And here comes Sony's PSP successor

The NGP will sport a touch screen on top and a touch pad on the back which is will be almost the same size as the screen (SUPPLIED)

Sony Computer Entertainment has confirmed what has probably been one of the industry’s worst kept secrets – the true successor to the PSP handheld console that has been struggling to keep Sony in the handheld game for the last few years.

With Nintendo’s DS machine, launched almost the same time as the PSP, dominating the handheld space, it was a foregone conclusion that Sony’s PSP would eventually get a successor worthy of the PSP crown.

While Nintendo has been enhancing the DS over the last six years with DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL, Sony has been fighting another war with Microsoft on the high definition home entertainment front with the PlayStation 3.

Sony did make an effort with the PSP Go, which hasn’t had significant success to speak of.

With Nintendo’s announcement of the 3DS handheld as the successor to the DS handheld, it was only a matter of the timing of Sony’s announcement, suggested that the NGP, as its codenamed right now, will launch around November-December this year.

As expected, the NGP incorporates some significant technical improvements over the PSP. Storage will no longer be on UMD. In its place, a flash memory card has been chosen. It remains to be seen if this is a proprietary Sony format or more mass market solution. Sony has mentioned that they will be able to provide higher capacity cards in the future to allow developers to store more game data. This suggests a proprietary storage format, which may be instrumental in the control of pirated content.

The NGP will sport a touch screen on top and a touch pad on the back which is will be almost the same size as the screen. This should lend itself to some interesting gameplay mechanics using the multi-touch screen and touch pads.

Launch titles should include NGP versions from the Call of Duty, Little Big Planet, Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted franchises.

A glance at the tech specification sheet shows that Sony is hoping for the device to become part of the consumer’s social activity by utilising 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Apart from this the NGP also has built in GPS and motion sensing system.

One of the most interesting features in the NGP is the LiveArea central interface from where the player interacts with the PlayStation space by hopping in and out of games as well as other apps. Couple this with the new PlayStation Suite, for the

Android 2.3 platform, and you have the ability to take the PlayStation experience out of physical PlayStation devices and onto mobile handsets running the Android OS.

At this point, it looks like while Nintendo is capitalising on the 3D gaming wave, Sony seems to want to continue to deliver high definition gaming on the go while carefully considering how connected players are these days.

The year’s conventions at E3 in Los Angeles, Gamescom in Germany and the Tokyo Games Show should reveal more, including the final name for this device.

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