Video thrills the LA stars
Videos are set to change the way we play games, Jennifer DudleyNicholson reports
THOUSANDS of gamers took over Los Angeles last week for the E3 Expo. They flooded LA Convention Centre halls groaning with inflatable statues, mock rocketships, a forest of flashing screens and celebrities to see what the video game industry has in store for 2011 and beyond.
What they found were unique creations designed to change the way we play games.
One new machine doubled the number of gaming screens, another added a new type of screen and a third added voice controls.
Switched On braved the queues, the noise and Hulk Hogan sightings to give you the lowdown. touchscreen to its controller, making it look like a tablet computer and opening up new possibilities.
Nintendo senior managing director Shigeru Miyamoto says the WiiUwas designed with the same aim as the original: to make gaming more accessible.
The idea for the games machine came about, he says, when looking at the limitations of playing games on modern, high-definition TVs.
These TVs can be slow to start and are regularly taken over by other household members, interrupting gameplay.
‘‘ We wanted this time to try to resolve this issue of the system being something that wasn’t easy to use because the TV took too long to come on or because someone else was watching it,’’ Miyamoto says.
‘‘ Simultaneously, the interplay between the controller and the screen would allow for there to be a lot of new ideas to play and change things.’’
Users can browse the web on the controller, stream videos to the TV screen or move it around while it acts as a window into the far corners of a game world.
In addition to a touchscreen, the controller features cameras front and back, a microphone, speakers, an accelerometer and gyroscope to measure movement, and two circle pads beside traditional Wii buttons.
Nintendo has not released technical details for the console, other than to say it delivers ‘‘ highdefinition’’ graphics and will be compatible with existing Wii games.
Miyamoto confirms the Wii U will not support 3D gaming, saying the technology is not yet widespread enough to justify it.
The Wii U is due to launch after April 2012, almost six years after the original Wii appeared.
Some analysts criticised Nintendo for waiting so long to update its console, after sliding sales led its global profit to fall 52 per cent.
But Electronic Entertainment Design and Research analyst Jesse Divnich says the new console is a certain commercial success, calling it the best of both core and casual interactive entertainment.
Games announced for the new console include Pikmin, Assassins Creed, Tekken, Darksiders II and Batman Arkham Asylum. JUST months after announcing its development, Sony revealed details of its new portable games machine, the PlayStation Vita.
The PSP successor won praise for its low launch price ($US249.95) and groundbreak- Games and gaming: Sony’s PlayStation Vita (above), Microsoft technology powering
(below left) and Nintendo’s new game console Wii U (below right). ing additions, including a highcontrast, touch-sensitive, fiveinch organic LED screen.
The pocketable machine also features cameras front and back, a rear touch-sensitive panel, quad-core processor and graphics chip for speedy game delivery, motion-sensing and two joysticks.
Analysts had predicted a higher price, given its high specifications, and it has since emerged that the device could be selling at a loss.
Sony Computer Entertainment president Kazou Hirai says he expects the device to be profitable within three years.
But Hirai also says the company expects the new console to outsell the PSP, which has shipped more than 70 million units worldwide.
The PSVita is due to be launched before the end of the year and working models and game demonstrations were available at E3. Titles will include Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Little Big Planet, Resistance, Call of Duty and Killzone.
PSVita owners will be able to download games and store them on a MicroSD card, though titles also will be sold on a new type of flash memory card called NVG.
The PSVita arrives at a challenging time for portable games consoles.
But Sony Computer Entertainment Europe senior vicepresident Michael Denny says the console will deliver much deeper, richer experiences than a multipurpose device.
‘‘ We are excited and we expect it to change the way that people think about portable gaming,’’ Denny says.
Sony also announced the development of a PlayStationbranded 3D television at E3.
The 24-inch screen will be launched in the US this year and will not only allow 3D viewing but deliver a different 3D image to two people sitting on either side of the screen.
Sony is in discussions about bringing the TV to Australia. WHILE Microsoft did not launch new gaming hardware at E3, it did show off new uses for its motion-sensing Kinect accessory.
The main development was the addition of more voice controls to perform tasks such as finding TV shows, searching the web, and controlling games.
Microsoft plans to add search engine Bing and YouTube functionality to its Xbox Live menu to achieve this, while games including Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier will also add voice controls.
This will not affect Australian players immediately, however, as voice-recognition has yet to make it Down Under. A spokeswoman said it would be launched later this year.
Xbox Live corporate vicepresident Marc Whitten says the delay in delivering voiceactivated controls is difficult as it requires the console to recognise accents.
‘‘ It’s our commitment to get voice to every country. We’re doing a lot of work to make this happen,’’ Whitten says.
Microsoft also launched a new online component for Kinect called Fun Labs with games that scan objects, manipulate images and create full-body avatars. The author travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Sony.