Objection! What Do We Think Of Sony's NGP?

Welcome to Objection! This is where we take the time to go on-depth on current gaming issues, and let you guys continue the discussion in the comments section.

This week we're weighing up the latest news on Sony's NGP, and to help us we've brought in an ex-Kotaku Editor. Which one? Well, we'll give you a clue - his name rhymes with mild-juice. And I had to edit out multiple references to Far Cry 2.

Of course I'm referring to Mr David Wildgoose, now Group Editor at Next Media, working relentlessly on PC Powerplay and Hyper. Speaking of Hyper, the Goose also told me you should all check out the new look issue (the one with De Blob on the cover). I agree - you should check it out. My name is Mark Serrels and the new issue of Hyper is the best games magazine in the Citadel.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand...

MARK: So Goose – what say thee in response to the NGP announcement, and all the news streaming in overnight?

GOOSE: My initial response to the NGP news was an almost complete lack of surprise. The next PSP is almost identical to the original PSP in terms of the thinking behind its design. Sony, as ever, is all about winning the hardware arms race, and the NGP is the most powerful handheld launching this year.

But I can't help but wonder, given that the PSP was the most powerful handheld of its generation, what lessons Sony learned from that humiliating loss to Nintendo?

MARK: I was actually surprised the design was so conservative. From an aesthetic standpoint I felt like the original PSP looked a little dated in comparison to the latest smartphones and even the DS Lite. I expected something... different. I expected to be surprised - for a different reason!

Before the event I said that the Sony’s new handheld was in desperate need of a point of difference and, on some level, had to be some sort of convergence device, bearing in mind that it would be directly competing with a new set of handheld devices. At this stage I’m a little unconvinced.

As for lessons learned, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of deja vu. We had Jack Tretton channelling Ken Kutaragi, claiming that consumers would be happy to pay over the odds for slick, well presented tech, we had a number of Japanese developers demoing PS3 ports - but no new software designed specifically for the device - and very little in the way of proper third party support. The original PSP struggled with an onslaught of rushed ports – I hope the NGP doesn’t suffer a similar fate.

I have a weird, dark, unrequited love for Hideo Kojima, but his vision of cloud based gaming, which suggests that players could take their home console experiences on the move, seems to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of mobile gaming. I don’t want a home console experience in my pocket – I want an experience tailored to the medium.

GOOSE: Mark, I can't but agree with you. The PSP was at its best when it offered experiences tailored to a portable, handheld environment. I'm thinking puzzle games such as Lumines and old-school RPGs like Persona. But when a GTA or a God of War or a Resistance was shoehorned into a UMD, the compromises left you wondering why you weren't playing the real thing on a console. Even a PSP game I adored, Valkyria Chronicles 2, still had to sacrifice its console sibling's distinctive art and expansive battlefields.

But agreement makes for a boring Objection! piece, so let me play devil's advocate. Sony would argue that the NGP's twin sticks, larger screen and near-HD resolution means you can deliver console-like gaming without the compromise. You'd play Metal Gear Solid 4 on a handheld, surely?

MARK: I’ve played through Metal Gear Solid 4 four times and watching the NGP demo, with that handsome bastard Kojima presenting, almost had me limbering up for round five. So yes, I would 100% play MGS4 on a handheld.

It’s an interesting one – I think one of the greatest innovations of the PSP was its superior sleep function, which really freed developers up in terms of what they could do with on-the-go gaming.

Ready at Dawn had arguably the best track record on the PSP - with Daxter and their God of War games – and their technique was to completely ignore the fact they were developing a handheld game and simply make the best game possible with the tech. So, in that regard maybe I’m being a little pessimistic.

At the end of the day, however, my most played game on the PSP was Loco Roco – a game tailor made for the PSP. You won’t find a bigger Metal Gear Solid fan in this country, and I’ve yet to touch my copy of MGS: Peace Walker. It remains in cellophane to this day.

Take from that what you will!

GOOSE: I take from that that you don't want watered down experience on a handheld; you'd rather play console-like games on a console. While I'm sure the techno-fetishists are currently sitting in a pile of wadded, slightly moist tissues after watching the Uncharted and Unreal Engine demos, it's not something that gets me excited.

Which is why I think the PS Suite announcement was the most interesting - and why I earlier placed that "almost" qualifier on my complete lack of surprise. After experimenting with "bite-sized" gaming with the PS Minis, Sony's decision to throw open its doors to the Android development community should result in far more of the type of gaming experience I want from a handheld. Of course, whether I'm willing to fork out what will surely be well over AU$400 for the pleasure is another issue entirely.

