What does it do?
The more pertinent question might be, “what doesn’t it do?” Sony has erred on the side of extravagance here, loading its device with so many knobs, buttons, bells and whistles that it could attain that slippery ideal of being all things to all people. Whether reality matches Sony’s ambitions is another matter entirely, but it’s impossible not to be impressed by the NGP’s specifications.
The device is powered by a quad-core processor based on the ARM Cortex A9, and a quad-core Imagination Technologies PowerVR graphics processor. For a handheld that’s a staggering amount of power, and coupled with the five-inch, 16 million colour OLED screen Sony claims that, visually, cutting-edge NGP games will boast fidelity on a par with the PlayStation 3.
Not that the NGP is all about output, of course. Indeed, it will have more input options than any comparable device, with a multi-touch screen on the front, a three-axis accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, twin analogue sticks, a built-in microphone, and both rear and front-facing cameras. Most intriguing of all is the multi-touch panel on the back of the device, which Sony claims will allow users to interact with games in three dimensions even though the display is only 2D.
The list goes on. The now defunct UMD format that turned out to be the PSP’s biggest weakness is gone, replaced with flash memory cards that will be big enough for a game with room to store any additional content. Built-in GPS and an electronic compass will support a new service called “I-Near”, which allows users within a certain range of each other to access a range of community features, while Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth functionality will expand that community on a wider scale through a service called “Live Area”.
How much will it cost?
Ah, yes, the great unknown. Sony hasn’t even released a ball-park figure for the NGP’s price-point, but it doesn’t take an electronics whizz to figure out that all that tech won’t come cheap. The real question is who swallows the cost: Sony, or the consumer?
When the PlayStation 3 launched it was estimated that Sony was losing $250 on every unit sold, and even now the console costs more to make than it does to buy. I’m not sure the company is in a position to release more hardware that has such a negative impact on its profit-loss account, so it’s fair to assume that the NGP will be a serious investment for anyone interested in purchasing one.
Ultimately, it’s a zero-sum game: if the consumer gets an attractive price-point Sony takes a hit, and vice versa.