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[June 08, 2012]
No new consoles announced at E3, mobile tech could influence future designs
Jun 09, 2012 (San Bernardino County Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The E3 2012 convention provided only a small glimpse of what the next generation of gaming consoles will look like, as the past week's industry show ended with only one of the big three console makers -- Nintendo -- providing any information on its next machine.
"This year's E3 was underwhelming as we got no major announcements, and Nintendo had a weak showing when it was expected to make a big splash," industry analyst Arvind Bhatia of Sterne Agee wrote in an email.
The E3 convention at Los Angeles Convention Center is one of the video game industry's biggest trade shows. Although this year's show lacked a big reveal for the future of gaming hardware, industry announcements seemed to indicate how the popularity of mobile "smart" devices may influence gaming machines.
"We expect industry headlines to be lackluster in the near term," Bhatia continued. "We expect next year's E3 to be much more exciting as we think MSFT (Microsoft) and SNE (Sony) will showcase their next-gen consoles then." The current generation of consoles has been around for more than half a decade. Microsoft's XBox 360 has been in stores since 2005, while the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 have both been around since 2006.
Within the past six years, the rise of Apple's iPhone and iPad as well as competing similar products, notably those running Google's Android operating system, have altered the consumer electronics industry.
Americans spent roughly $144 billion on consumer electronics in 2011, according to NPD Group. The tablet and e-reader segment accounted for nearly 11 percent of that money and its $15 billion in sales last year signified a doubling over 2010 levels.
Video game hardware represented nearly 6 percent of electronics sales last year, accounting for about $8 billion in sales.
It's not clear that gaming consoles are in direct competition with mobile devices. Both types of products can play games, but console games are much more complex and detailed than the casual games found sold to mobile users, such as "Angry Birds." But what is evident is the influence that features common on mobile devices, especially touchscreens, are having on game hardware.
The Wii U's signature feature is its tablet-style controller that gives players a touchscreen, surrounded by old-school controller buttons, to hold in their hands.
A tablet-style controller, in the words of Nintendo executives and game developers supporting the Wii U, can make it easier for players to focus on a game.
The idea is that a touchscreen will enable players to access in-game information like level maps and in-game inventories without having to pause the gaming experience.
"I think the immersion is better," said Ans Beaulieu, a producer for WB Games team in Montreal while showing a new version of 2011's hit "Batman: Arkham City" that is being re-worked for the Wii U.
Neither Microsoft nor Sony revealed details of a new console at E3, but some of those companies' announcements also reflected the influence of mobile technology.
Sony announced plans to share gaming content with smart phone makers HTC via a platform called "PlayStation Mobile," which was previously called PlayStation suite.
Microsoft's major announcement for E3 is a planned service called "SmartGlass." Instead of creating a tablet controller like Nintendo did, Microsoft plans to make the XBox 360 compatible with smartphone and tablets using Apple, Android or Windows operating systems.
SmartGlass will be compatible with games but also movies and television programs streamed over the XBox Live online service, Microsoft announced.
"The Xbox smart glass initiative is going to be a big deal, as it will allow consumers to access the Internet on their televisions without buying an Internet capable TV," analyst Michael Pachter said in an email.
"We're all comfortable surfing the web with smart devices, but being able to project a YouTube video on the TV is a big deal, and ultimately, the Smart Glass/Xbox combination will serve as the cable box," he continued.
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