NGP Laid to Rest; Welcome the PS Vita

Revitalizing

When Jack Tretton handed the reins over to Kazuo Hirai at Sony’s E3 press conference, it was for perhaps the most important announcement of the night: official word on Sony’s new handheld gaming platform.

To start with, Kaz Hirai introduced the PlayStation Suite, a software package that will allow PlayStation content to be experienced on other devices, such as Smart Phones and Androids. The company is confident that opening these doors to a wider consumer base will result in a larger number of people who will eventually make the switch over to Sony products, including their new handheld.

Named the PlayStation Vita, the handheld comes stuffed with features: two analog sticks, a 5-inch screen, front and rear touch pads, Sixaxis motion-sensing technology, and dual cameras, one each in the front and the rear, used for revolutionary “augmented reality experiences”.

The Vita will cover both WiFi and 3G WiFi connectivity models to ensure the best way to remain connected.

Less popular was the announcement of Sony partnering with “the nation’s fastest global broadband network”, AT&T, which received displeased murmurs, audible groans, and only a few scattered pockets of applause. Existing AT&T customers were promised free access to over 24,000 nationwide WiFi hotspots, with pricing information for other territories being announced at a later date.

PS Vita will offer two social networking tools to allow its users to remain connected with each other. A feature called ‘Party’ will let gamers voice-chat with each other over a headset regardless of location, as long as they’re in the same in-game or in-network party. The second feature has been dubbed ‘Near’, and allows users to connect with other users geographically close to them, or exchange gaming-related information.

From what we’ve seen, the graphics on the PS Vita look amazing, and deliver PS3-quality visuals. The large screen, filling up almost the entire front surface of the handheld, offers a lot of room for the visuals to shine. The entire screen is also touch-capable; in conjunction with the Sixaxis motion controls, developers have been given a nice bag of tricks to play with. Of course, it’ll be up to individual developers how well they take advantage of the toys afforded them.

A few questions still remain unanswered, one of the largest of which surely concerns itself with how long the Vita’s battery life will prove to be. Time, and a few hands-on sessions, will tell. Stay tuned for more coverage on this new handheld gaming platform as more information is released.


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