Destructoid discusses Codename: NGP, the PSP successor

In the dead of night, Sony lifted the lid on the long-awaited PSP successor, a system codenamed Next Generation Portable....

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In the dead of night, Sony lifted the lid on the long-awaited PSP successor, a system codenamed Next Generation Portable. In addition to this, it also revealed a cross-platform mobile gaming service, the PlayStation Suite. 

Naturally, the Destructoid editors had a lot to say about it. We discuss the potential price, the worth of a touchpad on the back of the system, and whether this handheld behemoth can tackle Nintendo’s 3DS. It’s a spirited discussion, so leave your flames at the door and come on in!

Nick Chester: Yeah. So… about that new PlayStation handheld? 

Jim Sterling: Hooboy, it sure is handheld!

Matthew Razak: That fancy Portable Next Generation is pretty big. Does it remind anyone else of a Game Gear?

Chester: I don’t know what it reminds me of, because I’m still trying to wade through all of the bullshit buzzwords Sony dropped in its press release on the thing. Seriously, it was just a bunch of nonsense. Also, call me when Sony announces that there will be two or three models, and the least expensive of them will cost $400. And they’ll try to convince us that’s a good deal. 

Conrad Zimmerman: I expect it’ll have the same battery life as the Game Gear. With the quad-core processor draining shit, people aren’t going to be able to use all of those newfangled wireless capabilities for very long.

Sterling: It’s cool, and if they did a proper Killzone FPS on it, I’d spunk up. But Sony burned me several times with the first PSP so I am going to go into this very warily. 

Right now, it’s the PlayStation Suite that I’m most excited for. Sony content on my Android? Yes plz!

Zimmerman: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying is going to be the real coup of this event. The behemoth that is Sony finally lumbering into the mobile space not only with hardware but a platform-agnostic software framework? That’s the story that will have far greater impact than the PSP2.

Chester: If you expect any of that shit to run properly on your device, you’re out of your mind. Also, good luck playing any PS1 game with a touch screen.

Sterling: “Rawr rawr I’m Nick Chester!”

That’s my impression of you in this discussion, Nick Chester.

Chester: Whatever. You have to be realistic. It looks impressive, but so did the PSP when it was announced six years ago or whatever. And look where that landed us. It’s clear there’s a lot of high end tech in this thing, but what does that mean for games outside of “Hey, it’s a PS3 in your hand!” That’s great, but coming from someone who plays his handhelds on his couch or in bed… who cares? If you want a new Killzone, you’ve got it — it’s on your TV. I know how much you travel and commute, Jim: you don’t. Why do you care? 

This thing is also going to cost a million dollars, and we all know it. Sony can’t reasonably price hardware.

On the Android thing — seriously, let’s get real here. The hardware wasn’t designed for games. I have what’s considered a “high end” Android phone with the EVO 4G, and the motherfucker CHUGS when I’m playing Fruit Ninja sometimes. FRUIT NINJA.

Sterling: I’m fucking around, Nick. I actually agree with you on a lot of points. Even when I do commute, I usually listen to music more than I play games. But I do like handheld games, so I don’t know what’s up there. 

In any case, I am tentatively eager to see what this thing can do, but I am definitely staying realistic. The PSPgo and PlayStation Move killed my faith in Sony products, at least from an early adoption standpoint. I don’t want to drop another several hundred dollars on something that won’t be supported, or have a terrible infrastructure. I’m adopting a wait-and-see approach, but I don’t want to be bratty and dump on what does look like a cool bit of tech.

As far as PS Suite goes, I’m still waiting to see. I am excited about that. I understand touch screens aren’t great for traditional games, but some notable innovations have come from it. Gameloft have made games work on the iOS that I would’ve thought impossible, so we’ll see. Sure, controls will be compromised, but I anticipate that at least a few Suite games will work surprisingly well.

Jonathan Holmes: That’s why I think the PS Phone (or Xpedia, or whatever it’s called) will be a lot of fun. Good controls on phone games. I wanted that.

That might be my first smart phone.

Razak: I feel like Sony is making the exact same mistakes it made with the PS3 and PSP here. Over powered, but nothing that catches people’s attention. It’ll sit on shelves much the same way, I fear.

However, the Suite and Phone could mean big things. I could see those taking off much faster as long as they work.

Sterling: Oh yeah Matt, I agree there. What we have with the 3DS vs. NGP is almost an exact rehash of the DS vs. PSP battle. The technically inferior system at a cheap price with a quirky, attention-grabbing gimmick versus raw, expensive power. With the mass market, cheap n’ quirky beats expensive and powerful. That’s one area where Sony is totally out of touch. It doesn’t take an analyst to predict that the 3DS will trounce the NGP.

