The first thing you might have noticed when Sony announced the NGP last month was just how much of an overhaul the UI had been given. The home screen looked vastly different from the XMB interface gamers have grown accustomed to on all of Sony's consoles over the past several years. A few weeks after the announcement and now Sony is speaking about exactly why they felt it was a necessary move to create the new Live Area, and abandon the old XMB, for this next generation handheld.
First and foremost, the XMB was not made to be touch-friendly. For a system that is going to be focused on providing a touch screen experience to rival the 3DS, Sony knew they were going to have to create a more appropriate user interface. As the NGP reveal video demonstrated, the new Live Area is much more iPod-like, giving the user a slew of app buttons and the ability to slide up and down to other screens. While not entirely innovative, this should provide for much quicker access to content on the device.
The other reason for the change seems to be Sony's focus on providing a "social network oriented" device. In a recent interview with Edge, the worldwide studios president of Sony Computer Entertainment, Shuhei Yoshida pressed the point of the NGP's social networking capabilities:
"We wanted to integrate the social networking factor, the potential for friends to join in, interact at any moment. We wanted the entire screen to be part of that experience. To do so, we thought it was important to let users keep track of their game even when they weren't playing it - with the LiveArea, for example."
Sony has already discussed their interest in social features, such as location-based gaming with Near and has even gone so far as to include 3G on the platform for online gaming anywhere with a cell signal. It is not surprising that in a world consumed by Twitter and Facebook that Sony would begin heading in the same direction with a portable device.
Does the focus on social networking change your opinion of the NGP? Online gaming is without question, an important aspect of video game culture, but is Sony focusing on the right aspects of the social network? Let us know in the comments below.
Despite a shady NGP leak, we still are unsure about the release date of the NGP. We're hoping on sooner rather than later.