After the NGP was unveiled on Thursday Kaz Hirai, chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment, discussed his plans for the device with journalists. He revealed the device is the result of a two-year process in which they rethought the whole PSP platform. “We started getting consumer feedback like, for example, why don’t you have two sticks?” said Hirai. The aim was to “really change the game experience”.
One of the ideas Sony came up with was the rear touch panel. “It seemed like a great idea conceptually” he said. “We prototyped it and it looked pretty good, we played it and it’s actually pretty fun so we said this is a feature that’s going to make it into the actual product”. A feature that missed the cut was 3D. Sony has a massive hand in the 3D market, last year being one of the main companies pushing the technology. Sony added the ability to play 3D Blu-ray disc movies to Playstation 3 consoles as well as bringing out a range of 3D TV’s. “We looked at the possibility of doing 3D on the NGP,” said Hirai. Discussions with software makers convinced the company not to include it. “We decided to forgo 3D, at least for the time being”.
Another change made was the decision to bring physical media back. Sony has developed a flash-based memory card format, and according to Hirai it will be up to publishers to decide whether to offer titles on card, as downloads or through both formats. “If you’re a consumer in Japan or any other country where networks services are advanced, downloading content is not so much of a problem,” said Hirai. “But we intend to do business in various territories around the world, where network service is not as readily available in terms of speed or affordability.”
He also said the use a new media format will add an additional layer of security. “If it was a standard SD card that fits in, then I foresee a lot of potential issues that we want to avoid with one additional layer of security,” he said.
Sony have faced criticism in the past for the high launch price of new gaming systems. They have taken a more careful approach this time, keeping in mind the cost of components while developing the NGP. Sony plan to balance the price with features and will be careful not to set it too high. “That’s something we spent a lot of time on this time around with NGP, to make sure that we don’t go off the deep end,” he said.
He also claimed they have not yet decided on the launch plans. “We need to sit down with our publishing partners, look at [production] capacity and come to an ultimate decision on whether it’s a simultaneous launch, a one-territory launch or two,” he said. But he did say the company is looking at launching two models: one with Wi-Fi and 3G compatibility and one with just Wi-Fi.