Although not dedicated to gaming, the Consumer Electronics Show always features some shiny new devices aimed at gamers. It's also becoming the conference during which game companies hint at the things they'll be showing off at E3 and otherwise make bold statements or vague premonitions. Here's what we've heard from the CES, plus a few other timely industry stories.
Gaming Buzz at CES
A number of gaming-related gizmos were shown off at the CES. Razer announced a tablet aimed at hardcore gamers—it looks a bit awkward to hold, but it's an interesting concept. Tobii demonstrated new eye-tracking technology with a version of Asteroid that allowed players to blow up aliens by just looking at them. Google and OnLive announced a partnership to bring streaming games to televisions running Google TV, while LG and Gaikai will be doing the same with LG's Smart TVs. Both streaming plans hope to steal sales from console manufacturers in the near future.
There wasn't much on show in terms of more traditional game consoles, unfortunately. Nintendo gave demonstrations of the Wii U that were identical to those at E3, and the company still refuses to answer specific questions about the console's specs. Microsoft was largely focused on phones, tablets, and Windows 8, though it did take the time to foist an autotuned Bill Gates, Ryan Seacrest, and a choir singing random Tweets on the CES audience.
In Sony's corner, Kaz Hirai stated that Sony doesn't plan to show off a new PlayStation console at E3 this year. This is contrary to rumor, but seems logical if Sony wants to keep attention on the Vita during 2012. Of course, Sony is always slippery with public statements, so a comment on "no plans" doesn't guarantee there will be no PS4 at E3. Reports have surfaced that Sony's next console could feature "haptic touch feedback," a feature that Sony has been planning for some time. It would allow the console to read a player's vital signs and facial expressions, with the ultimate goal of sensing emotions. The next PlayStation console will also likely feature super HD graphics and Kinect-style body sensing input, but that's not nearly as interesting as the fact that Sony wants to feel your fear.
Fallout From Fallout Lawsuit
Remember Fallout Online? Anyone? Back when Bethesda, the publisher of Fallout 3 and New Vegas, bought the rights to the franchise, it allowed original owner Interplay to keep the Fallout license for the purpose of making an MMORPG by 2009. Since that transaction, all we've heard from Interplay is that they're working on Fallout Online and that they promise it will be awesome.
Once most of 2009 had passed with no sign of an actual MMORPG emerging from Interplay, Bethesda sued to get the rights back. That suit has finally been settled in Bethesda's favor, although Interplay is being paid 2 million dollars in the settlement. Bethesda now has full rights to all future development in the Fallout franchise. There's no announcement of a Bethesda-developed Fallout MMO yet, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
No News From Hell
Blizzard fans have been slavering for a Diablo III release date for some time now, and this week Best Buy heated up the rumor mill when a countdown clock was spotted at a Minnesota store. The clock listed a countdown until Diablo III's release on February 1. At the same time, rumors that a console release of the game is coming were apparently confirmed when a Blizzard Customer Service representative Tweeted about the Diablo III console development team.
Enter Blizzard to pour cold water on the Diabolic flames. There's still no release date for Diablo III and any store that says otherwise is guessing, says the company. Thanks for being no fun at all, Blizzard!
Steam Heats Up
While a few misguided gamers continue to believe that PC gaming is dead, über download service Steam is chuckling all the way to the bank. There are now 40,000 Steam accounts and 1,800 games on Steam, and sales on the service have increased 100% for the seventh year in a row. Along with playing host to the success of an increasing number of independent games, Steam got into free-to-play online gaming in 2011 and plans to introduce more free-to-play titles in the coming year. The breadth and depth of the Steam catalog is impressive, and Valve has repeatedly reported that its strategy of regular deep discount sales has been good for business all around.
Although there are certainly valid concerns and complaints about Steam dominating the PC gaming landscape, the service has visibly demonstrated how it's possible to be successful by engaging in consumer-friendly pricing and robust community tools. We can only hope that other companies are watching and learning the right lessons from Steam's success.
Date: January 13, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*