That said, I'm sure Jim and I are on the same page on several issues. I'm sure we both want better quality control, a better way to distribute games, a better online experience, and a more focused attitude towards portable gaming. Thankfully it sounds like Sony has learned from some of their missteps with the PSP.
We've learned a lot about Sony's next portable since I wrote this piece. By now we've all seen the Next Generation Portable system, which is rumored to be named the PlayStation Vita. We've seen screenshots of some of the first games, we know much of the feature set, and we're getting a full reveal tomorrow at Sony's E3 press conference. What better time to compare our list of what we wanted with what it looks like we're going to get? And while we're at it, let's add a few new things to the list.
We know there's still much to be learned about the NGP, but we have had a good look at some test hardware for Sony's next portable. This hardware we've seen is not final, but we know it's a good representation of what to expect, and between this and what Sony has revealed so far, we have a good picture of what the NGP will be like on the hardware side.
Dual Analog Sticks:
Check. Sticks, even. To leave off dual analog sticks on their next portable would have been the most facepalm-y mistake in the history of gaming. It would have said, loud and clear, that Sony has not been listening to their user base. I'm glad they've heard at least this. The sticks look great. I'm so glad that they're not nubs!
A Big, Beautiful Screen
It's never been an issue with Sony portables, so I wasn't too worried about this. The PSP's screen wasn't the greatest at first, but the later iterations had great screens that were more than sufficient for delivering console-like experiences on-the-go. I've always preferred the PSP's screen over the smaller, lower resolution screens of Nintendo's portables. It looks like they've went above and beyond with the NGP's display. We know to expect a huge, high-resolution 5-inch OLED screen. That's a big screen, and that's also cutting-edge display technology. It looks incredible. I couldn't have asked for more on this front.
Yes. YES. I want to high-five someone at Sony for this. We are getting exactly what I asked for in my original wish list for games media: Removable, non-optical media. We're getting something closer to what Nintendo has been using all this time. No rattly discs or slow load times. Small size, instant access -- this is how you do portable games.
From what little we've seen of the first batch of NGP games, it looks like Sony has fully delivered in the graphical horsepower department. The NGP appears to have enough muscle under the hood to take full advantage of that sexy OLED screen, and then some. From the looks of it we'll be getting games that come close to matching the visual quality of current games on the PS3 or Xbox 360.
Things I Didn't Ask For But Will Gladly Take
Most of what I was looking for in the next Sony portable had more to do with its technical ability, software support and compatibility. All of the new interface features are a bonus. The large rear touchpad is an innovative idea that could lead to some cool new ways to interact with portable games. I see the touchscreen as Sony's move to keep up with the Jonses. It will also allow for easy ports of games made for mobile platforms. I'll gladly take both.
I Like 'Em Round And Big
I just can't help myself -- I'm actin' like an animal! Kudos to Sony for not being afraid to make a portable machine of a decent size. I hope we're done with these too-small portable devices. In this day and age of people toting around smaller notebooks and tablet computers, I think a larger gaming portable will fit right in. I've always wanted comfort over portability. I can put a game system in a bag if its too big to pocket, but I can't stop my eyes from straining or hands from cramping if the system is too small. Well, I can, but that means not playing it. The NGP looks like it was fashioned to be held for a long time. That's exactly what I plan to do if the battery life supports that.
I hope they didn't mess this up. The NGP looks like a highly capable game system, and it has a massive feature set. I hope all of the cool things they've packed on-board don't take away from its battery life.
You better had moved that power switch to a better place, Sony. Look at me. This is my serious face. This will be the first thing I check when I get my hands on the final hardware.
Sony has left us hanging on what to expect on the software front. We know of a few launch games, but the jury's still out on big issues like backwards compatibility, digital games distribution and online functionality. I expect that Sony will answer all of these questions tomorrow. For now, let's lay out what we're wanting on the software side.
The New Games:
It's a launch line-up, so I'm not expecting amazing things. But what we've seen so far looks really nice, and certainly more interesting than the PS3's launch line-up. There's Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Killzone, Wipeout 2048, Super StarDust Delta, and Hot Shots Golf in the mix for some very strong franchise representation. Games like Hustle Kings and Sound Shapes look like good showcases of the NGP's technology. I'm certain Sony has much more up their sleeves, and I know that they have their third-party partners sitting on some good news for E3. I just wanted a good RPG and a Hot Shots Golf game out of the gate. Maybe a new Parappa the Rapper or Unjammer Lammy 2? No?
