Gut Reactions: Sony's Next Generation Portable

Find out what the GameSpot editors think of Sony's new handheld gaming device.

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Sony has finally announced the successor to the PSP code-named the Next Generation Portable. While the device doesn't have an official name quite yet, we already have plenty of information about the NGP, which can you read about in our wrap-up story. Some of the GameSpot editors have chimed in with their thoughts on the NGP and what its capabilities mean for handheld gaming.

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Ricardo Torres, Editor-in-Chief

Seeing the NGP (and, man, do I hope they sort out a sexy new name soon because that is not doing it for me) for the first time took me back to the first time I saw the original PSP and how blown away we all were by its screen. Fast-forward to 2011 and the unveiling of the NGP, and as sexy as all the other features that are being touted are, I'm dwelling on the screen, which is just stunning. A 5-inch OLED screen really does rock the house. The color on that thing was impressive, and the viewing angles let it pop however you looked at it. As for the rest, there's a lot of interesting tech and software being crammed into the NGP--most good, some a little creepy.

I'm not so sold on the "near" functionality since I'm just never a fan of products or apps that track my movement (I really don't need to make it any easier for Skynet to find me when the robot revolution starts), but I do appreciate the social features. The PSN ID support and inclusion of trophies is something I'm sure many PlayStation 3 owners will be happy to see. Personally, I'm pretty intrigued by this "live space" business since it seems to be taking a regimented approach a la Xbox Live to ensure that there's a common online experience for consumers, which has been a weakness on Sony's part. The backward compatibility with PSP games is nice, and the graphical face-lift they get is nicer. It's very cool to see that, and with your PSN ID carrying over, your digital purchases should be all good.

Speaking of media formats, I have to be honest and say I'm bummed about the switch to cartridges. Thinking solely of myself, I'm cringing at how I'm going to travel with an NGP. One of the things I love about my PSPGo is that I can bring a ton of games and video with me when I'm on the road, and I don't need a special bag to hold everything since everything is on the Go's internal memory or the memory stick. No clutter, no big foot print--just a ton of games. With the NGP, I'm worried I could wind up looking like Chewbacca rolling with my bandolier of peripherals and my NGP--not a good look when you're trying to blend in with the populace.

While I'm very excited for the NGP, I'm left with a ton of questions, which I'm sure will likely be answered at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Is there video out on the thing? Does it still have the crazy multimedia options of the original PSP? Will it be less painful to put your videos on the thing? Would be great to see this thing offer video support similar to the PS3 where it's possible to just drop certain formats in without encoding and they just work as opposed to the song and dance you have to do now to get your own video on the current-generation PSP. Is there internal memory for games a la the PSPGo? How much are games going to cost? Skype? How much is it and how much of a price bump is going to happen if you opt for a data plan on this thing? How much is the hardware going to cost? (It sure doesn't look cheap…) In the end, I hope the price is in the $250 to $300 range, though data plans will bump it up some. At any rate, the NGP is a sexy piece of hardware that I'm hoping succeeds where its predecessor stumbled.

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Carolyn Petit, Associate Editor

I was extremely excited about the launch of the PSP back in March of 2005. The first time I held one and immersed myself in the throbbing beats and sleek visuals of Lumines, I was sold on the device and envisioned a glorious future in which the PSP would usher in a new era of world peace, uniting all humankind in a love of the universal joys of gaming. But alas, while the PSP has certainly been home to a number of excellent games over the years, overall, I'm pretty disappointed in the PSP and feel that the games just weren't there to enable the device to live up to its full potential.

So I'm coming to Sony's next journey into the very competitive arena of handheld gaming with a bit more wariness and skepticism. But I have to say that the information coming out of Japan about the NGP is making me intrigued. I'm always glad when a device enables developers to give players new ways of interacting with games. And although only time will tell if features like the rear touch screen turn out to be a gateway to cool new experiences or just a gimmick that gets awkwardly shoehorned into games, I enjoyed watching the demo of Little Deviants. The idea of pushing on the game screen from behind to interact with the environment is also one that I think has potential and demonstrates that Sony isn't just trying to deliver a more powerful PSP with this device. But Sony isn't wading too far out to sea, either--the much-needed dual thumbsticks suggest that the NGP could make a better home than the PSP for the kinds of traditional games that may make a handheld like this thrive.