Chester: My biggest issue with the PS Suite stuff is simply hardware. I’d say that a large percentage of Android phones out there can’t even handle some of the games and content being pushed out there right now. Look at the release of Trendy’s Dungeon Defenders, the Unreal Engine-powered game — most folks are having trouble playing that on their hardware because it wasn’t designed to support something that powerful. I can’t play it on my EVO, and I haven’t even tried because of the poor comments from EVO users the game has been getting. I don’t expect most phones on the market right now to be able to play PS One games, and I put myself in that camp of users.

Holmes: So wait, the NGP has a “rear” touch pad? Am I missing something here?

Isn’t that like having your ass where your face should be?

Chester: See, I didn’t even know that, that’s how bogged down with specs and features this thing is. It’s like everything and the kitchen sink was put into this handheld, and it’s just completely overwhelming to the point where I can’t seem to care. WTF am I going to do with a rear touch pad?

Sterling: Rub your dick against it while playing.

Zimmerman: The rear touchpad thing has been in the rumors since there were rumors. It’s so you can operate the touchpad without blocking your screen, or something.  Sounds awkward to me, but I can see possible applications.

Holmes: They should have just copied the DS feature-for-feature, but improved on them. Sony has never had good original ideas hardware and interface-wise, but they are awesome at taking other people’s ideas and making the better.

Razak: People aren’t going to “get” the rear touch-pad either. I mean, gamers will, but you run out to the general public and go look at this cool rear touch pad and they’re going to look at you quizzically and then start tapping their stylus on their 3DS some more. It feels to me like the kind of tech that’s cool and innovative, but no one picks up on because it just doesn’t catch. It could also suck very easily for many, many reasons.

Zimmerman: But, like I was saying the other day, I don’t know that the processing capability is going to be as much of a concern as time goes on. 4G is some pretty fast shit, though it needs standardization. With the rate at which mobile broadband is improving, combined with cloud computing, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect a service like OnLive could become a distribution venue for more powerful mobile game.

PS Suite therefore allows Sony to lay the groundwork for a long-term strategy in mobile gaming. If it works as a platform-agnostic system and allows Sony to develop for any of the platforms, that’s highly valuable and could pull the rug out from under everybody in the end.

Sterling: Regarding the touchpad, it seems more for showing off than for anything practical. I *am* a gamer and I don’t get it. I don’t know if my brain will comprehend anything more complicated than “rub the back of the system randomly to make stuff happen.” Anything more complicated and I don’t think I’ll be able to retain it. 

Not to mention, it’s a handheld — my hands are back there, holding the system up. I hope that won’t screw a game up.

Chester: I’m firmly in the camp that over the next ten years, we’ll be playing everything from the cloud, OnLive or Gaikai style. But that has nothing to do with Sony’s current Android offerings, which rely on hardware. Whether it lays the foundation for Sony’s future plans in the space remains to be seen, but PS Suite as it stands doesn’t do anything for me, because I’m positive my hardware won’t play nice with it.

Colette Bennett: I don’t care what it does. I’m not paying $400 for a portable gaming device no matter what.

Josh Tolentino: I’m with Colette in that I won’t pay $400, but if I heard the event correctly, didn’t they say that NGP would be backwards-compatible with the downloadable PSP games? 

I know a lot of you don’t care about the PSP’s software lineup, but that’s good news to me. The PSP has some amazing games, and if I can have at least some level of access to those at some point, it’s big plus for me.

Bennett: That is a plus for me too — I like the PSP library a lot, esp RPGs….but I don’t need a portable PS3 with shitty battery life, cause I already own a PS3 that I can plug in =/

Razak: The power of the PS3 bragging point does absolutely nothing for me, nor will it for most consumers who pick up a portable gaming system to have quick fun. I play my DS and PSP as serious gaming systems, but the entire design around this seems to ignore the fact that most people don’t. Then again, if they’re hoping to corner some iPad market with the larger screen and more social networking then maybe that could work. However, the marketing would have to go in a completely different direction to hook in that crowd.

Holmes: Josh, I like Backwards compatibility too, but I own a crap load of UMDs. No UMD compatibility means no real backwards compatibility, at least for me.

I’m sure that the Japanese audience will be thinking the same thing. UMDs sell by the truckloads there. I’m not so sure they huge Japanese PSP audience is going to be too keen on dropping their huge library of UMD games just to jump ship to the NGP.

In a way, I think it all depends on who gets the first new portable Monster Hunter. If it’s the 3DS, then the NGP is screwed in Japan, at least initially. If it’s the NGP, they’ll probably do alright.

My bet is on the 3DS though. I don’t see 3rd parties supporting the NGP right away, largely due to development costs. That’s just me guessing that the NGP game development will cost like PS3/360 games, and not Wii/PSP/3DS games.