How much would you pay for the NGP?

MARK: What I’d pay for the NGP is probably a bit irrelevant, because I’d probably be willing to pay stupid money. What I think the price will be is probably a more reasonable question.

I expect the 3DS to cost in the region of $350-400, so I wouldn’t expect the NGP to retail at anything less than $499.

It seems almost impossible to predict. A 3G enabled, 16GB iPad retails at $799.95, and the undoubtedly pricey (but super shiny) OLED screen has me wondering if Sony are more interested in targeting that premium market. That being said, I think most would baulk at anything more $599.

I think the next generation iPad is being overlooked in this equation. Most are weighing up the 3DS and the NGP, but the 3DS will sell to a different market, searching for a different experience. Sony are essentially butting heads with the Smartphone market and the insane range of new tablets that’ll hit the market in 2011. Children and ‘core’ gamers will happily carry around a 3DS alongside their iPhone/iPad, but will they do the same with an NGP?

GOOSE: You're probably right in regard to pricing. The DSi XL launched at $349 so that's surely the minimum we're looking at for the 3DS. The PSPgo launched at $449 - a figure admittedly skewed high by the excessive margin Sony had to offer retailers to even stock the download-only device - and the NGP looks considerably more costly than that. With a price tag of around $500-600 is Sony running the risk of falling in between the high-end iPad and the low-end smartphone with a product that sort of mixes bits of both, but doesn't do enough to stand on its own as an all-in-one device?

Software pricing is another concern - and not just for Sony but for Nintendo, too. PSP and DS games are already vastly overpriced compared to the smartphone market. When NGP games are pushing "close to PS3 graphics", you can bet they're not going to be selling for $1 a pop. Consumers already don't pay $50 for a PSP game; why would they start paying more than that for an NGP game?

Still, we're speculating mere hours after the device was revealed. Sony's got the best part of a year to come up with answers to all these questions - probably longer in our case since I very much doubt the NGP will launch in Australia in 2011. And by that point, with the 3DS established and new iPad and smartphone models in the wild, the market could look very different.


Comments

    "I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of Deja Vu."

    Agreed. Powerful tech? Check. Console game names being thrown around? Check. Nothing that actually makes it seem like a good portable system (size, battery etc)? Check...

    I'll wait and see, but I doubt I'll be buying one any time soon.

      Exactly, any chance of this being a good handheld died when they announced it isn't chargeable and lasts 3-5 hours.

        3-5 hours? So like 1 good gaming session, or maybe a couple of short sessions on the bus or train. That is pretty pathetic.

          Wait - There's no recharge? What?

            I think that should've read "changable" (so you can swap to a spare). It's a sealed unit like iPods etc.

              Oh good, I thought maybe Sony lost their minds.

    Haha I actually thought it was kinda cool that they hadnt changed the look that much, but now after reading this you guys have made me feel kinda stupid for it :P

    They may be getting a bit ahead of themselves thinking that people will pay more for the slick tech or whatever, but it doesnt really matter as it will probably sell well enough in Japan anyway. As soon as monster hunter prtable 4th comes out that is..
    Those Japanese people sure are crazy.

    "I’m sure the techno-fetishists are currently sitting in a pile of wadded, slightly moist tissues."

    EEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWW.

    Interesting point about the pricing and Sony perhaps going for the iPad market. Would the premium tablet market (business professionals?) really choose an ostensibly gaming, tech-y tablet/handheld hybrid over a pure Apple or Android tablet? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

    Not keen on the name.

    I must say I’m a bit scared, all this talk of 3g connectivity etc.
    I just can’t afford it. I support my wife and son. I don’t earn that much.
    I would really like a smartphone but when I sat down and really thought about it, after the price of the device and the monthly cost to run it…I just can’t justify that much cash!

    Everyone always tells me to get it on a plan, but that isn’t any better at all.

    I know that I’m going to miss some kind of functionality if I can’t afford to stick a sim card in it.

    Gaming has been ruined for guys like me. Ever since Final Fantasy III made it mandatory to connect your DS online to get the best equiptment I have been pissed off.

    If I want to get the most out of the experience I would have to ditch my other hobbies in favour of this.

    Not happy…

    can't stop but wondering how durable the back touch-pad is, or more practically, if it's even necessary.
    Maybe it's only there so sony can say "you can touch this thing, front! AND BACK! it's totally different from an iPhone, you'll scream in joyous awe! Sony Style!"

    and if it's really 499 like Mark said, I'll disguise my PSP2000 as a NGP and sell it on eBay...THEN proply buy a 3DS with that $$$

      Have you ever tried to game on an iPhone? Touching the screen obscures your vision and can be game breaking...