As with the PSP, the ultimate test of the NGP will be in the games that come out for it, month after month, year after year. The mention of an Uncharted game for the NGP is enough to get me immediately excited, but then again, so was Lumines, and I'm not yet forgetting the general sense of disappointment with which the PSP left me. But if the NGP can actually make good on its obvious potential, I'll be more than willing to forgive Sony for letting me down before.

Tom Mc Shea, Associate Editor

I'm going to assume the role of Mr. Grumpy Face since that seems to be what I do in these gut reactions features. I'm not sold on Sony's latest portable system one bit. In my eyes, portable and console games are completely different experiences. Portables thrive with relatively simple, pick-and-up-play games that provide a unique counterbalance to what I would play on an HDTV. Part of the appeal of Uncharted 2 is seeing this beautiful world take life on a gigantic HDTV, and that feeling of immersion is lost when trying to cram that basic concept onto a 5-inch screen. I understand there will be games other than Killzone, Lost Planet, and the like on the NGP, but that doesn't hide the fact that this system is designed with those larger-than-life games in mind.

The NGP is as powerful as a PlayStation 3 (or so Sony claims) and comes packed with so many bells and whistles that the price could skyrocket into dangerous waters. But all of that technical wizardry is going to be lost on me since I prefer to play something like Ghost Trick or Z.H.P. on a handheld. Sony is going down the same path it started with the PSP, and I feel it will once again lead to an overly expensive system that tries so hard to replicate a home console that it struggles to forge its own identity.

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Sophia Tong, Editor

I know a lot of people are excited to have dual analog sticks (finally!), but what I'm looking forward to is the possibility of playing my PlayStation 3 games on the go! According to Toshihiro Nagoshi from Sega, there's the ability to port over PS3 games, which would make me a very happy person. I'm also excited to see the lovely OLED screen in person and check out the PlayStation Suite service since I have an Android phone. I've always liked the PSP for its screen, but the NGP's screen has me drooling. The built-in GPS and 3G are excellent additions, which then makes me wish that Sony just made this a phone so that I could keep it on me forever (unless Skype is possible).

The tech demos that were shown (Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted) were enough to get me excited. I can't wait to actually feel how light it is and how it fits into my hands. The touch pad on the back seems a bit awkward, but we all knew touch controls were bound to happen. I'm not entirely sold on the new design and look of the NGP, though. Maybe it'll grow on me, but then again, I'm not sure I really care. Did you see that sexy screen?

Knowing how powerful this piece of technology is, I'm pretty sure it's going to be pricey. However, if it lets me consolidate all the gadgets I already carry on me, it would be worth it.

Kevin VanOrd, Editor

The NGP is something I want--badly. It's made for people like me, and chances are, for people like you as well. We're gamers, and this is a system designed squarely for us. It plays games, and the ones we've seen are beautiful: that gorgeous screen looks like it will make the action pop right off the screen. It's got a gyroscope and an accelerometer for tilt control; a touch-sensitive screen; and (thank God) dual analog sticks, along with that big touch pad in the rear, which could be a legitimately interesting addition should developers take advantage of it.

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The feature list continues, of course: dual cameras. 3G connectivity (pricing to be announced), built-in compass, and GPS. These are great things for gadget enthusiasts like me, but even then, how much will I actually get out of these features--and in turn, how much will a device touting all these features cost me? I already have an iPad, an HTC EVO, and I use my old iPhone as an iPod touch. I already have GPS, Android, and dual cameras on a device that, by nature goes, with me everywhere I do. Obviously, a game-centric device like the PSP might use these features in ways my current devices don't. But that's the rub, is it not? The audience that craves these features already has devices that do similar things. The casual audience that embraced the DS and Wii won't find these selling points particularly compelling--particularly if, as I suspect it will, the NGP sells for a penny more than the 3DS.

But hey, knowing me, this is a day-one purchase. The system is powerful, the screen looks stunning, and there is potential for amazing things should developers use that rear touch pad and the GPS in interesting ways. But I will be curious to see if Sony alienates mainstream consumers with the "this gadget does everything!" philosophy. I expect that a lot of people simply want a portable gaming device that does a few things, and does them extraordinarily well at a good price. But I'm not a mainstream consumer; I buy expensive feature-rich devices all the time, and I'm all over this thing.

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