UMD, it hasn't yet been revealed how exactly games will be stored or loaded onto the NGP. A flash-based memory card was discussed as a new storage medium--will games be sold on cartridgelike cards, or downloaded? Also unknown: how much internal storage the NGP has, and whether or not it has an SD or Memory Stick card slot.
Will the NGP be able to output its PlayStation 3-quality graphics onto an external HDTV? Will it have an HDMI-out or proprietary port, or will it somehow allow wireless video playback? The built-in five-inch screen should be fantastic, but many smartphones and tablets--which are competitors to the NGP's target market--allow video playback on larger screens.
How this all works with the 'PSP Phone'
The Sony Ericsson "Xperia Play" that's been rumored, leaked, and discussed for weeks looks to be a completely different device, with an Android OS. While details about a PlayStation phone haven't been confirmed yet, last night in Tokyo, Sony did announce the PlayStation Suite, offering a completely separate library of PlayStation 1 games to the Android marketplace. Regardless, it's going to take some effort to explain how the NGP and Xperia Play differ to avoid buyer confusion. Will the PSP Phone just be an Android phone with a control pad and access to the PlayStation Suite, but nothing more? As far as cross-compatibility goes, these will most definitely not be as alike as the iPhone and iPod Touch.