      Placing a touch pad on the back should mean you can have all the touch functionality without obscuring vision, which is awesome, and can still use the screen as a touch screen for more precision when required. I think its brilliant for gaming

    I agree 100%, except for the pricing of games. There is still a gulf between the majority of games on handhelds and smartphones in graphics, sound and duration.

    They are different markets, although they do leech off each other.

    While both fill time between A and B, handhelds are what people settle down with while waiting for C to run up so they can get to D, or when they've gotten to H and want a distraction while the TV is on.

    Just my...4.73 cents.

    Conservative design? Good. I never buy launch titles, so launch software is no issue for me. It seems like I'm the only one that was happy with the PSP and is 100% satisfied with this next iteration granted it is region free. Please be region free.

    As for the above comment saying Japanese people are crazy, those Japanese must be thinking the same thing about Call of Duty every year.

    You won’t find a bigger Metal Gear Solid fan in this country, and I’ve yet to touch my copy of MGS: Peace Walker. It remains in cellophane to this day.

    ಠ_ಠ
    ---------------------------------------------------

    I joke. I can kind of see you're reasoning behind this with wanting a different experience for portable, but for me, I'm not fussed. I just want a *good* experience, Peace Walker delivered that. I mean, couldn't you just argue Nintendo are doing the same thing by re-releasing Ocarina? Resident Evil? Splinter Cell? MGS3?

    And I agree with what's being said here. NGP is powerful, but games and price points is what's going to sell it. Although I don't want to, I personally think NGP will be minimum of $500, which is far too much. Isn't that how much PS3's go for these days?

      Exellent point :D
      Everyone is fawning over the 3DS but what groundbreaking IP's have been announced.....

    I want one...sort of
    Can't believe they didn't learn from no UMD's on GO
    I think the real point of difference will be the games.
    Initial focus will be on similarities to tablets and phones, to show Sony cam compete in marketplace.
    Marketing will then focus on games and all the things the NGP will be able to do BETTER than the competition.
    If they can do it better that is.....

      WAIT!
      I glazed over that part...NO UMDs?
      Is it strictly Dl only?
      SHhhhhhhiiiiii...

        No, it's just that they've replaced UMD's with some kind of Flash memory cards. Think what Nintendo is doing with 3DS/DS.

          which is the smart thing to do

          A) no moving parts
          B) you can't damage the media

          the only reason they didn't do it last time IMO was the fact that at the time flash was rather expensive(but im guessing so is making a UMD) and There Push for Movie system on it

          the Flash cards run the risk of being able to play hacked games, though i think thats one of the real reason's theres no swappable batteries

    When did they announce it wasn't chargeable? You're talking out of your ass. The battery life was announced to be similar to the PSP 3000 which is around 4=6 hours, LONGER than the 3DS, even though it's several times more powerful.

    I, for one, will be buying this on day one. The 3DS just seems like an repackaged DS to me with a gimmicky 3D screen.

      Man I hate people. You Sony fanboys can gawp over this as long as you like, but I am yet to see anything groundbreaking on this. Except for the worlds ugliest hud.

    I know I've said it before, but this thing has Lynx written all over it.

    By far the most powerful tech, best graphics and sound etc. but too effin big to go in a pocket and shitty battery life.

    And yeah, it seems like Sony missed the point again, gaming at home on a 50" TV with surround sound is a different experience to gaming on the bus, regardless of how powerful the handheld is, and demands different games for that experience. This idea of having a PS3 in your hand sounds cool, but doesn't translate.

    If it played *actual* PS3 games and had HDMI out to plug into my TV and would let you use wireless controllers, then I'd be interested as I could play big at home and continue the game on the road, but as it is, I'd rather something designed to be portable with games structured around that idea.

    I'll be waiting for the 2nd iteration of the 3DS, the Sony won't be in Australia until 2012 anyway and by then there will probably be a 2nd-gen 3DS out with bigger battery and a big line up of titles to choose from.

    Don't get me wrong, I am salivating over the *tech* of the Sony Need.Gigantic.Pockets but I think the gaming experience and the size make it a mis-hit as far as portable gaming goes. If I want to lug something large around, I'd rather go the whole hog and stick and iPad2 in my bag.

