TOKYO--Though Sony has not officially confirmed the PSP2's existence, the device has been the subject of rumors for over a year. Development kits for the handheld have been spotted in the wild, and Electronic Arts' head of European development admitted that his company has had contact with PSP2 SDKs.
The most convincing evidence came via a murky photo leak last November (pictured), which showed a PSP Go-like sliding design with dual thumbsticks. The device is also said to have a touch-sensitive pad on its rear. Last month, Sony Computer Entertainment president Kaz Hirai dropped hints about dual button/touch-screen controls when asked about the PSP2.
Today, though, all--or at least most--of the questions surrounding the PSP2 are expected to be answered at a Tokyo press conference being held by Sony. Though ostensibly just a briefing on the company's "business overview and strategy," the event is widely believed to be the first public unveiling for the handheld, which is rumored to be set for release by year's end.
Along with many other members of the worldwide press, GameSpot is in attendance at the event, and will be live-blogging Sony's announcements.
[9:50] We're here in a basement ballroom of the Prince Park Hotel in Tokyo for the PlayStation Meeting 2011. There's a hefty throng of Japanese, US, and European press all settling in along with broad sampling of developer and publisher reps.
[9:53] We're getting messages over the PA from staff offering helpful pointers on seating, smoking (don't), and letting us know things are set to kick off momentarily.
[9:56] While the crowd is waiting, there is all sorts of debating going on amongst the attendees on what we're going to see. Sample: "This has to be the phone!" "No, I believe that will come later."
[10:04] We're almost at go time now.
[10:05] The staff just let us know the conference will be in Japanese so us foreign folks need our earpieces.
[10:06] Things are about to kick off momentarily from the sound of it. Disco lighting is being dialed down and the club tunes are starting to crescendo.
[10:07] The music is starting to blast. Here we go…
[10:08] Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai takes the stage, welcoming us for joining them today.
[10:08] He notes it's been a while since the last meeting and says he's a little nervous but excited to share today with everyone.
[10:09] He touches on the CES press conference and reminds people that he had told people to expect new announcements. Today is the first of those announcements.
[10:10] Hirai throws to the cyber society video shown at E3 a few years ago to remind attendees of the future Sony predicted back then.
[10:11] We see images from around the world while a narrator talks about how we're all connected. "Imagination and dreams come true."
[10:12] That catchphrase closes the video and segues to a new phrase "Reality becomes data." Catchy.
[10:12] Hirai says the PS3 has been doing this for users.
[10:13] He touts PlayStation earning its place in the lives of all people of the world, regardless of their age, to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.
[10:13] Hirai wants to let us know about a new world PlayStation will be bringing to people.
[10:14] A video montage comes up with connected words--it focuses on "home."
[10:14] Hirai beings speaking about the PS3 and how it has evolved as an entertainment system.
[10:14] He cites updates that have evolved the hardware and software, like 3D.
[10:15] Hirai calls out the PlayStation Network as a key pillar for the entertainment offered by the PS3.
[10:16] He says more than 80 percent of PS3s are online. The PSN has now exceeded 69 million registered users.
[10:16] Hirai says the PSN has been embraced by consumers and is tantamount to an endorsement of Sony's vision.
[10:17] New word: "cross-platform."
[10:17] He calls out portable gaming and the freedom to decide where and when to play.
[10:17] How it offers a new interaction for gamers.
[10:17] He says Sony will expand the ubiquity of this entertainment.
[10:17] Hirai notes that the portable gaming space has undergone a dramatic change.
[10:18] The landscape has changed since the time the PSP launched.
[10:18] Users have more choices, especially in the space of casual games.
[10:19] It has caught Sony's attention that it needs to meet that challenge.
[10:19] With handsets able to run games, they are now ready for a PSP-like experience.
[10:20] The question this poses to Sony is how to offer people new experiences, and Hirai wants to share one possible solution: "PlayStation Suite."
[10:21] It extends the PlayStation experience beyond the PSP by providing PlayStation content on mobile devices.
[10:21] This initiative makes PlayStation content available to more users and gives developers and publishers more options.
[10:22] It will be available on Android smart phones and will offer a new mobile gaming framework for the development of new content.
[10:22] The PlayStation experience will come to Android phone users and tablets.
