Sony to launch PSP successor this year

The next generation portable combines a 5-inch OLED screen with analog gaming sticks

Sony will launch the much anticipated successor to its PlayStation Portable later this year, the company said Thursday.

The new device, provisionally dubbed the "next generation portable" or NGP, will have a 5-inch OLED display, WiFi and 3G networking, front and rear cameras and a GPS (global positioning system) sensor. (See Sony's teaser video for the NGP)

It will have a touchpad on the rear of the device and, answering the calls of many gamers, the device will also sport dual analog sticks. (See Sony's Kaz Hirai unveil the device in video.)

A price and launch date were not immediately announced.

Sony has been struggling to keep up in the portable gaming space in the last few years.

The original PSP, launched in 2004, was updated twice with the last refresh coming in 2007. A year later Sony launched the redesigned PSPgo, that did away with a drive for physical discs and put much more reliance on the network, but the device sold poorly.

In the meantime, Nintendo launched new iterations of its DSi handheld and cell phone performance has increased to the point where they are competing for the attention of casual gamers.

In announcing the new PSP so far ahead of its launch, Sony will be hoping to build hype for the product during the year. Additional details on the new handheld and software will likely be trickled out as the year progresses with pushes around the big gaming expos of the year in the U.S. and Europe.

Coming in late January, the announcement also lets would-be Nintendo 3DS owners know that a competitor will be coming from Sony.

Nintendo's new handheld console launches in Japan in a month from now and in Europe and the U.S. in March. Modeled on the current DS, the new model features a screen that provides the illusion of 3D but doesn't require glasses.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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