Tablet computing, the continued improvement and penetration of 3D technology and the widespread integration of social networking are just some of the trends revealed at the annual E3 gaming conference.
The conference, which is the biggest of its kind, dedicates three days to the video game industry with hundreds of publishers, developers and software engineers coming to show off the biggest new titles in the industry, which is now set to turnover $US70 billion by 2015.
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It is also the first major event since Sony suffered a crippling cyber attack that left the private data of millions of customers vulnerable to theft.
Now in its 17th year, the conference – held in California – is the major highlight of the electronic entertainment industry’s calendar. Tens of thousands of people attend, and major publishers such as Ubisoft, Activision, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft set their agenda for the year ahead.
While the majority of businesses attending dedicate their business models to electronic entertainment, others view the industry as a critical pillar of revenue. Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division is regarded as one of the better performing sectors of the company, and turned over $1.9 billion in the first quarter of 2011.
And each year the industry reveals more new and exciting technology innovations, not only in games but in new hardware as well. Here are five of the biggest tech trends from this year’s E3 conference.
When Nintendo unveiled the Wii motion control technology in 2005 to an unsuspecting audience; the innovation was new, exciting and completely different. And now, it seems the company has done it again.
Releasing its successor to the Wii console, Nintendo has given it an upgrade with the Wii U. The gadget is essentially a more powerful version of the Wii, but much of the attention has been focused on the console’s controller – a new type of tablet.
The tablet itself features typical console controller buttons on either side, but in the middle it contains a six-inch touchscreen. Nintendo says the screen will display game information, and will allow users to interact with games in a variety of different ways – like using it as the scope for a gun, or the tee for a golf game.
But the Wii U controller also allows users to make video calls and take photos. While Nintendo isn’t at all trying to compete with Apple here, it’s clear tablet computing is now moving into new realms of household entertainment.
However, Nintendo shares dropped to a five-year low after the console was announced – investors aren’t so confident about how the new technology will perform.
Last year Nintendo showed off the 3DS device, which allows users to play handheld games without using glasses. The gadget launched earlier this year and has sold incredibly well.
But the Japanese giant isn’t the only company innovating with 3D. Sony has updated its PlayStation console to support 3D gaming, and even released a new television this week that even allows two users to play on the same screen – and see completely different pictures.
Usually when two players want to play against each other in a game, the console splits the television screen in half, giving each to either player. But now, each player wears a pair of 3D glasses with different polarities, allowing them to see a completely separate picture on the whole television than the opposite player.
So far 3D television has been mostly out of reach for many consumers, but with household tech like the 3DS and PlayStation innovating with new techniques such as these, it could become more commonplace.
Most companies in Australia now would at least be thinking of using some type of cloud computing feature, and if the E3 conference has showed them anything, it’s that it isn’t going anyway.
A new service called OnLive announced at the E3 conference that soon it will be supporting tablets including the Motorola Xoom and iPad – seemingly doing away with the need for a dedicated console.
The service itself allows users to play games over the internet, rather than through a system like the Xbox or Nintendo. And now, OnLive says it will allow players to access games through software on the iPad and Xoom, among other tablets.
This isn’t a permanent solution, and OnLive is still a start-up without much traction, but it’s clear gaming companies are thinking about how to utilise cloud computing services – Microsoft even announced this week Xbox Live users will now have access to new cloud-based features.
Businesses have been told for years they need to get on the ground floor with social networking, and with good reason. But now it seems social media has been taken to a new level.
Gaming giant Activision announced last week it will be launching a new service for its Call of Duty franchise – the most recent title of which netted the company $US1 billion alone – that will integrate with social networks.
The new service, called Call of Duty: Elite, will allow users to connect with Facebook friends, and then choose to play against people who share similar interests. They can rank themselves against friends, view information on other players and create ladders and rankings against players whom they know.
The first wave of social networking has allowed people to connect, and now businesses are beginning to integrate those networks within their own products.
More motion control
Microsoft launched its motion-control system Kinnect last year, and the reception was generally lukewarm. Many of the titles were seen as amateur, although the gadget itself has sold very well.
This year’s E3 conference has seen Microsoft unleash a little more of the Kinnect’s power. Developers are now using the gadget for more adult-themed games, including technology such as head-tracking and voice commands.
Microsoft has also announced Australian users will be able to access voice controls on the Kinnect by the end of the year, allowing them to control certain parts of the Xbox system using just vocal commands.
It isn’t hard to believe other manufacturers will take note of this. Sony has revealed it is currently developing the fourth iteration of its PlayStation system – perhaps voice and control commands could be included as normal features.
This article first appeared on SmartCompany.