Last year at E3, Nintendo reached into their proverbial top hat and pulled out some sneaky development magic tricks that none of us really expected: The Wii U was to release with a tablet controller that had a touchscreen interface. We were shown just the tip of the iceberg as far as the functionality of this new tech, then left to imagine all the cool uses such a controller could have. Then Nintendo actually showed us some of the upcoming software for their new console at this year's E3. Now, titles like ZombiU and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition are there to show us just what this tablet-style controller is capable of.
But Nintendo wasn't the only console-maker in the tablet loop this year. Microsoft struck back with something called SmartGlass. This is essentially a new way for tablet and smartphone owners to interact with their Xbox 360s. Now, almost none of SmartGlass' functionality was shown in relation to gaming (though Master Chief did make a brief cameo during the presentation), but it would be foolish to assume Microsoft isn't hard at work trying to figure out the implications this has for its gamers. I mean, you know those games that are supposedly only going to work on the Wii U because of the unique tablet controller? Well, could it be that Microsoft hopes to get their hands on some of those titles after all, using SmartGlass as a way to make this a reality?
Of course, the announcement of SmartGlass made a whole lot more sense when, just a couple weeks later, Microsoft showed off their brand new entry into the tablet market, the Surface. Now, many people are seeing the obvious implications of this: Microsoft isn't ready to bury the hatchet concerning its rivalry with Apple, and is now offering a true iPad competitor. But there's something else brewing here. The potential power of the combination of SmartGlass and the Surface is deliciously obvious to those of us who are paying attention.
So, first we have Nintendo showing off a tablet-like controller for the Wii U, then Microsoft comes back with SmartGlass and the Surface. One competitor is out of the loop it seems: Sony. Sony had a surprising lack of touchscreen/tablet talk at their pre-E3 press conference this year. Are they missing the boat on the next big thing in gaming, or are they confident that they don't need to be monkeying around with tablet functionality, seeing it as a passing fad?
Well, in my opinion, neither is true. You see, the PlayStation had this type of functionality before either of its competitors. I speak, of course, of the PlayStation Vita's PS3 connectivity features. One simply can't deny the potential this combination has for doing pretty much everything Nintendo and Microsoft are bragging about right now. But, weird thing. Sony's not really marketing this tech. I mean, we simply haven't seen a whole lot of Vita/PS3 compatibility talk out of the Sony camp. (Micro-rant: Whatever happened to all that "PS Vita is a fully functioning PS3 controller" talk we heard last summer?)