It was quite a day for Sony portable fans. Earlier today (well, technically yesterday) Engadget posted about some hands-on experience with the Xperia Play, aka the Playstation Phone. It sure looks real to me. Engadget is being coy about where this unit came from but post author Richard Lai says he's been using it as his primary phone for a few days now, with generally good results. No 'official' games are available for it, but Lai loaded up some emulators and mapped the hardware buttons to emulator controls and had a go. This isn't final hardware but for an early look it seems promising enough.
The big news, however, came later in the evening (US time) when Sony held what was leaked as a "business overview and strategy meeting" in Tokyo. Sounds intimate, right? Turns out this was the Playstation Meeting 2011 and over 1,000 people crowded into a grand ballroom to hear what was new with the Playstation brand. President and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Kaz Hirai opened the meeting with a quick look back at the first years of the PS3 and the Playstation Network, then quickly moved on to mobile gaming. He acknowledged that the world of handheld gaming has changed since the launch of the PSP, and that cellphones today are capable of delivering a gaming experience that they couldn't obtain when the PSP launched. His first product announcement was Playstation Suite, which brings Playstation gaming to Android smartphones and tablets, along with a "Playstation Certified" program that lets users know which Android devices are up to the task of delivering a quality Playstation gaming experience. First generation Playstation games will run, via emulation, on Playstation Certified hardware (there was some confusion as to whether they mean PSOne games, or early PSP games). There will also be a Playstation Store on Android. Playstation Suite content is scheduled to be delivered this year. So that, presumably, is content for the Playstation Phone. Kaz then went on to ensure us they still want to provide the "ultimate portable experience" in the form of the new hardware everyone was waiting to hear about. Rather than calling it the PSP2, they've code named it NGP, for Next Generation Portable, and it'll be out in time for the holidays. At first glance at least, this is an impressive piece of gaming kit. It's got a 5" OLED touchscreen display with a 960 x 544 resolution (4x the current PSP), dual analog sticks (real sticks, not 'nubs'), WiFi, 3G, GPS, 5" touch pad on the back (for 1-to-1 mapping with the touchscreen), front and rear facing camera and a 3-axis electronic compass that serves as a gyroscope for motion controls. The NGP will support a new media format based on flash memory. They look almost, but not quite, like an SD card. You can also play any (downloadable) PSP games on it; it's backwards compatible with the earlier system. This isn't a 'slider' design like the Playstation Phone of the PSPGo, but a slab design similar to the original PSP, only bigger (5" screen, remember). You're probably not going to be tucking this thing in your pocket.