It seems that the new PSP Go! cat is out of the bag, with Sony's newly designed touchscreen UMD-free PSP set for an official unveiling at this year's E3, if not before.
1-Up reports that Sony's new PSP Go! will finally drop the cumbersome UMD format and feature a sliding touchscreen. Natch!
No official word from Sony as yet, with the company quick to give out 'no comments on rumour or speculation' although it is fair to say that an official unveiling looks likely to happen at this year's E3 in June. Or even before then, should the latest leaks force the company's hand.
The PSP Go! will keep the same button configuration as current model PSPs so no dual analogue sticks, which many fans of shooters were clamouring for.
Two versions of PSP Go!
1UP's developer sources further confirmed "that this redesign will be available in two SKUs, with either eight or 16 GB of built-in flash memory" and that "the system is set for release in Japan this September with a US debut coming in either late October or early November."
The report also speculates that they "wouldn't be surprised to see Sony borrow many design features from their Mylo 2 handheld Internet device….[which] could provide an 800x480 pixel touchscreen for the system, as well as a camera on the system's backside."
Most interestingly, for gamers at least, 1-Up claims that the mythical and 'long in development hell' Gran Turismo Mobile will be one of the premier launch titles for the new PSP Go! later this very year.
Is 1-Up's mock-up sketchy?
Veteran UK games journalist Steve Boxer remains to be convinced by 1-Up's report. "Pretty sketchy," he told TechRadar this week.
"And probably wide of the mark, as controls would have to be slid back in if you were going to use a touch-screen. More likely there will be some form of touch-screen on the slider, too. Demise of UMD would be no great surprise.
"But what will Sony do to appease existing PSP owners with their UMD games? That's its chief diferentiator with the iPhone/iPod touch, which obviously has a massive head-start. And they seem convinved there won't be two analogue sticks, which makes no sense for first- person shooters."
And while Boxer suggests gamers "proceed with caution on this one" he adds that he has "no doubt that Sony will announce a PSP replacement at E3, I just don't think it will bear much resemblance to 1Up's speculative effort."
The PSP app store?
"PSP Go!? PSP 4000? All that matters is that Sony are – more than likely – focusing on some form of updated, slide-screen, UMD-free PSP that embraces digital downloads," agrees PSM3 Editor, Dan Dawkins.
But he adds a word of caution: "Be warned: there's an element of 'flat Earth news' about the 'new' PSP - ie rumours being used to reinforce rumours, websites quoting other websites.
And while Sony recently admitted downloads would important to the future of PSP, "the only developer who's gone on record about the removal of UMD is David Perry, who might have a vested interest in promoting his own name/brand in light of his forthcoming cloud gaming service."
Dawkins agrees that there is "a groundswell of new, classic 'AAA' games mooted for PSP, like Tekken, LBP and Soul Calibur.
"While these add factual weight to new PSP rumours, they don't fill me with much happiness. More old games at slower lower resolution with worse controls? No, thanks.
"Sony need to hit us with new, PSP-control-specific games, perhaps skewed to the more casual user – something like, but not literally, Peggle that neatly bridges the hardcore/casual divide."
PSP versus iPhone
Sony also, most importantly, needs to match the iPhone's offering in Dawkins's opinion.
"Make social utilities like Facebook, Twitter etc readily accessible via PSP – but with a better games machine at core that could handle, say, a new GTA, or Pro Evo."
Based on recent interviews with mobile specialists Gameloft, the PSM3 editor speculates that: "PSP Go! will go down the download-games, more casual route.
"There's more in the latest issue, but as we say, it's just reasoned speculation".
Roll on E3 2009!