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Game into the looking glass

2011/01/29

So among other things, the news about the NGP (Sony’s Next Generation Portable) have been doing the rounds news wise. I myself have been thinking on what effect that this might have on the hobby of gaming.

Speculation seems to be a hobby of mine, particularly on my private hobbies. Something that I do, just to see where things are.
First off, there are a few things that Sony need to lay out before  the launch of the product currently named the NGP (I am guessing a name change to something more related to the Playstation brand, PSP2 or something else along those lines). And the elephant in that room is PRICE… If anything, Nintendo surprised North America with a rather high-priced system. My guess to that is convergence of a different sort, the traditional gamer and the monstrous causal market, and to be remotely noticeable on the traditional front Nintendo has was forced to something more technically sound. Hence the push with 3D on a DS system.
That said, if the NGP doesn’t see itself under the $299 mark (while not selling at a loss) for the consumer, I can easy foresee issues with the gaming market as a whole with this rather impressive device. And given the tech in the NGP, most of it on the cutting edge(4 core Cortex A9, 4 core GPU, OLED, Multi-touch screen and pad, etc) … I don’t see that happening. The other issue is the games themselves, lately in the portable market… gaming has been floating a $40 average for a game for pricing, if both systems want to keep something like Android or iOS at an arms length, that has to end. Sadly, I don’t see that happening either… the 3DS will vary between $30 to $50 for a game, and while the NGP has yet to say anything on that subject, if you look at the list of developers, you’ll notice that they are all know for high-budget experiences(Something that Sony itself is gunning for). It would not be much to see a game offer at $80 outside of a PSN downloadable game, and this is before the DLC-diming kicks in.
Price is going to be a BIG factor with both devices, and then there is online. On that subject, I will be blunt… you are talking a company that never really got the internet (Nintendo) and one that has issue with the internet (Sony). To sony’s credit, not much has been said about the NGP’s online strategy, and that is maybe due to the fact that they can simply say “Look at the PS3, that is what we are doing”. I am not sure that is right or wrong since the mood about online with gamers is changing. If Sony overlooks this, that could be a problem. But at least they are not in Nintendo’s boat.
On that matter…. Well, there will be a new store the 3DS, it will deal in dollars and cent instead of points, they are promising better back bone. BUT, this is not coming at launch. Which seems like a miss step if it’s backed up for months. At least friend codes are single (to the system) and discoverable…to what degree, I don’t know. Maybe they are serious about the internet, but with this back and forth, I don’t know… and like it or not, despite the mood changing, online play IS a factor.
As it stands, hype more or less dictates what might happen in the near term. Sony, at least, tosses something interesting for developers to play with in the back touch pad. That alone might be Sony’s key to success this time, something truly different that gives players a different experience. Outside of that, it more or less a much better PSP… tech wise, support wise. But if you look at gaming history, that doesn’t win you the generation…. install base and ease to program will. And with that, Nintendo does has an advantage…. 
On top of this, Sony seems to be rather interested in the PS3 experience on a portable. Which they tried before on the PSP (the PS2 experience on portables) , it didn’t do all that well then… now? I still am not convinced that is the right way of going about portable games. And what makes that worse is that dual-analog sticks will invite complex controls schemes. You want to win the causal market dollars, that is not the way to go about it… but hey, it’s sony’s money.
At least portables are interesting again…. 
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