While the current PlayStation Portable continues to enjoy remarkable sales dominance over Nintendo’s 3DS in Japan, Sony is working diligently to bring the PSP’s successor to market. Ideally, the Next Generation Portable would launch worldwide this Fall with a reasonable sticker price. But in order to meet that goal, is the hardware being downgraded?

As previously reported, two SKUs for NGP are expected, one that supports 3G and one that is limited to Wi-Fi. Sony aims to take the handheld battle directly to Nintendo by pricing the Wi-Fi only NGP competitively with the 3DS. But while Nintendo products have traditionally been conceived and produced to be affordable (for customers) and profitable (for Nintendo), Sony has long followed a different design philosophy — one that emphasizes ambitious technology and results in expensive consoles.

Rumors now suggest that in order to deliver the NGP at a mass market friendly price, Sony is cutting the console’s RAM in half and eliminating its 16GB of internal flash memory. That leaves the NGP with 256MB of RAM, and users will no doubt have the option to buy external storage separately.

With the system’s price apparently brought under control thanks to these technology sacrifices, the focus now turns to the NGP’s launch date. Though Sony insists that the NGP has not been delayed, they still have not specified when the system will be released. While some games due this Fall, like LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, list NGP among the platforms they will be released for, a worldwide holiday release sounds like a tricky prospect for a company still reeling from the PSN outage and the ongoing absence of the PlayStation Store.

As such, rumors that the NGP will launch only in Japan this year seem entirely plausible. The system will allegedly roll out to the rest of the world in the first quarter of 2012. With luck, the delay in bringing the system to the West will result in a strong, varied lineup of day one titles, and a launch free of the headaches and “black screens of death” that plagued the 3DS’s early days.

Obviously this news belongs firmly in the “rumor” category for now, but what if it turns out to be true? Would you be less interested in buying an NGP if its tech specs have been scaled back? Do you think Sony can afford to let Nintendo’s 3DS have the market to itself this holiday season?

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Source: 01.Net [via 1up]

tags: Sony, Vita