Our Thoughts On Sony’s Next Handheld

Our gaming staff gives their thoughts on the Sony NGP.

Erik Norrisby Erik Norris

Our Thoughts On Sony's Next Handheld

Last week Sony announced the next iteration of the PlayStation Portable, currently codenamed the "NGP.” This lead to a biblical flood of information about the device hitting the ‘net; everything from its specs, the games planned, and the developers supporting the handheld were detailed, or at the very least hinted at. During this rush of coverage we weren’t able to sit back, collect our thoughts and voice our opinions on the newly announced device. Until now.

So, is the Sony NGP something worth getting excited for?

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erikErik Norris: I’m not a huge handheld gamer. The only handheld gaming I do is on the toilet and it involves my phone and some rather ill-tempered birds. With that said, some of the revealed details about the NGP have me intrigued. If the device can really support visuals near PS3 levels I’ll be impressed. Yes, we saw it at the unveiling press conference, but those were just tech demos. Full, complete games are a different matter entirely. Consider me skeptical. But if Sony and the developers creating games for the device can pull off PS3 graphics it would separate the NGP from the rest of the handheld market. Visual prowess is a big selling point in the gaming industry; so having the power of the PS3 in your pocket will surely help push units.

Speaking of the games, the reveal of an Uncharted title (whether port or spinoff) does have me excited, as I voiced my desire for such a handheld game on our last podcast. It is true: Nathan Drake makes everything a little bit better. As for the rest of the NGP’s alleged line-up, Sony does look to be correcting past mistakes by bringing their major exclusives to their new handheld as soon as possible. If there are NGP versions of LittleBigPlanet, Resistance, Killzone and Call of Duty available around launch, Sony will be in a good position. They’ll be offering a handheld that caters to the core market first and foremost.

The big elephant in the room is without a doubt the pricing situation. With all the tech and power packed into this device, it could wind up costing a mint. And if the price starts peaking around the cost of a PS3 console, that’s where I bow out. No thanks. That’s just too much money for a handheld gaming device. Plus, if the 3G support costs extra then that’s an added cost per month on top of the already ridiculous baseline price. I can’t stress this enough: the starting price of the NGP is going to be the deal-breaker for me.

joeyJoey Davidson: I find my interest in the NGP hinges on two factors: the software lineup and the price. I get the boosted graphics, the crazy control schemes, the potential for 3G, the OLED screen, the change in software medium… I get all of that. Do I think it was necessary for Sony to take every piece of cutting edge tech they could think of and cram it into their portable? No. They did that once with the PSP. That device wound up with a lackluster software library and lackluster sales here in the States.

There better be games to win me over. Nintendo announced games, Sony showed off what kinds of games could be played. There’s a big difference there. You can show me all of the crazy tech and stalker software you want, the kind that will be completely useless in the US, but the excitement for me is going to stem from the games. Especially if you aren’t showing me glasses-less 3D.

Nintendo learned their lesson with the Wii. Your product can’t arrive with unique tech alone if it wants to please gamers. There has to be software. That’s why the 3DS was announced with a massive slew of software that gamers would love. It wasn’t just, “Check out this 3D! Here’s some games that might be playable at some time.” No. It was, “Yo tricks, check out this 3D? NOW PET THESE CATS AND DOGS!!!” Get it? We had more to be excited about than the tech at hand.

Software lineup and price. The two things I’m praying turn towards my favor. Will it happen? Let’s hope Sony learned from the PSP. A simple name change won’t create enough distance, they need to prove this device’s worth. Do that and I’ll be ecstatic.

alexAlex Keen: I think there are a couple of realities that Sony needs to face. First, if the new portable is too expensive, it will fail. Their competition is no longer just Nintendo. They have to head off Apple and every other cell phone manufacturer out there. Oh, and Zune as well. Asking $350 for a portable gaming device just won’t cut it any more. With games selling for under $5 each, asking gamers to drop $35 a pop just isn’t acceptable.

Not only is game price important, the console price is especially important. In the economy we currently live in, with iPods selling as low as $230, asking gamers to spend over $300 is just silly. For that price you can pick up an Xbox 360, Wii, or a PlayStation 3. Did I mention that you can buy two DSis? Despite the epic amount of hardware in the new NGP, I just don’t think that a high price point is smart business.

Finally, as a PSP owner from last generation, I am incredibly pissed that my UMD games (and movies) appear to be incompatible with the new system. Unless they implement some new system for me to transfer game files to a memory stick, I have wasted quite a bit of money on game discs that will only work on an outdated system. Sure, I understand that it’s part of the process of owning a console, that doesn’t mean I am happy about it.

I’m not very stoked for this new piece of technology because I have become jaded completely by Sony. They seem to care little for their customers and only about being Sony. This is a philosophy that help them lead through the 1990s, but I’m afraid in the modern era, this approach just won’t fly.