Digital games distribution is here to stay. I don't think we're ready for a digital download-only system just yet. I feel like the NGP was designed to fit right in during this time of transition. It has a slot for games, but it's safe to say that there will also be an option to download NGP games. it supposedly also has the online connectivity and compatibility to play our old PSP games. Apparently there's internal features that can upscale old PSP games to take advantage of the higher resolution screen. There's also remapping that lets older games take advantage of the second analog stick. This is all great news for the millions of PSP owners that have a solid library of games already. I'm one of those.
It has also been reported that PlayStation Minis will work on the NGP. I have 3 of those, though.
But What About My UMDs?
While the reports of strong support for backwards compatibility of digital titles has me sort of excited, the mental image of my shelves packed full of UMD PSP games holds me back from fully being elated. We all got our hopes up around the time the PSPgo launched when we heard rumors that there might be a way to somehow turn our UMD games into digital ones. That rumor never panned out, and that made the PSPgo a tough sell to those with existing libraries. What will happen to the many gamers like myself that fully supported the PSP all these years, buying hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars worth of UMD PSP games? Are we just going to have to hang on to our PSPs?
PS1 games. Hell, PS2 games.
What's the hold-up on this, Sony? Were you just waiting for the NGP to surprise us and tell us that all of the PS1 library is available now? With the PS3, PSP, the recently launched Xperia Play phone and now the NGP, you'd think that digging up these old classics would be a top priority. And now that the NGP has this second analog nub, I see it as fully compatible with that old, massive library. And while your at it, I'm thinking of hundreds of PS2 games that would wonderful portable titles. The NGP would never leave my side if it had full PS2 library compatibility. Please don't mess this up.
Here's another feature I didn't ask for, but am glad to have. With the NGP's network/internet connectivity and its touchscreen, it would seen that mobile games could easily be delivered and played on the system. While this wouldn't have been a feature to get excited about back in the days when the PSP launched, it definitely is now. Mobile gaming has grown into something so huge that it would be silly to not work some kind of compatibility into a portable game system. There's so many good offerings out there these days. It's great to know that your entry price for this system gets you not only NGP and PSP gaming, but also the possibility of other types. As Android gaming grows, this seemingly small feature will become increasingly attractive.
It sounds like Sony is gearing up to surprise us with how they'll support online gaming with the NGP. They have yet to surprise us, so it's high time. We can be sure we'll see full PlayStation Network support, and that's great. But Xbox Live has spoiled us with its robust social features. Will Sony use the NGP to catch up in the online space? I hope so. I'd love to see a portable have the full ability to support team-based multiplayer shooters, MMOs, racing games, Japanese games of hunting and all the other stuff we expect in a full console experience. Sure, PSP games do support some online features, but the experience feels gimped when compared to what we get in consoles. Here's hoping that Sony is dreaming big for this. Let's get over this idea that a portable game has to be a lesser experience. A big, shiny, fully online portable could be a game changer.
What else does this thing do? We'll find out tomorrow. I'm sure it plays music, and it probably plays downloaded and/or streamed movies and television shows from more than one provider. Mobile apps beyond games could also be a possibility. As I said in my original feature, I am really just looking for a portable beast of a game machine. All that other stuff is just gravy on top. I like gravy, but it's nothing with out buttery mashed potatoes.
Here's The Shortlist
Now that the system is final, it's too late to ask for hardware changes. At least for now. It's not too late to ask for software and support, though. I'd love to imagine that Sony execs read everything I write for them. I wrote this just for you, guys. Here's the shortlist of what we all want from Sony for the NGP:
* Bring the AAA blockbusters, hard and fast
* Don't fudge up PSP backwards compatibility
* Give us those PS1 games already, and throw in some PS2 ones
* Give your full, committed support to a robust online experience
* Focus on games first, worry about multimedia features later
* Fully support your third party developers
* Don't kill us with the price of the system and games!
My Plea To Sony, Revisited
My original plea to Sony for their next portable asked that they look back at the PSP and see what worked and what didn't. It also asked that they listen to their customer base to see what they really want in a new portable game system. I don't have any insight into the development process for the NGP, but it sure seems like they looked, learned and listened. I'm so pleased already, and I know that a lot more surprises are in store.
I asked for a capable, powerful beast with a big sexy screen, and it looks like that's what I'm getting. As a gamer that lives for on-the-go gaming, the new Sony portable seems like a dream system. I'm hoping that Sony follows through with this strong start.
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