    You guys need to stop talking about battery life, it was announced that it's similar to the PSP 3000 (4-6 hours) which is longer than the measly 3=5 hours for the 3DS.

    So far, this is looking far superior to the 3DS. The only thing that can stop it is the price which is yet to be announced.

      +10. The battery isn't changeable, people misread that on Sankaku as *chargeable* before wailing about it on every news site.

      No UMD drive = no spinning motor that drains batteries. I'm impressed the battery life hasn't been gimped unlike the 3DS.

      If you consider 3 - 5 hours measly, then surely you consider 4 - 6 hours measly as well. It's hardly any better.

      And I guess it's a matter of opinion - to be honest, the PSP2 sounds to me as appealing as the PSP was.

        Not quite, the PSP2 is extremely powerful so you'd expect a gimped battery life, and yet it still lasts longer than the 3DS which has far inferior hardware.

      3-5 on max settings as opposed to 4-6 on standard settings. Yeah. I know which one I'm picking.

        Indeed. Various interviews have confirmed that the 3DS has the 3-5 if everything is on. Turn off the 3D and it can last up to 8. Turn off Spot Pass and it'll exceed 10. Then fiddle with brightness and you're set.

        Kotaku just seems to not repost these interviews, unlike everywhere else on the internet

    Portable gaming = gimped console gaming for the most part.

    This is why multi-plat games were superior on the PSP (racing games, sports games, beat 'em ups, even GTA Chinatown Wars)

    The more power the better as far as i'm concerned, as long as it isn't ridiculously priced.

    I disagree that the PSP/DS games are 'vastly overpriced' (Australian price markups notwithstanding). Instead, it's more a case that the smartphone games are severely underpriced.

    There should be some kind of happy medium between the two. $30-40 AUD for a DS or PSP game always seemed like about the sweet spot, at least for me.

      It's a reflection of the cost to make them. One guy in his basement or some friends at Uni vs. Corporate team of 10+ people, plus publisher on top.

      What needs to change is not the price at retail, but the means of manufacture, I guess. Focus on graphics = costs more.

    For me, portable gaming means to and from work, which can be 2 hours each way, so for me a 5 hour battery life is fine.

    What I always fail to understand is that this is somehow completely unacceptable for some people. I believe that my round trip too and from work would be at the longest end of daily travel time scales.

    Beyond this I feel as though if it's being used between home and work and you need more time, then you probably should find a job closer to home, or it's not between work but an actual holiday/road trip or something. I mean, using crappy averages...

    Sleep = 8 hours
    Work / School = 6-8 hours
    Travel = 1 hour
    Breakfast/Dinner = 1 hour
    Portable Gaming = 5 hours
    Total = 21-23 hours

    Really don't see how this is a huge issue, so how often is everyone doing these 5 hour trips which means that you might have to stop playing only because you ran out of power?? Surely it can't be daily! This is a serious question, because outside of trips away, this issue shouldn't arise.

    I'm saddened that we can't replace the battery this time around so no spare batteries! :( Guess it's just strange when you hear stories from people that use their phones for mobile gaming, where they charge the phone every night while they are sleeping and those devices don't get the same flak.

    As for Sony taking on the tablet market as primary competition and will be hard up against the new wave of tablets? personally I will choose tactile controls over touch screen only everyday, perhaps I'm in the minority now, but at this point I feel as there is only so much you can do with touch controls only, and they are inferior compared to regular controls for the games I want to play.

      especially seeing as if you go to work at somewhere with electricity you can charge it

      +1
      I'm in the same boat mate. I have a decent commute everyday and my psp makes it bearable. I might also add that my DS has sat dormant in my draw for over a year now. PSP has offered me more adult, time engrossing games and I've even managed to complete some of those ps1 RPG golden oldies that I wouldn't have the time to play at home.

      I simply prefer the PSP console over the DS and will most likely prefer this new version - and its games - over the competition. Bit sick of that plumber guy. Such a boring character!

      I like to play on the trip to Taiwan...8.5 hours.

    Am I the only one who thinks it looks like one of those fisher price games things for toddlers? Lol

    The device looks great, I agree with the fact that Sony are trying to win the hardware race, Sony have always considered themselves a hardware company.

    And I agree with oggob about the a 5 hour battery life being perfectly sufficient for most users. But there's a psychological factor involved too, it's not desirable to think that you're going to have to charge everytime you game for five hours, and with the combination of things like web browsing and what not the life is probably shorter. Personally, I like devices with 30-50 hour battery lifes (Walkman for example) even though i'm only ever going to be away from a power source for at the most 10 hours.

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