Sony NGP: A Strategic Gamble

Feb 1, 2011

Last week Sony announced their new foray into the hand-held market: the NGP. If you have been sleeping under a log the past week, I’ll get you up to speed. The NGP has everything you can imagine: gyroscope, 5″ capacitive OLED, 5″ capacitive touch-pad on the back, DUAL! analog sticks, and accelerometer. What’s more, the software interface is a major leap away from the traditional XMB and will feature a new, cross-platform environment called Playstation Suite which will be compatible with NGP, PS3, Sony televisions featuring Google TV, and Android phones. And down the road it may reach Windows Mobile and iOS.

So why is this a gamble? It comes down to money, of course. I don’t think the system’s speculative price of $299.99 is a hurdle. Nor do I think a $49 price tag on new games is a hurdle. I believe the risk lies with developers who must spend millions to create new games for the NGP. Sony demonstrated, and the likes of Capcom echoed, that it is very easy to convert a PS3 game to NGP. That’s great and I hope to see some PS3 favorites on the NGP. But what about new IP? That’s going to be a huge hurdle for developers. But Sony has a trick up its sleeve.

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In the eyes of many, portable gaming is synonymous with iPhone and the DS. The idea of carrying another device in addition to your phone is somewhat antiquated. The aforementioned iPhone has taken over with it’s low budget, low cost games that provide shallow gameplay but solve the portable conundrum: how do I game while on the road when I only have 5 minutes at a time? Sony attempts to hedge this concern with the Playstation Suite. They believe consumers will carry the NGP for casual as well as “hardcore” games. I for one will bet on that. I love Angry Birds. But no serious gamer can be satisfied with casual games. And thus, we must discuss yet another trick up Sony’s sleeve.

Playstation Cloud is all but confirmed. This new feature combined with the NGP’s PS3-like graphics, gamers can save their games at home on their PS3, and then continue it on the subway with their NGP. It appears it will roll out to Playstation Plus members initially and will certainly be worth the $50/year PS+ price tag.

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