The NGP, now known officially as the PlayStation Vita, was unveiled to the public during the Sony press conference at E3 2011 to a very excited audience. The Vita is Sony’s new portable gaming console and successor to the PSP released in late 2004.
The PlayStation Vita sports a 5-inch OLED Multi-touch screen, two front and rear facing cameras with head tracking, a rear touchpad, Sixaxis motion sensing technology, two analog sticks and built in microphone. Under the hood it has a Quad Core Processor, Bluetooth, Wi-fi and, on certain models, 3G. This time around, software for the PlayStation Vita will be distributed on NVG Cards, a new proprietary flash card format, rather than on Universal Media Discs (UMDs). NVG cards will be able to store 2 – 4 GB with 5 – 10% writable space reserved for game patches, DLC or save data. This new memory format is sure to conserve battery life over UMD disks due to the lack of moving parts needed for reading data.
Sony announced that the PSVita will launch just in time for the 2011 holiday season at a starting point of $249 USD for the Wi-Fi only model, and $299 USD for the Wi-fi and 3G enabled model. Sony revealed that the PSVita will be fully backwards compatible with all PSP games available on the PlayStation Network’s library and will offer an optimized experience for them, such as Resistance Retribution taking advantage of the second analog stick for tighter controls.
Sony also announced that the PSVita will be fully integrated with the PlayStation Network established for the PlayStation 3. They confirmed Trophy support along with friends lists and access to the PlayStation store. Michael Denny, Sony’s Vice President of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe, also confirmed that the PlayStation Vita will be Region Free, Meaning you can pick up games for it anywhere in the world including imports and be able to play them on the handheld without restriction.
During the press conference Sony showed off Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The game featured some beautifully rendered graphics with dynamic lighting and shaders comparable with the great visuals of its PS3 predecessors. They showed off the touchpad and sixaxis technology for melee and traversal that worked flawlessly with the button controls; by sliding a finger along a series of ledges drake automatically traversed through them, and by touching an enemy while dangling over a ledge Drake performed a stealth takedown. The developers stressed that you can play the game anyway you want to, if you prefer to use the buttons and sticks to maneuver your free too. With the Addition of the second analog stick to aim with, weapon combat worked flawlessly and rivaled that of the PlayStation 3’s uncharted games. Next they showed a new Mod Nation Racers title where the presenter used his finger to draw out a racetrack on the touch screen and then used the touch pads to quickly and easily create mountains and craters in the terrain. They also announced a new Little Big Planet title which makes full use of the touch screen to manipulate the environment, similar to how the PlayStation Move worked with the downloadable PSN game Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves for PlayStation 3. Sony also showed off a new Wipeout game taking advantage of the Sixaxis feature for directional steering. Sony mentioned during their conference that they currently have over 80 games in development for the PlayStation Vita to drive its success on the market.
The price point of this new handheld is very competitive with current mobile gaming devices. It may give the Nintendo 3DS and iOS devices a run for their money. The technology used in its design is definitely more then I could ask for. My main complaints with the PSP were the lack of a second analog stick and no integration with the PlayStation Network, and I’m glad to see that those issues have finally been addressed. Adding 3G to the device will definitely improve its sales as gamers will no longer have to hunt down Wi-Fi hotspots and finally be able to play games anywhere a cell phone signal is found. This is truly a device for the future and I applaud Sony in making another fantastic product with a strong lineup of games backing it up. I for one can’t wait to get my hands (and greasy fingers) on this come the holiday season.