NGP: Sony’s “Next Generation Portable”

Codenamed “NGP” for Next Generation Portable, the system packs a load of impressive technology, including two analog sticks, a 5-inch OLED touchscreen (for reference, an iPhone’s screen is 3.5 inches), a second touch pad on the back of the device, and a new flash-card media format. NGP will also feature 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, front and rear cameras, an electronic compass, and six-axis motion-sensing capability. Other NGP functions, such as a location-based application that lets users find nearby players and a user-interface that ties social-networking features to every game.  The system has a new rounded form factor as well (Sony calls it the ‘Super Oval Design’) and is physically a bit larger than the current PSP-3000 model.

A slew of first-party NGP games were announced — including new titles in the Hot Shots Golf, LittleBigPlanet, WipeOut, Killzone, Resistance and (gasp!) Uncharted franchises — as well as games from publishers like Capcom, Sega, Tecmo, Konami, and Activision, who will be bringing blockbuster franchise Call of Duty to the system.

The system is the first of its kind to include dual analog sticks — a feature widely requested by PSP fans. Motion-sensing control via the built-in gyroscopes was also on display, but perhaps most impressive is the dual touch interface. The touch pad on the back of the device is positioned directly underneath the main touchscreen, which allows for innovative ‘pinch’ control by using the two simultaneously.

This device is a serious step up from Sony’s last handheld release, the underwhelming PSP Go, which did little to help Sony gain ground on Nintendo’s league-leading DS line. However, DS sales have slipped in recent months in anticipation of the 3DS, which produces 3D visuals without the need of special glasses.

Sony announced that the system will be released before the end of 2011, though no word on whether that’s a worldwide date or just for Japan. How about the price? NGP  is going to cost more than Nintendo’s 3DS, but just how much are we talking about? Sony’s President Shu Yoshida told Game Informer that “it’s not going to be $599.”