[10:23] The target platform for the PlayStation Suite is Android's various form factors.
[10:23] "PlayStation certified" is a new descriptor to let users know the devices will be able to run the PlayStation Suite and offer quality experiences.
[10:24] The PlayStation Suite will allow first-gen PlayStation titles to be available to a wide variety of mobile devices.
[10:24] It's a hardware neutral game framework that will simplify content development processes.
[10:25] In addition to working with existing developer partnerships, they will look to reach out to new partners.
[10:25] The PlayStation store is being readied for Android devices, with the aim to further expand the world of PlayStation.
[10:26] Sony envisions the PlayStation Suite as an initiative to the world of portable entertainment, adding a wide variety of devices to the PlayStation family.
[10:27] Smartphones and Android devices offer a broad range of possibilities.
[10:27] New word: "Portable."
[10:27] Adapting to the new trend of casual gaming, Sony can introduce the world of PlayStation gaming to a wider audience.
[10:28] At the same time, it wants to continue to offer what PlayStation always has: a new captivating experience.
[10:28] In order to do this, a dedicated system is needed.
[10:29] "Next Generation Portable"--the code name of the new PSP.
[10:31] This is supported by five concepts: Revolutionary user interface, social connectivity, location-based entertainment, convergence of real and virtual worlds, and PlayStation Suite compatibility.
[10:32] We throw to video: Hipster on the street morphs a ball from his hands that expands around him. Each of the spheres that come out of it is one of the pillars just mentioned.
[10:32] He's now moving around and using touch motions to shake people around, and an online ranking comes up with trophies.
[10:33] "Play life" is the phrase that pops up as people run around him and the camera pulls out to the globe.
[10:33] "The power is now in your hands" comes up as the globe turns into a flash of light.
[10:33] Hirai says he wants this to be the ultimate portable experience.
[10:35] Quick shots of this new device: It has brick form factor with a 5-inch OLED display that boasts 4x res of current PSPs. Touch pads on front and rear. Dual analog sticks. Front and rear camera. New game media--a flash-based memory card.
[10:36] It will also have 3G and Wi-Fi. Due out this holiday season.
[10:36] Shuhei Yoshida comes on stage to talk games on the Next Generation Portable.
[10:37] NGP aims to realize the ultimate portable experience: large screen size, PS3 quality graphics, two analog sticks, interoperability with front touch screen and rear touch pad.
[10:37] It supports user communication through social networking.
[10:39] Cue video montage of games: Hot Shots Golf Next, Gravity Daze, Killzone, WipeOut, Resistance, LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted, Little Deviants, Reality Fighters, Billiards.
[10:39] Yoshida comes back to show off Uncharted.
[10:39] It's an original game developed under the auspices of Naughty Dog.
[10:40] Yoshida is showing the game live.
[10:41] The camera shot is over the shoulder, but Yoshida is moving the device around to showcase the viewing angle, which looks fantastic.
[10:42] Now he's showing off the two analog sticks, as he notes the difference between the analog nub of the current PSP. The NGP has two micro analog sticks, not nubs.
[10:42] In Uncharted, it's clear that the left stick moves the character and the right changes the camera angle.
[10:43] You can use the X button or the front touch screen to make Drake jump.
[10:43] The next scene has Drake swinging on a vine; by sliding his fingers up and down on the touch pad on the back of the device, Drake is shown to climb up and down the vine.
[10:44] Yoshida also shows how using the front touch panel can make Drake climb--just slide your finger onscreen to make Drake move.
[10:46] Now he's attacking an enemy, which he pushes off using the touch screen. Yoshida then shows how you can use the NGP's gyroscope to aim a rifle. "This provides a whole new Uncharted experience," he says before exiting.
[10:47] Hirai comes out to talk about the new user experience and calls out Nuneki Shimada, VP of software development.
[10:48] Hirai says the NGP's form factor, the super oval design, offers the highest level of operability of any portable console.
[10:48] Hirai notes the front and rear cameras, the back touch pad, and assorted sensors that track user movement.
[10:49] To demo the concepts of touch, grab, push, and pull, Yoshida demos Little Deviants.
[10:52] We see a playing field of green grass peppered with orange deviants--the deviants are the critters that cause trouble in the game.
