Sony had quite a few announcements to make at a media event yesterday in Japan. Although the recently unearthed Xperia Play was not part of the show (it's expected to be introduced at next month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona), attendees were still treated to a first look at the long-rumored PSP successor, which is codenamed Next Generation Portable or NGP. It looks very much like the original PSP handheld at first glance, but it's a whole 'nother beast inside.

Sony promises a PS3-level experience with a much faster, quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and a multi-core PowerVR SGX543MP4 graphics chip four times faster than before. The NPG will come with a 5" OLED screen, two micro-analog sticks to simulate the Dual Shock experience, front and rear facing cameras, and two-finger multi-touch pad on the back of the machine that might open the door for new ideas in game control. A Sixaxis equivalent with a gyroscope and accelerometer is also available to let players control games by moving and tilting the system itself.

In terms of connectivity you can expect built-in 3G in addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR – though it's unclear if users will need a separate for-pay service to use the 3G options. GPS is onboard as well, and a new app dubbed "Near" will let users see what other gamers nearby are currently playing and add them as friends.

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Sony promised to have a full range of high-profile game titles from the start, including Little Big Planet, Resistance, Wipeout and Uncharted. These games will come on "a small flash memory based card," according to Sony, although downloadable PSP titles will still be supported. The company also noted that Activision's Call of Duty series would eventually reach the platform while Konami touted Metal Gear Solid 4 and Epic Games showed an Unreal Engine demo.

The company also unveiled a cross-platform software framework called PlayStation Suite, which will run on Android phones and tablets in addition to the NGP. Sony's starting with an emulator for existing PSOne titles and is promising an Android game store later on for PlayStation-certified titles from small and top-tier developers.

Unfortunately no pricing or availability details were announced, besides "end of the year 2011" in Japan for the NGP. In other words, it's still a long way off but Sony is hoping to build some hype ahead of the Nintendo 3DS launch. Hopefully we'll get a few more details at the Game Developers Conference next month and E3 in June.