Theory: Are Portable Systems the Next Evolutionary Jump in Gaming?
Before the NGP (then known as the PSP2) was announced, rumors about the console boasted some lofty features. Could the small handheld really put out PS3-level graphics? After Sony’s demonstration at their press conference the other night all of our mouths were collectively shut before falling agape once more when we finally saw what the machine could do. The NGP really was displaying graphics indiscernible from the PlayStation 3’s, demonstrating with well-known series such as Uncharted, Yakuza and Lost Planet. During the Shockcast, our Deputy Editor Joel Taveras (or whoever the hell said it) posited that a handheld so powerful could cause redundancy in the market. If gamers have a comparable Uncharted title on the PS3 and the NGP, they’ll likely have to choose one or the other. What could Sony do to prevent this rift in their own fanbase? I thought of an even bigger question. What if they didn’t have to?
In the last couple of years the iPhone has made portable gaming cool. Everyone has either an iOS device or an Android in their pocket, backpack, purse or fanny pack and they’re all addicted to Angry Birds. There is little difference in the console gaming industry. In the US, 75% of gaming is still done on home consoles. The DS prints money and the PSP barely does ok, but most American gamers want to come home to their 360 or PS3. However, in Japan handheld gaming rules the market. Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest IX were mega-Blockbuster-smash-hits. MH even single-handedly made the PSP the highest selling Japanese console in 2010. Clearly handhelds have gained a legitimacy they’ve never had and have nearly reached same tier as handheld consoles. With this next generation they’re finally on that level.
The PSP already can already connect to an HDTV so naturally that feature will carry over to the NGP. With its ARM® Cortex™-A9 core processor NGP gameplay displaying on an HDTV will be no different from playing a PS3 game. At first we’ll get spinoffs from major franchises like Uncharted and Killzone on the NGP, then later maybe some feature that allows you to cloud your PS3 data and play sections of games on the go. Finally we’ll start to see full retail entries in major series on the console and less output to the PS3 until Sony stops supporting the PS3 completely. NGP is still just a codename. What if the real title for the console is… PlayStation 4? NGP was also the codename for the PlayStation 2 before release (Next Generation PlayStation). The model shown at the event simply said ‘PlayStation’ on the front. Notice that nowhere on the PSP does it say PlayStation, nor does anyone (practically even Sony) actually refer to it as the ‘PlayStation Portable.’ The name PSP always kept it on its own tier, separate from the company’s home consoles. Could this be a sign that Sony actually sees the NGP on the same level as the PS3?
Now this is all just speculation, of course, but what if handheld gaming is just the next evolutionary step in video game consoles? The line between portable and home consoles gets blurred further and further every year. Eventually it will cease to exist. I have seen the future and it is tiny.