[10:53] You'll use the touch pad to knock them about; the back touch pad is the same size as the 5-inch OLED display, allowing you to properly target when using the back touch pad.
[10:53] He shows how you can use the back and front touch pads to slingshot the creatures from back to front using the touch pad.
[10:54] Hirai is back to discuss the deep entertainment experience. NGP as a platform will support a social experience; Every game will have a feature called a live area that will offer the latest info on the games and publishers.
[10:55] The activity log will allow a new way to interact.
[10:55] The NGP interface is a collection of spheres that show games and other options.
[10:56] By tapping the Hot Shots Golf sphere, it fills the screen with info on the game, including a link to the PlayStation Store.
[10:57] Shimada taps a golf course item, showing that you can hop between the two.
[10:57] The Hot Shots sphere is made up of four panels: information, the game, the store, and tournaments.
[10:58] Shimada goes into a "communication area" that tracks your activity and lets friends comment on your activities, Facebook style.
[10:58] Hirai points out that this will provide a steady flow of information; Shimada agrees and says the live area will allow users to communicate in new ways.
[10:59] Shimada calls out how connecting to 3G will offer more communication options.
[11:00] New topic: location-based entertainment.
[11:00] Oh, and NGP trophies were just confirmed by the official PlayStation Twitter.
[11:01] Location-based entertainment will be a basic service that will allow you to see who's playing what around you.
[11:02] A video is queued up to show someone walking around with an NGP in his bag. The video shows how the "near" application on the device tracks your movement. It's queued up showing up how you can trace your route. In addition to the location, you will see what the most popular games in the areas you were in were.
[11:03] The demo shows you user avatars around you; tapping one will let you see what they've been playing.
[11:03] You can also check out lists of games that are popular in specific areas. For example, Shimada shows Hot Shots Golf.
[11:04] Hirai is back with a new topic: converging real and virtual.
[11:05] The cameras on the device will play a part in this.
[11:05] Yoshida is back to show how this will work with a new game, and he then fires up Hot Shots Golf.
[11:06] He calls attention to the screen, waxing poetic on the detailed golf course with weather effects.
[11:07] Via the touch screen, Yoshida taps a character who waves back. He uses the touch panel to check his score and the course overview.
[11:09] He uses the touch screen to position his golfer. He touches an eye icon, which lets him tilt the device to look around the course. He eventually spins to an extreme close-up of his character's face.
[11:09] He looks down at a golf ball, using the touch screen to adjust its position.
[11:09] He then wraps up his tinkering and tees off with a button.
[11:10] Yoshida notes the NGP is equipped with the same internal gyro sensor as the PlayStation Move.
[11:11] Hirai is back noting the PlayStation Suite is compatible with the NGP; content that operates on smartphones will also work on the NGP.
[11:12] Hirai hopes the PlayStation Suite might entice users to actually use PlayStation products.
[11:12] Hirai says they have high hopes that the PlayStation Suite will open windows of opportunity for existing developers, as well as open relationships with new developers.
[11:13] The NGP will support downloadable PSP titles, so it's backward compatible.
[11:14] Hirai says the NGP will offer new possibilities to third-party developers around the world.
[11:14] To prove his point, he invites reps from Capcom, Sega, Tecmo Koei, Konami, Epic, and Activision to get on stage.
[11:16] Jun Takeuchi from Capcom takes the stage, and thanks the crowd for the success of Monster Hunter 3rd.
[11:16] He is here to showcase how Monster Hunter Portable 3rd will run on the NGP.
[11:17] Takeuchi shows how the camera can be controlled with the right analog stick; he says it feels great and encourages the audience to quote him.
[11:18] He then goes on to say portability and emulation were one of his talking points.
[11:18] As such, existing content can be displayed on the NGP.
[11:19] Next up is MT framework, Capcom's proprietary development system.
[11:19] Takeuchi is showing off MT framework mobile and how it can render the opening scene of Lost Planet 2.
[11:20] He notes that the NGP has many features of the PS3, with some differences. He says though the NGP specification hasn't been announced yet, it has potential.
[11:22] He says the Capcom staff feels it's very flexible, noting the Lost Planet 2 demo was put together in two weeks. He says that he isn't launching any new titles, but Capcom will do so soon.
[11:22] Hirai thanks Takeuchi and says he's looking forward to Capcom's offerings.