Chester: I agree — the fact that it can push PlayStation 3 visuals or whatever is impressive, and in action I’m sure I’ll appreciate it, but that’s not something that factors in for me when playing portable games. If Plants vs. Zombies were rendered using the Unreal Engine and looked as impressive technically as Infinity Blade, I don’t think that would change how I felt about the game. If I’m going to have to sacrifice things like my hard-earned dollars, battery life, and load times — things that are really important to me in portable games — then I’m not interested in a portable PS3. 

Also on that note, if simply having that kind of power just means folks are going to try to make console experiences on a handheld, that’s disappointing. I’m interested in playing a new Uncharted adventure, regardless of what platform its on, this is true. But if it’s just a game that tries to mimic the look and feel of its console big brothers on a handheld, I’d much prefer to be playing that game sitting on my couch.

Tolentino: Price point concerns aside, I like to look at the PSP platform from the perspective of your average Japanese Monster Hunter player, even if it’s not necessarily relevant to what I do every day as a person with near-constant access to a powerful gaming PC and PS3. That’s important because Monster Hunter and their ilk are basically what saved the platform years ago and continue to prop it up today.

So what does the NGP have to offer the Monster Hunter player? It offers the Monster Hunter player the promise that they can play the next Monster Hunter game and feel like they’re not missing out on what the game might be if it were on a home console.

Basically, what I see is a handheld that, gets handheld gaming out of its technological ghetto. We’re always talking about the whole graphical arms race and how gamers are too obsessed with it, and one of the results of that obsession is a disregard of handheld games because of their technical inferiority, like the way a lot of people dismissed Valkyria Chronicles II because it was on the PSP, and couldn’t handle the beautiful art style. With the NGP we’re closer than ever to being able to emulate a home console gameplay experience in a handheld.

True, that was kind of the supposed situation with the PSP way back when, but with the extra analog stick, the (apparently) better integrated online stuff, and so on, the transition is closer to 1:1 than it was then.

So to offer a point on Jonathan’s that who-gets-the-first-Monster-Hunter-game-idea, I would much rather play a Monster Hunter game where I can control the camera with the right stick. Wait, does the 3DS have a right stick? Oops.

And as for doing something different, who knows what they can do with those touchpads. I imagine with some (not inconsiderable) reworking, a game with the 3DS gimmick (sans 3D) could be made to work with the NGP. It’s all up in the air for me at this point.

Holmes: No, you’re right Josh, the 3DS doesn’t have a right stick. Monster Hunter would definitely control better on the NGP.

That said, my bet is still on the next Monster Hunter coming to the 3DS, for the 3D, for the nearly-guaranteed massive global install base, and because I’m guessing 3DS games will be cheaper to develop for.

To speak to Nick and Matt’s points, the 3DS is looking to offer something different than just “a home console experience in your hand”, while the NGP that seems to be exactly what the NGP is going for. I know that personally, I want to own them both, but I’m not guessing most people will feel that way.

Chester: What I got from what you just said, Josh, is that it comes down to games. And that’s very true, to a point. It comes down to games like Monster Hunter in Japan, for sure. The PSP had a lot of great software for gamers like yourself, like Colette, like Dale… it was a very RPG, Japanese-centric platform, and that’s great. Not great for me, and not great for North American gamers (which is maybe why it never truly seemed to take off in the states). It’s going to come down to software, but not only that, it’s going to come down to unique software. At least for me. 

The the idea of Call of Duty on a handheld really isn’t doing anything for me, honestly. But let’s think about something that might… a portable Team Ico game. That sounds great, right? But what about this particular game is going to make me want to play it on a portable, over something like the PS3? Is it just going to be Shadow of the Colossus on a portable? People would go nuts over that idea, but when you stop and think about it, what’s the point? 

Right now, it’s too early to say what developers have in store for this thing. I feel like I’m too hung up on the thing’s power and its specs — Sony is pushing that a lot. It’s the “arms race,” like you said, Josh. Sony always gets into this game, coming out of the gate with untouchable hardware that it hopes will wow everyone into throwing dollars their way. It’s easy to get excited about what a platform CAN do, and this NGP certainly looks capable of doing everything other portables can do and maybe even better. But what it comes down to, for me, is what it WILL do.

Bennett: I just don’t think gamers that want the cutting edge of what’s new in games want to play it on a small screen, no matter how big said screen may be for its size. I think they’d rather play that game on a big screen. Maybe I am wrong, I don’t know, but I think of my handheld gaming experiences and my console ones in completely different terms.

Julio Capote: Our image server seems to have gone down, it’s back up now.

Chester: I can’t believe we hijacked a tech issue thread with game discussion.

Bennett: I can.

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