Saturday, September 02, 2006
PSP To Become Virtual PS3.
In an interview with Japan's Nikkei BP, Sony Computer Entertainment corporate executive Izumi Kawanishi, who heads up software platform development at the company, shared some unique visions Sony has for the PSP platform in relation to the PlayStation 3. The title of the article tells it all: "PSP will become a Virtual PS3".
Nikkei began by asking Kawanishi to discuss Sony's plans for Playstation emulation on the PSP, which was first announced at the March PlayStation Meeting. "Just before the PlayStation Meeting," said Kawanishi, "we learned that it was technically possible to emulate the PS1 on the PSP. The emulation technology is original. We're currently doing internal tests, but things are moving quite well".
Kawanishi was mum about specific plans, but did cite some of the difficulties with the emulation project. "Emulating all PSP games would be difficult. The PS1 has left and right analogue sticks and a large number of controller buttons. The PSP has just one analogue stick, and a different number of buttons. There's no power problem with emulation, but there are limitations with the user interface".
"Sony actually tried out digital distribution of PlayStation games on the PS2. In Japan, it was possible for a while to download a select few titles to the PS2 hard disk. However, Sony never went ahead with the project. Explained Kawanishi, "The structure for e-Distribution took shape on the PS2, where we wanted to move content distribution from disk media to the network. The broadband environment wasn't set up at the time, so we were unable to realize this".
The times have changed, however. "Now, fiber optic is already spreading," noted Kawanishi. "We felt that there was now an environment where true e-Distribution could be realized, so we made an announcement again in March."
Sony may have some Xbox Live style plans for its e-distribution scheme. "Games for PS3, PSP, PS1 and so-forth will be distributed via the network. While popular series are a separate matter, it's becoming hard to tell what's inside the package of recent games. So, we're thinking of distributing demo versions. In the case of PS1 games, we believe that if we make a library of all games available, similar to what Amazon does for books, there will be many users who want to give the classic titles a try".
To no great surprise, Sony's plans go beyond games. "Distributed content won't be limited just to games," explained Kawanishi. "It will also likely include movies. While we can't get a grasp for how well UMD movie software is selling, there's no question that the world is moving in the direction of network distribution for movies. I've heard that So-Net's Portable TV is performing well".
All this downloadable content brings up a big question: how long will the wait be for such massive files? Kawanishi explained. "The download amount will, put simply, be one CD's worth -- at most 600 Megabytes. PS1 game programs themselves are small, but the music data is recorded to CD tracks. When the music data is added, it's quite large in terms of volume. However, looking at the current state of internet distribution, downloading files of 400M and 500M doesn't take up too much time. This level of volume is in the range of tolerance".
For those who are worried about Sony taking its time to get a network infrastructure in place for the PS3, Kawanishi's next comment should offer some relief. Asked if gamers will be able to use e-Distribution from the day they purchase a PS3, he said, "That's the plan".
But you may not need a PS3 in order to download PS1 content to your PSP. Asked what means you'll have to download content, Kawanishi said, "There will be three: through the PS3, through the PC, or direct download to the PSP via wireless LAN. Our fundamental stance is to use an open network, so PC-based downloads will be possible. And not only that, but we believe things like download through cell phones are also a possibility. We don't plan on placing limits on the network".
Kawanishi also suggested that Sony might allow gamers to play PS1 games through emulation on the PC and, in the future, on a cell phone.
The interview then shifted to linking up the PS3 and PSP. "It's possible to have distribution of video imagery from the PS3 to PSP," said Kawanishi. "In other words, images that are rendered on the PS3 will be sent to the PSP via wireless LAN. If the PS3 is something like a home server that's placed in the center of your home, the PSP is an information terminal that you carry with you."According to Nikkei, Kawanishi was referring to 3D imagery that's rendered on the PS3 and viewed on the PSP. Is he talking about actual gameplay? That's the big question. IGN will chime in here with the opinion that we wouldn't want to play a high-speed fighting game rendered on the PS3 but running on the PSP, as every button press would suffer from network lag. A slow RPG or strategy game? That's another story!
"PS3 video can be viewed as is on the PSP, so the PSP becomes like a Virtual PS3," continued Kawanishi's explanation. Kawanishi then credited the PS3's Cell CPU with allowing for this unexpected connectivity. "The power of the Cell will be put to use. If you don't have this much power, this cannot be realized".
If the PSP does become a virtual PS3, one might expect that Sony would lose the need to update the PSP hardware. "No, that's not the case," said Kawanishi. "The engineers have the desire to improve things even just a bit".
Kawanishi was then asked to comment on how the PSP will evolve from here. Specifically, Nikkei asked if he feels the system will become an information terminal in the future. "It depends on what the users want," responded Kawanishi. "It already has a Web Browser, and along those lines, schedule management and mailer applications will likely appear. However, it's important that the concept not lose focus. It would be troubling to have it become a machine whose use is unknown".
"The PSP started off clearly with the position of a portable game machine," continued Kawanishi. "However, looking long term, there's the thought that it ought to become a portable network device. At that time, if there's demand for an information terminal, it is possible to take it in that direction".
Could the PSP ever replace your cell phone? "There is a possibility," said Kawanishi. "I won't deny it. Personally, I'm interested in it. Of course, it's not the case that you can connect to wireless LAN everywhere, so you can't call it a permanent connection. But cell phones are permanently connected. Cell phones get more interesting as their data transfer rate increases, and I think it would be extremely interesting to try something like that".
Sony will be demonstrating two new technological sides of the PSP at the Tokyo Game Show in September, where the system's GPS Receiver and camera will be on display. We also hope to see something regarding Sony's PlayStation emulation and e-Distribution programs.