For ETOKYO — Sony will start selling a new handheld game device by the end of the year and offer its PlayStation games on a range of portable devices, including some smartphones, the Japanese electronics and entertainment company said Thursday, in a bid to keep up with big shifts in the habits of game players.
Sony is fighting to claw its way back in a market being transformed by longtime rivals, like Nintendo, and those beyond the traditional game-playing world, like Apple, whose iPhone has fast become the go-to device for casual, downloadable games.
Sony’s new device, tentatively named “NGP” for Next Generation Portable, comes with a touch pad on both the front and rear — a first for a game device — as well as a 5-inch, or 13-centimeter, organic LED screen, two sets of button controls, motion sensors, cameras on the front and back and 3G network access.
By the end of the year, Sony will also make some PlayStation games available on certified portable devices, including smartphones running Google’s Android operating system, the company’s gaming chief, Kazuo Hirai, announced in Tokyo.
But Sony held off from displaying its own PlayStation phone, despite heated rumors and photos of mockups that have circulated on the Internet in recent months. The company did not disclose details like prices or specific release dates for the phone.
When it goes on sale, the NGP will face stiff competition.
In February, Nintendo plans to introduce in Japan the 3DS, the next model in its popular DS line of portable game players. DS devices have outsold Sony’s PlayStation Portable models by more than two to one: 135 million units compared with 62 million units as of September. The 3DS, which can display 3-D graphics without the need for glasses, is in a “category of one,” Nintendo’s chief executive for the United States, Reggie Fils-Aime, said earlier this month. It will go on sale in the United States in March.
Nintendo and Sony are up against perhaps even bigger rivals: low-cost, casual games downloaded onto iPhones, iPod Touches and Android devices, which have increased in numbers rapidly.
Mr. Hirai said that the NGP had been designed for players still interested in deeper, more sophisticated game-playing, while a PlayStation phone would be for the new breed of casual players.
“Times have changed, from an era where you had to carry around a dedicated gaming device like the PlayStation Portable to play games on-the-go,” Mr. Hirai said. “Now you can enjoy casual games on cellphones, smartphones, tablet PCs and many other multifunctional portable devices, and these casual gamers are growing rapidly in number,” he said. “Sony cannot ignore this growing market.
“On the other hand, I feel it is Sony’s mission to pursue and expand the market for the kind of gaming that PlayStation has long built up — the kind of ultimate portable gaming device that brings you more immersive games.”