Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Does it stand for No Game Plan?

So the NGP has been announced, finally. The rumors of its power, of its capabilities, how far off, etc. can be finally put to rest. All the original concerns seem to have been addressed, and even augmented with even better features. Quad core CPU and GPU, twin analog sticks, Touchscreen on the front, touchpad on the back, new flash storage media, and a new online store promising a focus on more digital content has been promised, and even demoed before the excited press. This thing isn’t looking to merely compete in the portable space, it feels like it’s designed to take over, providing a PS3 experience like for like, but in the palm of your hand, a claim that no other handheld device can make.

So why am I not excited?

I don't see anything promising in the announcement of a NGP, because all I see is a PSP 2. The original name is quite apropos, because I don’t see a new device. I see an amalgam of what’s popular right now. Touchscreen. Motion Control. Application store. ANOTHER proprietary format. The promise of the Playstation experience outside the home. Sound familiar?

I see the same empty promises, I see the same quest to be technologically superior, I see nothing other than the draw of taking my home console out of the house with me. I don't want to do that. While the allure of playing something akin to an Uncharted or Killzone is an excellent one indeed, those are PS3 experiences. This means a few things to me in this world of high definition displays and complementary home-theater-in-a-box setups. It means I don’t want it condensed. I want it every bit as grandiose and epic as the developer intended, because high definition assets are at a premium these days.

Killzone is a satisfying sci-fi epic that blew me away with its exceptional graphics and sound, a cushion that made its merely average gameplay a bit easier to swallow. Uncharted 2 is a blockbuster movie-like experience that took full advantage of my PS3’s ability to pump 720p visuals and 5.1 DTS into my brain. Why would I want to shrink that down to a small screen? Have my thumbs obscure screen real estate? Listen to it in stereo? It’s a waste of tech.

It's like James Cameron said, Watching Avatar on an iPhone is dumb.

This is Sony’s problem. They just keep rapidfiring portables at us, iteration after iteration of a Portable Playstation, trying to best everyone, with absolutely no idea why others continue to be above them in the portable space. No idea why all this graphical horsepower doesn't translate into instant success. It’s missing the realization that a portable gaming experience doesn’t need to replicate the experience of playing on console. It should, for all intents and purposes provide a different experience than what you can get in your home. Ports will be inevitable, but they’re a welcome convenience for a system that ISN’T trying to be the exact same one I have hooked up to my LCD. A 3DS is an interesting prospect because a 3D capable, dual screen, touchscreen device with internal and external cameras opens the door to all kinds of exciting prospects as far as game design. Even something older like Super Street Fighter 4 in 3D is an interesting revisit due to the 3D feature and its persistent challenge mode that utilizes the 3DS’ network capability.

What expierience does a NGP offer up that I can’t already do on my PS3? Take it out of my house?

I already said I don’t want to.

It’s a misappropriation of power as well.

Why couldn't this have been a PSN download as well?..

How many people have played MGS: Peace Walker, or either God of War game, or Grand Theft Auto on their PSP and wished it was on a console instead after the novelty of having a PS2 caliber game in your hands wears off? There’s always a bittersweet taste that comes with playing a high fidelity portable game, and it’s the fact that it would be better served on a console instead. Cost is yet another issue. If I’m going to pay a high cost, why not just shell out the extra dollars and get it fully uncompromised? Yet another boon of portable gaming has been trounced by the fact that my portable wants to be my console, and it's called being cost effective. DS games are affordable, very rarely touching the $40 range. Console competitive iOS games range from $5-10 dollars. Just how much are these PS3 caliber games going to cost on the NGP? The thought makes me flinch, along with the thought of how much the unit itself will cost.

Quick question: What happens when people are forced to pay premium prices for a digital experience they feel isn’t? Piracy.

The abominable situation surrounding the original PSP is proof of this.

It’s a situation I see being replicated in this one, if they aren’t careful. The NGP will come out, and when the novelty wears off, it will hard if they don’t have anything compelling lined up besides “Lol MGS4 portable”. When it gets jailbroken, and it most certainly will, I see this thing being used for more evil than those quad core processors were meant for. I see homebrew, hacks, and exploits aplenty as people push the boundaries that Sony themselves put in place, just because they can. I don’t see this being an NGP. I see it being a PSP2, being hacked, exploited, and ultimately used for the opposite reason Sony released it in the first place, just like the last one. The worst part is, there is legroom to carve out a unique portable experience yet. I just have a feeling it won't happen due to this endless chasing of a technological peak on their end.

It's frustrating to watch. Sony seems so out of touch with what its customers want at this point that it’s maddening. We just keep taking each new thing they throw at us, each time becoming more alienated in the process. Cool gadgets though?

I just hope I’m wrong in the end.

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