Editorial: On the Future of Sony Handheld gaming; or Why You Shouldn’t Lay Down That Pre-Order Just Yet, Luis Vasquez: Part 1

The PSP2

 

Not what I'd call a true portable device ...

If ever there was a piece of hardware with an identity crisis, this is it. To the best of my knowledge the precise specifications of the PSP2 have yet to leak out of Sony’s loose-lipped Playstation department, owing to the fact that Sony themselves have not as yet locked down the spec due to overheating issues. Nevertheless, there are wide reports of the system offering performance somewhere within the vicinity of the PS3 and Xbox 360. The system may well be perfect for the Japanese transit monkeys and any other gamer wanting to primarily consume their home console quality video games on the move, but for gamers who already spend a lot of time with their home consoles, the PSP2 will not be an essential purchase. I must admit to a degree of bafflement as to why Sony would think it a good idea to so drastically over-engineer their next handheld console. The Nintendo 3DS is less powerful than a current-gen iPod so there is a case for aiming a little higher than that, but assuming that the PSP2 really is possessed of similar capabilities to the 360 and PS3, then Sony have gone and created something that already exists, albeit in portable form.

 

Portable CoD means that Oliver Motok need never answer his phone

At this point I feel that it is incumbent upon me to raise the question; what kind of games will we see on the PSP2? Allow me to answer my own question; it will be a handheld of ports. Many people criticized the PSP for having too many PS2 ports, especially during the early days, yet this will be as nothing compared the PSP2 portstrosity. Sony’s internal developers not withstanding, virtually no developer will create unique software for the PSP2, it is unviable to create software of this magnitude for one piece of hardware alone when multiple systems are capable of running it. Over the course of the current generation we have seen the presence of third party exclusives all but vanish between the PS3 and 360, and I predict that the PSP2 will be no different in this regard. It will be an awesome handheld for online FPS addicts, and no one else. Additionally, the current hardware generation has sent many Japanese developers scurrying for the handheld systems, as their financial model simply will not allow them to be profitable on the home consoles. This type of niche game will be lost to the PSP2 with its beefy requirements, as they will likely make their new home on the modestly specced 3DS. The one potential feature which stands to make the PSP2 a darkhorse contender to the portable gaming crown, is the off-chance that Sony are smart enough to allow owners to download and play PS2 titles on the hardware, if this is the case then by default it becomes as indispensible to me as the PSP.

 

But if it's new then that means it's good, right?

In terms of physical construction, the PSP2 is replete with features that PSP owners have been clamoring for since day 1. Sony has implemented twin analogue sticks to assuage the demands of shooter fans left cold by the original PSP design. Sony may be late to the touch screen party, but they appear to be making up for lost time with the addition of not only a touch screen, but also the inclusion of a touch strip at the back of the console, so as to allow touch input in conjunction with traditional controls. The PSP2 is very much a premium design in every sense of the word, but the trade-off for this is that the system is bigger than the original PSP. I have never considered the PSP to be a true portable system, it is a great system to curl up on the couch with, but it is a very bad system to try and fit in your pocket. Sony appears to have really embraced this design philosophy by creating a premium home portable system more apt to compete with existing home consoles than with truly the portable systems.

 

You might want to hold off on that pre-order Luis ....

Buying a 3DS is a no-brainer for me because the system is virtually assured of offering the unique gaming experiences that I crave. On the other hand, I can only take a wait and see approach to Sony’s future portable hardware, as every single desirable feature appears to come with its own significant downside. The one saving grace will be the inclusion of PS2 software functionality, here’s hoping that Sony are awake to such opportunities … At this point I should very much like to solicit the weaboo reckon on the topic of Sony’s portable strategy. Is there something I have missed? Is the PSP2 something that you would want? Do you wish to consume console experiences on the go? Would you buy a PSP2 ahead of the 3DS, even though the 3DS looks set to have the advantage in terms of original programming? How does PS2 software factor into your purchase intent? Will Oliver Motok ever answer his phone again once he is able to take Call of Duty with him on the occasion that he leaves his abode?

 

7 comments

  1. There is talk of a PSP2 Uncharted game. If that turns out to be true, I’ll most likely get one down the road.

  2. Uncharted should stay on the PS3, if they put it on the PSP2 then I’ll have a hard choice to make, but I won’t be at all happy buying the PSP2 if it’s just for some Sony carat of fail that they’ve dangled out to shunt their PS3 customers into buying their pointless barely portable home console ….

  3. They’re not interested in anything that’s incompatible with the Tenga Fliphole peripheral …

  4. I think the current problem facing portable systems is actually selling games because they’re so exceedingly easy to pirate stuff on. Both the “core” home systems can be pretty easily modded at this point to avoid ever rewarding developers for pouring years of labor into AAA titles, but it’s far, far worse on the portables.

    As for the PSP specifically, yeah the lack of a second analog stick and large size are both platform impediments, but I’m not sure adding a second stick and full PS2 compatibility would really help. For the latter, if you go back and play many PS2 games I don’t think they hold up that well. Action games tend to be rough looking and not control very well. The first Devil May Cry was nigh unplayable when I tried to go back and actually finish it after playing God of War I&II.

    As for how powerful the PSP2 could be and how it stacks up, I think we need to remember that the current gen consoles are about five years old. Silicon process technology has (or will shortly) be ~1/4th the size transistors that were in the launch PS3 and 360. By putting in a more power friendly and more gaming focused CPU into the PSP2 Sony could cut power consumption signficantly from the PS3 and perform similarly, I think.

    The 3D performance is obviously important as well, and I’m not too familiar with what PowerVR (PVG?) who used to make Kryo GPUs with “tile-rendering” on PCs for a week or two before running away for a few years to re-emerge on smartphones and system-on-a-chips can muster as far as high performance goes, but even if Sony has to go with a more conventional Nvidia GPU again the PSP2 isn’t going to have higher than a 720p screen. The PS3 and 360 generally aren’t even reaching 720p according to pixel counting forums, anyway.

    So, I could see the PSP2 having pretty decent hardware, but don’t picture it ending up with games I’d actually want to play. Unless Square-Enix remakes FFV and FFVI on it and then I’ll rob a liquor store to get money for it if there’s no old ladies I can rob more quickly on the way to Gamestop.

  5. The PSP2 doesn’t have a 720P screen, and so won’t be capable of 720p, yet the pixel density of the smaller screen is likely to create a perceptually similar effect. My 4th gen iPod has a resolution of about 600 X 900 (it might even be 600 X 800?) if memory serves me correctly, but looks to match (if not exceed) 720p in terms of the sharpness of the display.

    The PS3 and 360 generally reach 720p on big budget titles that are not Halo or CoD, but many of the smaller games are, as you say, sub-HD.

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