Where past rumors of a follow up to Sony’s (NYSE: SNE) Playstation Portable handheld video game device have flared up and then quickly died after stern a “no comment” from the technology manufacturer, the most recent talk of a PSP2 refuses to die down. Gawker Media blog Kotaku is reporting today that it held private meetings at its offices in the Aoyama neighborhood of Tokyo to show off a prototype version of the Playstation Portable 2 last month. These meetings took place during the Tokyo Game Show conference in September. Certain details about the device’s specifications are held up by Kotaku‘s sources, and some new information about the PSP2’s form factor has come to light.
As per the late September report from Develop magazine, Sony’s PSP successor will feature greatly increased graphical fidelity over its predecessor, and likely greater than the graphics seen in high end games from Apple Inc.‘s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 4, iPod Touch, and iPad as well as Nintendo‘s (PINK: NTDOY) upcoming Nintendo 3DS handheld. The PSP2 will maintain the widescreen format of the original PSP but its screen will be an inch-or-more larger with a sharper image, providing what Sony representatives reportedly called “HD” output.
The digital controls will be similar in layout to the DualShock 3 controller that ships with Sony’s home console, the Playstation 3, featuring four-button cross-shaped inputs on the left and right of the device, as well as two analog sticks placed below them. (The original PSP has been heavily criticized for foregoing a second analog stick, though Nintendo has mimicked the sole analog stick design with the Nintendo 3DS.) Previous rumors about the PSP2 have said that the device would include a touch-screen so as to allow cross platform development with iOS, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android, and Nintendo developers, but the latest rumor claims that the PSP2’s touch panel will be on the rear of the device. Working like a mouse trackpad like those on Apple’s MacBook laptops, PSP2 users would use the pad with their finger tips curled around the handheld.
The hardware shown at Sony’s Tokyo offices is far from final. Sources claimed that Sony admitted to the early version of the hardware experiencing problems with overheating and that the development team was having difficulty balancing its battery usage. Given its incomplete state, it’s expected that the PSP2’s processor size, graphical output, and form will change between now and its rumored fall 2011 release date.
With Apple’s growth in the gaming sector and Nintendo’s renewed focus on high end technology rather than unique control inputs, Sony faces a far fiercer competition than when the originally released the PSP in December 2004. The company’s edge, if rumors are to be believed, will be a mix of advanced technology and synergy with its other devices. A July report from the Wall Street Journal reported that NTT DoCoMo (NYSE: DCM) was in talks with game hardware makers to incorporate 3G communication technology into the next round of portable game players. The report went on to say that Sony would be incorporating 3G tech into a PSP2 that acted not just as a game player, but also as an evolution of Sony’s Reader e-reader products and a netbook PC. That report was followed by an Engadget story claiming the PSP2 would also work as a mobile phone and would be co-branded with the Sony Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) Xperia smartphone brand.
With the hardware said to be in numerous game makers hands, the PSP2 can’t be too far from a finalized state. It’s a guarantee that no matter what shape the console takes when it’s released, it will no doubt be an expensive piece of consumer technology. Sony has been damaged by high initial pricing in the past—both the Playstation 3 and PSP suffered slow uptake due to high prices. Apple has changed the pricing landscape with its devices though. The iPod Touch and iPhone are significantly more expensive than both the PSP and Nintendo DS, and they have been more than successful. The question is what suite of different features will Sony have to incorporate into the PSP2 for it to compete.
As of this writing, Anthony Agnello did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.