Sony's gaming chief Kaz Hirai hinted that the next PlayStation Portable would feature touch-based controls in addition to buttons, adding fuel to widespread rumors to that effect.
“Depending on the game, there are ones where you can play perfectly well with a touch panel,” Hirai said in an interview with the New York Times
. “But you can definitely play immersive games better with physical buttons and pads. I think there could be games where you’re able to use both in combination.”
The statement follows on persistent rumors that the follow up to the PSP -- dev kits for which are allegedly already in developers' hands
-- will include a touch pad on the back side to allow for touch control without screen obstruction.
A set of Sony patents for such rear-facing touchpad technology, first filed in October, were recently unearthed
Hirai also touched on rumors of a supposed Android-powered PSP Phone, developed by Sony Ericsson, that would play exclusive downloadable games as well as some classic original PlayStation titles. Footage of a supposed prototype for such a phone leaked onto the Internet in October, drawing a firm no comment from Sony
While not confirming the phone's existence, Hirai worried about the branding challenges of releasing yet another portable PlayStation-branded product.
“We don’t want gamers to be asking, what’s the difference between that and a PSP,” Mr. Hirai said. “We have to come up with a message that users will understand. It would have to be a product that keeps the PlayStation’s strengths intact.”
Hirai also used the interview to dismiss the threat of popular casual games on mobile platforms, saying the audience for deeper, more serious games would stay with Sony.