E3: Preview of the future

By Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

The big three game console makers have revealed their next moves at the E3 conference in Los Angeles. Troy Rawhiti-Forbes reports.

The upcoming title 'Ascend: New Gods', shown on Xbox 360 with added SmartGlass features. Photo / Supplied
The upcoming title 'Ascend: New Gods', shown on Xbox 360 with added SmartGlass features. Photo / Supplied

Xbox 360
It is going be at least another year before we hear about a successor to the Xbox 360. If Microsoft's dedication to Kinect, the motion sensor controller which has given Xbox a new lease of life, wasn't a big enough hint that the console is here to stay, then there's "SmartGlass", a development that makes the manufacturer's intentions as clear as crystal.

Xbox's downloadable content has already gone beyond game development to include delivering film, television and music - all part of making Xbox the go-to hub for all home entertainment. The announcement of SmartGlass may finally put the brakes on any immediate speculation about a forthcoming "Xbox 720".

"The box itself is an incredibly powerful device, and I think what we are seeing is that content creators are really making the most of that," Microsoft's Alan Bowman told TimeOut.

"Even after six or seven years of having that base platform, we are able to layer on continued innovation."

Xbox will make the SmartGlass app freely available on Windows 8, Android and iOS devices, meaning your iPad or Galaxy is only a couple of commands away from being a functional Xbox controller.

Bowman said being "form agnostic" and putting aside its rivalry with Apple represented an exciting development for Xbox. "That's really at the heart of the innovation."

So what does SmartGlass promise to do? It depends on what you're doing. If you're watching a compatible film or TV show through your Xbox, SmartGlass will stream additional information to your gadget, such as character bios, plot history, or anything else you might be pausing your show to check Google for.

It will also supplement games as a second screen interface. In games like Halo 4, that will mean real-time access to the Waypoint system - an improvement upon the existing mobile app that lets players view their multiplayer stats and map info.

PlayStation 3
PlayStation brought a strong games lineup to their conference. The largest chunk of time was however given to introducing Wonderbook, an augmented reality reading and education accessory for the PS3 that comes with JK Rowling's endorsement.

"Wonderbook puts a physical book in your hands, and supports a new range of experiences that bring stories to life in your living room," said Sony Computer Entertainment president Andrew House.

In a setup for the new Harry Potter tie-in game, Book of Spells, the Wonderbook rests on the floor between the player and the TV. The Move controller acts as the wand and the Eye camera puts it on screen, dropping light and fire across the book as the player tries to master the motions of Hogwarts' popular spells in an original story, written by Rowling.

With the new technology, PlayStation hopes traditional reading will take on a whole new meaning. "We are working with a range of authors to create a diverse library of content," House said.

PlayStation's continued support of its Move system, and its further efforts to bring in TV, movies and musical entertainment signals a longer lifespan for the PS3, now in its sixth year.

Nintendo
Nintendo's new Wii U Game Pad is a tablet-sized device that incorporates a touch screen, traditional button, stick and directional pad input, and a camera to track players with - and to put them in the game.

Used in tandem with a second Game Pad - that functionality will come later, Nintendo promises - or a nunchuck remote, players can support each other, as New Super Mario Bros U demonstrated, or for competitive play with very different roles for players one and two.

Leading Super Mario's conference charge were NintendoLand and the Miiverse. NintendoLand is a package meant to introduce players to the Wii U controls, with 12 mini-games, each playing to specific strengths and features of the new functionality.

The Miiverse social hub for players creates avatars to mingle and share information such as status updates, game statistics, and it's clever enough to take other players' gaming tips and insert them straight into the games.

"At its core, Wii U does three different things," said Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime, "It changes your gaming. It changes how you interact with your gaming friends, and it changes the way you enjoy your TV."

Nintendo says the new Wii U console - and its clever new Game Pad - will hit the shops before Christmas.

* Troy Rawhiti-Forbes travelled to E3 in Los Angeles courtesy of Xbox.

- NZ Herald

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