By Valkyr 2 Comments
The King is back
No, it's not the king of pop (sadly), it's the king of modern console manufacturers, our beloved Sony and his jovial chairman Kazuo Hirai ('Kaz' for the friends). As the other king's Breaking News lyrics says: Just when you thought he was done he comes to give it again, yep he is here, after all the haters believed and wished Sony had lost the next generation handheld war early retreating to the citadel to come with some crazy stupid peace of hardware as his last stand, he came prouder and stronger than ever playing his game the way he knows, fighting fire with even more fire, shameless of what every gamer, journalist or analyst were already predicting, the raw power itself becoming a portable game system.
The prediction was right but the real impact in the industry was hugely underestimated, it's not the PSP all over again, this time the raw power needed to close the gap between the home console and the portable experience is ready, thanks to the capabilities of the new portable processors provided by new successful hardware manufacturers such as ARM whose revenue is now bigger than Intel's which lacked the revolutionary vision to pay enough attention to what the market was mutating, a market flooded with smart phones and tablets that use tiny powerful efficient and cost effective processors, technology and production investments that Sony now will use in the aformentioned new handheld.
The other gap closing factor is the addition of the second analog stick, now developers won't be coinstraint in the gameplay deparment. The PSP had only a single uncomfortable analog nub, which forced developers to dumb down some games that could have been more critically acclaimed if a second analog input had existed to do things like aiming a gun with an over the shoulder mechanic or simply control de camera that usually tends to be a mess by itself. Entire game genres were marginalized on the PSP, it was impossible to develop AAA FPSs or dual stick shooting experiences for example.
So, what can Sony do to recover the crown of the industry?
Gaming on the goThere is no doubt that the NGP will have a great day one roster for every brand new comer with native launch games and the upscaled backward compatibily feature of psn psp games providing high quality platform exclusives titles and a lot of ps2 enhanced ports. But the revolutionary factor is the new possibility of the multiplatform development of PS3 and NGP games, this does not mean cheap ports but augmenting and giving the gamer the ability to continue gaming on the go with the same quality he would do with his home console. No more transitions between HD jaw-dropping graphics and comfortable controls to the unusual use of a stylus or the lack of a stick, in the near future we'll be living the same competitive cross-platform multiplayer games on our daily train/bus trips. What Sony should is force first party and ecourage second and third party developers to take the multiplatform road and sell games instead of the <console of choice> edition of <game of choice>, this is already happening with Valve's Portal 2 that will be bundled with steam codes to dowload the game on the Mac/PC because Valve is smart and wants you to feel that you are really buying a game and not only an implementation.
You may think that Activition will not lose the oportunity to charge you twice for the next PS3/NGP Call of Duty, that may be true, but we as a consumer are choose wheter feed the beast or not.
Trophy addiction to the rescueIt is a fact that early PS3 multi-platform were graphically inferior to their 360 counterpart but another issue was the lack of a rewarding addictive feature such as the xbox
achievements. More and more gamers succumbed to the need of increasing their gamerscore and chose to buy their games on the competitor platform and a lot of ps3 worthwhile early exclusives didn't catch enough attention because those gamers considered that they were losing time to invest in s-ranking their 360 games. Sony addressed this issue on the PS3 with an enhanced rip off of the feature, the PlayStation trophies but lacked the will to implement them on the PSP, failing to gain the achievement lover gamer who tended to dismiss the handheld in favor of using that time to unlock more trophies/achievements.
This time Sony is aware of this from the start and the feature will be available on the new portable device from the start, we still have to see if they are clever enough to unify the system with the PS3 to make sure that addicted consumers jump in and get the new platform as another trophy source.
The Japan portable crazinessThe land of the rising sun is an strange exotic place to our eyes, most gamers are wealthy enough to be enjoying huge 3DTVs hooked up with PS3s but they choose to invest their gaming time on Monster Hunter, Pokemon and the usual JRPG releases on the PSP and the DS. The latest phenomenon was the one that was born with Dragon Quest IX for the DS with a feature that encouraged players to gather in person at some place to unlock stuff just by being near another dude with the game or crawling cooperatively on random generated dungeons.
The NGP using the built-in GPS, the 3G/Wi-Fi and the Near App (right screenshot) will let you track by location in search for other gamers to play and look for statistics related to where you are located, this will be useful to implement a DQIX-esque feature in every NGP popular japanese game but will also incentive stalkers to search that teen gamer girl of their dreams, hope they don't learn to use the privacy settings.
The PSP was a financial success, the profits covered the development and production costs by a great difference and it managed to be on the radar since it launched in December 2004 (Japan). Despite of the huge installbase it amassed, it failed to be more than a hardcore gaming platform with a horrible battery sucking noise media and it also ended up being a very japanese centric device, with tons of games that only meant something on the east but that settled a very good start of Sony in the portable console market competing against Nintendo, a portable manufacturer that steadily rocked since the launch of the original Game Boy. Let's hope Sony manages to tag the price under us$400 to justify the additional tech over Nintendo's and that the huge list of third and second party developers have some cool games ready circa the launch window.