Sony looks to have a hit with upcoming PSP.

The folks a have some more details on Sony’s upcoming Playstation Portable (PSP) handheld system from the recent Game Developers Conference that took place.

PlayStation 2: GDC 2004: PSP Presentation

As we’ve known for months, the system will feature 480×272 widescreen, high quality TFT LCD for the image; the unit will not have any sort of video output beyond the LCD screen. The widescreen, according to Coombs, will affect gameplay and development since it enables players to see more of the action around them. The system will, of course, play its own games, but the unit will also have what’s called the “Media Engine” that will give the PSP the ability to easily play back video and audio files from either the 1.8GB UMD disc or a memory stick.

Coombs confirmed the 802.11 protocol compatibility of the PSP, mentioning that it will have the ability to talk peer-to-peer locally as well as through Client/Server via 802.11 hotspots. Which means that PSP players will have the ability to challenge each other all over the world, wirelessly. The PSP will also have USB connectivity so that players can hook up peripherals such as digital cameras to the system. Coombs specifically mentioned that Sony is very interested in a GPS device for the handheld so that the system can recognize where it is in the world at all times.

The buzz building around Sony’s new toy continues to suggest this little handheld will pack almost as much power as the PS2 into its small form. Sony showed off some tech demos run on emulation software, but should have hardware development kits in the hands of developers by now.

In addition to the tech demos Sony also showed off footage from one of the first titles for the PSP. talks about an action platformer called Death Jr. that really gives a good idea of what this platform is capable of.

GDC: Sony shows off PSP software for the first time

Called Death, Jr., the game is an action platformer cartoony, cel-shaded visuals and gameplay style reminiscent of Capcom’s PS2 title Maximo, and the video of the game in action – which was demonstrated by Chris Charla, producer for Digital Eclipse – demonstrated a level of graphical prowess previously unheard of in a handheld console.

“Polygon for polygon, PSP has more power than PS2,” enthused Charla, confirming our expectations based on Sony’s released specs for the device. “A huge number of effects that are given to you in software on PS2 are available in hardware on PSP.”

Charla also commented on the ease of development for the handheld system, a common sentiment among those working on the platform, stating that Backbone’s first PSP game was up and running in two man-weeks, with a PS2 project ported to the platform within a month.

If you want to see the game in action you can find some shakey-cam video of it over at Sony seems to be taking the same approach with the PSP that they took with the original Playstation: Emphasize 3D gameplay. The PS1 was the first console system designed with the assumption that 3D games would soon be a big draw and Sony spent a lot of time in the early days encouraging developers to develop and design 3D games at the expense of 2D games for the first year or so. The strategy paid off and launched Sony into the number 1 spot formerly held by Nintendo where they’ve been sitting pretty ever since.

Now they seem intent to bring true 3D gameplay to the handheld market the same way they did the console market and once again Nintendo looks like they may be caught off guard. The venerable GameBoy has been around longer than my daughter and has gone through several versions, but has never embraced bringing 3D gaming to your pocket and the upcoming dual-screen version doesn’t look like it’ll be any different in that regard. The PSP will probably be considerably more expensive than the GameBoy, but if Death Jr. is any indication the higher price will bring much better gaming along with it and Sony’s betting gamers are ready for it.

This ain’t your grandpa’s GameBoy that’s for damned sure.

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