updated 09:50 am EDT, Fri May 27, 2011
Sony may slash NGP features to hit Nintendo, Apple
Sony might be stripping down the performance of the NGP to better take on the Nintendo 3DS and Apple's iPod touch. A rumor late Thursday from France's 01net claimed that developers had been told the NGP would have half the main RAM, 256MB, and a similar cut to 128MB of video RAM. It may also drop the 16GB of built-in storage and shed the plain SD card slot in favor of a possibly more proprietary format with copy protection; whether that was Memory Stick or another format wasn't mentioned.
The move would likely be to get at least the base price of a Wi-Fi only NGP to near $250 like the 3DS. Apple's iPod touch is also looming in the background, as it already has a price advantage at $229 and has 32GB of storage at the $299 mark.
Sony has faced slumping PSP sales for a long time and has had to start phasing out the PSP Go in some countries after it failed to catch on. Some of the blame has been placed on the PSP Go's pricing for much of its life, which led it to compare poorly to both the DSi and the iPod touch.
The reduced specs may not necessarily impact developers, according to the tips. Although those reporting back were supposedly still dismayed, Sony has a 26MB secondary set of RAM that any game will have solely to itself, guaranteeing that vital tasks will always have memory even if other parts of the game or the NGP's OS are splintering the main memory. PowerVR graphics like those in the NGP are also designed to use very little memory to start with because of their tile-based approach to rendering and very efficient texture compression.
The NGP may be a turnaround for Sony's competition with Apple and Nintendo just for development. Where the PS3 and to some extent the PSP were complex to develop for, coders claimed that the NGP had a much higher quality developer kit than for earlier Sony systems, both in the scope and polish. They disliked that one of the four processor cores was set aside for OS-level tasks but liked the predictive computing and the efficiency even with the good battery life.
Sony is expected to provide many more final details of its handheld game system, including a final name and launch titles, at E3 in early June.