Fun on the run
It’ll be a game-changing year for portable entertainment, writes Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
WANT to game on the go? It’s a good year for it. Mobile gamers will have access to unprecedented choice and technology this year.
Sony last week revealed a new PlayStation Portable with advances including an OLED touchscreen, rear touch panel and 3G internet connection.
The company also announced plans to bring its games to Google Android smartphones for the first time.
Meanwhile, Nintendo is poised to launch a 3D games console in Australia next month and mobile gaming newcomer Apple continues to threaten by racking up more than 10 billion app downloads, many of them games.
Sony Computer Entertainment Australia managing director Michael Ephraim says the industry is in the midst of a major shake-up.
‘‘ Portable gaming is becoming a very crowded and a very diverse space,’’ Ephraim says.
‘‘ It’s a different industry to what it used to be.’’
He says Sony plans to transform it further this year with the launch of a PlayStation Portable successor codenamed Next Generation Portable.
The long, rounded device will feature a five-inch OLED touchscreen — a first for a commercially produced gadget — as well as a touch-sensitive panel on its back.
Touching this rear panel can virtually raise on-screen landscapes — to push around a ball, for example. Run two fingers up and down the rear panel and characters can scale rockfaces.
These additions will change the way games are played and made, he says.
‘‘ To be able to touch the front and the back of the screen completely changes the way you play a game,’’ he says.
Two joysticks have also been added to the NGP, as well as cameras front and back, a four-core processor for speedy gameplay and, for the first time, a 3G internet connection.
That connection, in conjunction with a GPS chip, will deliver services including Near, which lets users see players in their area and discover popular titles.
The NGP console will also bring back physical game media rather than use the PSPgo’s unpopular downloadonly approach.
Ephraim admits the PSPgo did not sell well in Australia.
‘‘ It was the first of its kind and, when you look at it, it was not a highly successful product, but it was on the same path as this console,’’ he says.
‘‘ I don’t want to call it a learning tool, but we did learn a lot from it.’’
Its successor will be launched before Christmas, but price is yet to be revealed.
Sony will also launch a Google Android games store called PlayStation Suite.
Sony Computer Entertainment president Kazuo Hirai says the store is a reaction to the ‘‘ expanding market’’ for mobile phone games and also a recognition of how far phone hardware has come.
‘‘( Phones) were far too inadequate to deliver PlayStation-quality content, but today handheld devices are capable of handling content that we had in mind back in 2004,’’ Hirai says.
Sony will tussle with Apple for a market share, while Nintendo is likely to stake a further claim on game-buyers in late March with the 3DS.
Whichever you choose, it’s a good time to be looking for portable entertainment. Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson travelled to Japan as a guest of Sony Innovative: The (PSP) Playstation 2011 features a rear touch panel and 3G internet connection.