[11:23] Next up: Toshihiro Nagoshi from Sega, rocking a deep V-neck and sparkly necklace.
[11:23] He says he's overwhelmed and doesn't know how to start, calling the hardware "flawless."
[11:24] He says developers tend to think of the technical elements of new hardware. He goes on to say that the use of 3G for new hardware is remarkable.
[11:24] He says that 3G was a request from users in Japan.
[11:24] He says he has something to show people, but he didn't have a lot of time to prepare for it.
[11:25] But it wouldn't be cool if he didn't show something, so he touts a version of the Yakuza zombie game running on the NGP hardware.
[11:25] He says it's possible to port PS3 games to the NGP.
[11:26] Nagoshi apologizes for not having more to show but says he's excited to develop something new for a network gaming experience.
[11:27] Hirai thanks him and calls out Akihiro Suzuki from Tecmo Koei games.
[11:27] Suzuki says he's pleased to be on board with the NGP and would like to leverage its various features to develop new titles.
[11:28] He says he'd like to showcase the touch-pad functionality and fires up footage of a new Dynasty Warriors game.
[11:29] In the demo, we see how the touch panel lets players target multiple enemies.
[11:30] The display shows the enemies being targeted, and then the fighter unleashes his attack against the targeted foes.
[11:31] The demo now shows how you can target specific points on an enemy. Swiping the screen also allows multiple enemies to be targeted.
[11:31] Suzuki says that they've just started tossing around ideas and experimenting.
[11:31] He feels they can develop a new title that is different from what they've done in the past.
[11:32] He closes with saying that the launch of the NGP will allow for titles to be ported to the NGP and leverage new features, allowing them to be reinvented and reborn.
[11:33] Hirai thanks Suzuki and calls out…Hideo Kojima.
[11:33] He is here to offer a future perspective.
[11:34] We see Old Snake being targeted and then see Otacon's bot come out. The two have a chat, which seems like an infomercial.
[11:34] Snake equips his eyepiece and looks around, and the sounds of battle close out the sequence.
[11:35] Hojima notes that the demo used models from Metal Gear Solid 4 for the PlayStation 3.
[11:35] While it was only 20 frames a second, Kojima says if it were optimized, it would be a good fit for the NGP.
[11:36] Kojima notes that this isn't an announcement that MGS4 is coming to the NGP but rather to showcase its potential.
[11:37] He calls out how cloud computing can factor into the future, and that it will be possible to have a portable MGS experience relying on cloud computing.
[11:37] He says Peace Walker was an experiment in that direction.
[11:38] He says he wants to see connectivity to allow gamers to take the experience with them; that is, start a game on your PS3, move to your NGP, and then come back.
[11:39] Kojima says that this dream can come true, and that he's working on this particular dream…and will share it at E3.
[11:40] Hirai says he's looking forward to how Kojima is going to realize that dream.
[11:40] Hirai calls Tim Sweeney from Epic Games to the stage.
[11:40] He shows Unreal Engine 3 running on the NGP and says the platform is a game changer that can put a high-end console in your pocket.
[11:42] He shows off a large animated environment enhanced by weather effects and antialiasing made possible by the multicore GPU.
[11:42] He said it offers 4x the performance of any comparable platform, and as developers, they appreciate the efficient use of memory and system resources.
[11:43] He gives a quick demo of Dungeon Defenders, which was originally slated for the PS3 but moved to the NGP with minimal work.
[11:44] Sweeney calls out how the controls use the NGP's touch pads.
[11:44] Hirai says he looks forward to what Epic will offer and calls out Philip Earl from Activision to the stage.
[11:45] He's the executive vice president of the Call of Duty division.
[11:45] And quickly, he announces that Call of Duty is coming to the NGP and that it will set the bar for portable gaming.
[11:46] Hirai comes out and says COD on the NGP will be exciting.
[11:49] And, he also throws to a video of a huge scroll of developers on board.
[11:50] Hirai is closing up. He sums up the announcements and talks about how the PlayStation experience will cast a wide net for new users. He says that the NGP will revolutionize the portable game experience in your hand.
[11:50] Hirai thanks us for attending and closes out the meeting. Folks applaud and we're out--check back soon for more news from Sony's Tokyo press event.