The Consumer Electronics Show hasn’t been a big showcase for the Games Industry since E3 (The Electronic Entertainment Expo) began in 1995. The Sega Saturn was released at E3 the PlayStation, Virtual Boy and Neo-Geo CD were announced. That may take some of you back and have others asking, “What are those things?” (Ok, y’all probably know what a PlayStation is.
Even so, there are usually a handful of announcements during CES in January each year and this year had some pretty interesting stuff.
The Android operating system was featured both in the Ouya (showcased in our last-minute buyers guide last time) and in the quirky NVIDA “Project Shield”
The portable game unit has a full-size game controller (obviously) and 5”, 720P HD screen, speakers and Wi-Fi for on-line gaming. IF your PC boasts a GeForce® GTX the device will also play streaming games and/or act as a wireless controller for your PC games. No word yet on release date (except they hope to release at E3) or pricing except that it’ll be “priced like an Android device,” whatever that means. From an industry perspective, this means that NVIDIA is looking to expand from a supplier of third-party video cards for consoles and PCs to a direct competitor in portable gaming.
We mentioned the Ouya last time as in our Last Minute Buyers guide. Another Android device, Ouya hopes to both give existing mobile games a play on the big screen, but inspire a whole new wave of Android game development for the living room. This one should release by E3 and has a price of $99. Many of the company’s Kickstarter supports will already be getting theirs in advance of E3. (Some of my game design students bought the developers kit and have already been bringing them into the labs)
The Steam Box
This is kind of an all things to all people kind of approach, literally and intentionally. If you’re not a PC gamer, you may not know what Steam is. Started by game developer Valve Software a handful of years ago to distribute its own products through the Internet; Steam has become a kind of App Store for PC games of all shapes, operating systems and sizes. While Valve didn’t do an official announcement or have a booth on the floor they did have demos for the industry and press at CES. Steam Box is in many ways much more than a console, its an entertainment server that’s built to work well with steam and put games and entertainment up on your TV in a quiet, small high performance box. It is, however also a specification, a design. Unlike the other consoles you’re familiar with, manufactured and sold by one company in just one or two configurations, Valve is eager to have other companies build their own versions of a Steam Box (perhaps even including the functionality in cable boxes or other entertainment devices for example) This is the least defined of the three major consoles shown at the show, but also potentially the most powerful in terms of the content it can offer and the changes it may herald in the industry. Also intriguing is Valve’s undefined talk about biometric control of games (games that would know if you were getting anxious, angry, etc). It’s a safe bet that this is not going to be something in the Ouya price range, some of the numbers being kicked around are much more like those of a gaming PC, around $1K. Stay tuned.
Last, but not least, though Microsoft didn’t keynote or exhibit this year, they did participate in presentations and booths with their partners and continued to hint that the next XBOX and Kinect will make their appearances at, or even before, E3.
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