While it’s not E3, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2012) remains an important way for game publishers and hardware manufacturers to reach the mainstream press. After all, CES attracts over three times the audience than E3. All three game hardware companies had a presence at CES this year and there were plenty of publishers showing off the latest builds of games throughout the Las Vegas convention area.
Sony was heavily promoting its new PlayStation Vita portable entertainment device at the show. With the February 22nd U.S. launch just around the corner, Sony debuted a brand new PS Vita game, the shooter Unit 13, and offered a full line-up of titles. A large portion of Sony’s huge booth was dedicated to PS Vita hands-on gameplay with games like MLB 12 The Show, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, WipeOut 2048, Escape Plan, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, Little Deviants, ModNation Racers: Road Trip and EA Sports FIFA Soccer. While the focus was clearly on PS Vita, Sony did feature playable demos of upcoming PlayStation 3 games like Twisted Metal, MLB 12 The Show, Journey and Sorcery.
Nintendo set up shop off the main floor at the Las Vegas Hotel right next door. The Wii U was on display with four playable demos in a hotel suite. Nintendo showed off some game concepts from last year’s E3 show, including The Legend of Zelda, Chase Mii and Battle Mii. Nintendo showed off a brand new feature that could be implemented in games called Panorama view, which uses the tablet controller to see anywhere in the game world while the HD TV screen shows a stationary view of the action.
For its final appearance at the CES, Microsoft didn’t talk about the next Xbox. Instead, the game maker focused on Kinect for Xbox 360. A new game debuting at the show was Kinect Rush: A Disney/Pixar Adventure, which features mini-games from five films -- Up, Cars, Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. The game introduces new KinectScan technology, which scans your entire body to create a virtual avatar for the game world. With Star Wars: Episode I hitting theaters in 3D in February, LucasArts is adding the third dimension to Kinect Star Wars. Microsoft showed off the game in stereo 3D running at 720p, which made the pod racing from Episode I stand out even more. And for those PC gamers out there, Kinect is coming to Windows. PC games will begin implementing motion-sensor technology, voice support and other Kinect features this year.
Tablets and smartphones were everywhere at CES, including new Windows Phones. But gaming accessory company Razer, best known for high-end PC gaming accessories, showed off the first gaming tablet. Called Project Fiona, the concept tablet device was designed to play the most popular PC games right out of the box. Although there’s no release date, this tablet stood out from the growing number of portable devices at the trade show.
Another way to play PC games away from the PC was on display at CES. OnLive and Gaikai were both showcasing cloud gaming. The cloud seemed to be everywhere at CES this year as more companies are utilizing servers to offer gaming experiences that can start on one device, like a PS3, and continue on another, like a PS Vita, seamlessly. OnLive is extending its reach with deals with Razer (for Project Fiona), Google TV and iOS and Android devices, which means PC gamers can be played without a PC on just about any piece of hardware these days. It’s worth keeping an eye on Google TV, as most TVs on display at CES featured online connectivity and apps.
CES is also a place for game accessories. Mad Catz and Nyko were both on the show floor with new devices. Nyko is supporting Sony’s PS Vita with a speaker stand, power kit and memory cards. Mad Catz had its new Major League Gaming Pro controller, which is completely customizable. Mad Catz also has a Street Fighter X Tekken FightSticks and FightPads. One cool thing is that two FightSticks can be connected to offer an arcade style gameplay experience.
Game publishers were showing new features for games off the show floor. Electronic Arts had BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 playable with the new Kinect voice control support. Square Enix had its new Army Corps of Hell for PS Vita playable in Vegas, along with Final Fantasy XIII-2, Hitman: Absolution and Quantum Conundrum.
More and more, the lines are blending between what’s a gadget and what’s a gaming device. CES showed TVs that feature built-in tablets and tablets that can stream Skyrim from a PC (using NVIDIA’s new Tegra 3 chip). Gaming plays a bigger role in all technology these days, which is sure to even further expand the gaming audience.