The NGP's memory storage capabilities are puzzlingly absent from the hardware specifications released by Sony today. During the PlayStation Meeting 2011 press conference, the company briefly introduced a "new game media" format, a flash memory-based card on which retail titles will be sold (replacing the clunky, power-sucking UMD). These SD-looking game cards -- said to be proprietary -- will feature extra storage for relevant data, including games saves and add-ons.

"NGP adopts a new game medium, a small flash memory based card, dedicated for NGP software titles," a Sony press release later confirmed. "Taking advantage of the flash memory feature, this innovative card can store the full software titles plus add-on game content or the game save data directly on to the card. By adopting flash memory based card, SCE will be able to provide game cards with higher capacity in the future, allowing developers to store more game data to deliver rich and immersive games."

But where will users store non-game data? The NGP's LiveArea UI suggests that multimedia applications will be integral to the handheld, and many of these apps will obviously require data storage -- not to mention the storage requirements for downloadable games. While Sony has not mentioned an internal flash memory component of the NGP, SCE Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida revealed to Game Informer that the device will feature "two slots" for memory cards; one for the new game card format (which Yoshida confirmed would be proprietary -- not SD) and a second port for additional storage.

Whether the additional slot has been designed for Sony's existing proprietary Memory Stick (the "Micro" version is used for PSP Go memory expansion) has not been specified. "At this point, all we're saying is it is proprietary storage capabilities," SCEA boss Jack Tretton told Engadget, "we're not getting into defining what it is yet." [Update: In an interview with GameSpot, Yoshida said that the secondary slot is for "the media card that we are developing" (in addition to the game card), suggesting that NGP might use a proprietary media card other than an existing Memory Stick format.]

"Digital distribution's role and scope and ratio of sales will definitely increase," Yoshida suggested to GI, indicating that memory expansion is important for the NGP to flourish. "It's just a matter of time as people get faster internet connections. So the role and importance of digital sales will increase. But at the same time, there are people who just want to buy a game at a store and plug and play. That's why we decided to adopt the flash media format."

However, according to SCCE president Andrew House, digital distribution of games -- via the PlayStaiton Store -- could be NGP's primary retail format. "So what we're intending to do is have everything available on PlayStation Store," he told Eurogamer, "and potentially be on physical media as well." He reiterated the general perception that "if you have games that are only available for digital download, you remove clearly a huge amount of risk for publishers."

"I wouldn't want to call too many things too early," House added, "but I think what you'll see in the physical space is the larger, and I mean in terms of data capacity but also in terms of bigger, blockbuster franchises that will probably lend themselves more to the physical medium -- you know, big games that you don't necessarily want to spend an awful lot of time downloading." Can you imagine pulling down MGS4 over 3G? No, thanks.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.