Fun on the run

It’ll be a game-chang­ing year for por­ta­ble en­ter­tain­ment, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley-Ni­chol­son

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

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.

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