The past week has taught me one thing: Never ever leave for vacation. The one week of the year I leave for Orlando, and Sony releases all sorts of news on its upcoming handheld system, codenamed Next Generation Portable. Some of the rumors and leaks seemed to be dead on: 5-inch touchscreen OLED and two analog sticks. On top of that, there were a few surprises I didn’t expect: The rear touchpad is intriguing along with the GPS capabilities.
The device’s high-tech wizardry underscores a major point about the upcoming generation of handhelds: They blur the lines separating consoles and portable. Not since the Sega Nomad has this been so apparent. It’s not the holy grail for video games — a universal system — but these handhelds bring us a major step closer.The NGP along with the Nintendo 3DS will have profound effects on gaming. The technological horsepower behind these systems could create experiences that are better if not on par with what players can find in the living room. This could be the generation where console games are no longer the headliners for the holiday season. We could even see a killer app for the NGP or 3DS win game of the year. That’s unheard of nowadays, but it’s not that farfetched.
In fact, the NGP may be more important to Sony than the PlayStation 3. It certainly has more potential to change gaming. A handheld experience that rivals consoles means that the former will no longer have a stigma of a second-class system. If Sony’s claims are true, NGP games would be the same or better than the PS3 and faced with the option to buy either the NGP version or the PS3 one, players may be more likely to choose the portable.
It sounds like a simple change, but the idea can have powerful repercussions. The NGP and the 3DS could be the death knell for consoles as we know them. Why remain glued to the couch when you can take your gaming anywhere? You no longer have to squeeze in that last remaining battle before work; instead, you can take the console with you and play during break. Being portable could also change how the public perceives gaming as much as the Wii. Instead of an activity on the couch, it can be a social one that brings people together outside the hosue. People travel with their handhelds to meet for gaming sessions at cafes or at work.
Even the basic experience of buying games can be altered. Growing up, it was an excruciatingly long wait to get from the Toys R Us to home with Super Mario Bros. 3 in hand. Now, players can go to the GameStop, buy the game and play it on the ride home or on the bus or at the park. Wherever. It’s instant gratification.
But this doesn’t mean consoles are dead. It just means they’re merging with portables to create powerful devices that deliver the best of both worlds. Like the Sega Nomad, I imagine that the consoles of the future will be portables and vice versa. They’ll be machines that you can connect to a TV, and after you’re finished, you can take them on the road.
Sure it may not sound as fancy as the PS9, but it’s certainly closer to reality.
by Gieson Cacho Mercury News