Sony officially announced the successor to the PlayStation Portable at a Japanese press conference today. The device, which is codenamed Next Generation Portable or NGP, has no official release date other than holiday 2011 and no set price point.
However, there are plenty of other details including the hardware specifications, a new interface and several games.
The NGP no longer uses the analog “nub” from the PSP but instead features two full analog sticks. According to IGN reporter Ryan Clements, “The layout of the sticks felt fantastic and controlling Drake in Uncharted was just like using a DualShock.”
The device also has a front-facing touch screen and an additional touch pad on the back for multi-touch functionality. The touch pad on the back can be used to manipulate games without obstructing the player’s view.
For example, hills can be created in the game world of “Little Deviants” by pressing on the back touch pad. Depending on the pressure and direction of the touch, the hill forms differently.
The usual d-pad and “X,” “O,” “∆,” and “□” buttons make a valiant return.
Not only will the device have Wi-Fi, but it will have 3G as well. This will allow player’s to access the Internet and play cooperatively or competitively over a mobile network while away from the standard Wi-Fi connection.
It has also been revealed that there will be two different models of the PSP, one with the 3G capabilities and one without. Though unconfirmed, this would seem to indicate a higher price point for the 3G-enabled models without having to pay a monthly subscription fee, similar to the Kindle sales model.
Sony said during the conference that, other than the polygonal count, the NGP closely rivals the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 3. The screenshots of “Uncharted” running on the device seem to prove this claim.
These portable polygons will be displayed on the NGP’s 5-inch OLED screen at a resolution of 960×544.
The NGP keeps the signature look of the PSP and is, in fact, slightly larger than the PSP-3000. The screen and body of the new portable are covered in the same glossy finish that garners the old model, and a metal strip outlines the perimeter of the device.
The interface has also received an upgrade, doing away with the XrossMediaBar that has been in every Sony gaming device since 2005. The new interface, titled LiveArea, is comprised of circular icons and takes advantage of the device’s new touch functionality.
The NGP now has a built-in GPS, front-facing camera, back-facing camera and PlayStation-3-controller-inspired six-axis motion sensors.
The aptly named “Near” application will tell players who’s gaming around them and what games are being played the most. It will also have the ability to map out where you’ve been playing and broadcast that to friends.
Along with Sony, several third-party developers and publishers have been announced as working on upcoming titles for the NGP. Some of the developers have confirmed what games they’re working on while others have merely said that they have something in the works.
Rather than the UMD, games will be sold on flash memory cartridges. Any previous PSP games players have downloaded from the PlayStation Network will also be playable on the device.
Gamespot is one of the few news outlets to catch “Uncharted” in action. Check it out below.