Will this development send Nintendo back to the drawing board as far as what new features the Wii U will be compelled to support simply to compete with this new development?
Should Microsoft be punished for blatantly ripping the Wii U off? Should Nintendo be praised for once-again setting an industry standard that everyone else copies and then improves on? Is Xbox 360 Smart Glass just a natural development in the direction videogames and videogame developers were already headed in? That is, would Microsoft have developed Xbox 360 Smart Glass or something like it, even without the Wii U?
So many questions… so little answers.
It’s really anyone’s guess. One thing that IS certain though, and you can glean this from both Microsoft AND Sony’s press conferences… as well as from third-party developers… mobile gaming has literally changed the landscape of gaming as a whole. Similar to social network games and popular, household words like Facebook, the gaming landscape has shifted and is now taking these huge new changes into account. Better yet, the gaming industry is taking advantage of these new technologies to offer gamers new and ever-more-interactive and interconnected experiences. Experiences that are beginning to spread out… outside of a single game console.
While the BIG THREE won’t be getting together to make woopie anytime soon, the fact is these manufacterers have recognized that it is to their advantage to bring mobile devices and other machines into their fold. While allowing your mobile device to LITERALLY become a videogame controller and control your system using your smartphones touchscreen is a HUGE new development (who’s worth cannot be understated. This is BIG), if you think back even a couple years ago to Sony and their “PlayStation Suite”, or to Microsoft and their Windows Phone platforms… this kind of connectivity with mobile devices is something that has been bubbling under the service for years and years now.
However, I think it took the Wii U and its tablet controller and Nintendo’s fancy eye for innovate innovation, to violently shove Microsoft and Sony to put all they have into persuing their mobile ideas that they were already half-heartedly working on, thinking about, and considering. But now they’ve gone beyond thinking and considering and into action. And I can’t see how anyone could say this is a bad thing.
When the Windows Phone 7 was first announced, it was revealed that, if you bought one, you could instal your Xbox Live Avatar and Gaming Card onto the device by linking with your Xbox 360 account (which could also be done on Windows) and keep track of all your Xbox 360 Achievements, your GamersScore, etc. while you were on-the-go. Cool right? Sure. Who wouldn’t say that is pretty sweet. But is it cool enough to make you buy a Windows Phone over another platform? No. When Sony a few years ago announced the “PlayStation Suite” service, the goal was to expand the PlayStation brand into the mobile space. AWESOME!!! We all said. Then it was revealed that “bringing PlayStation to mobile”, in reality, meant being able to play 15-year-old PlayStation One games on your phone… and old crappy ones that everyone already owns at that. Yawn.
Do you see where I’m going with this? This development was already under way, but the way in which these publishers went about it was all wrong. Then in steps Nintendo. Out of absolutely NO WHERE, the company introduces the Wii U, a videogame system whose controller IS a touchscreen tablet, with traditional gaming controls built-in on the sides. Nintendo proceeds to show the Wii U Remote and Nunchuk and other devices interacting with the Wii Controller tablet (no officially called the Wii U GamePad) in ways that expand on what is being seen and percieved on the TV. They turn heads by showing a guy golfing, where the ball sits in a hole in the sand displayed on the Wii U tablet’s screen, and the guy then hits the Golfball by swinging the Wii Remote and the ball flies FROM the Wii U tablet and onto the TV screen…. Ingenius.
This causes Microsoft and Sony to kick themselves and say “Why didn’t we think of that?” Oh wait, we kinda did! We just didn’t really follow through with it! And that brings us to today. Yesterday Microsoft announced Xbox 360 SmartGlass, and that they are now putting their FULL WEIGHT behind mobile devices in order to move the Xbox 360 and all that it offers onto devices NOT CALLED the Xbox 360. While this may not include playing Xbox 360 games on other devices like PC, cellphones and tablets, it WILL mean more interconnectivity with Windows PCs, your Xbox 360, and your mobile devices than ever before. And it will mean new ways of interacting with your Xbox 360 using other devices.
The big draw was the ability to use your tablet or cellphones touchscreen to control your Xbox 360. Now there will be no need to fiddle around with the Xbox 360 controller when watching a TV show, as you can just sit back and use the cellphone in your pocket as a remote with which to select the show or entertainment you want to watch on your Xbox 360 and to pause, rewind, fast forward, skip scenes, etc. Beyond that, Xbox SmartGlass brings new functionality to your entertainment by allowing the additional screen to know what it is that you are doing on another device. Be it a Windows PC or your Xbox 360, your device will display relevant information or interactive features, greatly enhancing your experience.
All of this begs the question… will you be able to use the new screen in ways like the Wii U? For example, in an Aliens: Colonial Marines game, can you use your Xbox SmartGlass connected cellphone as a radar screen? The answer is YES. This was shown in multiple examples… however they were just examples… we’ll need to wait and see to find out how it will actually compare to what the final form of the Wii U brings to the table.
I would believe the Wii U has the edge, because unlike the tablet or cellphone which was not originally built with the Xbox 360 in mind, the Wii U tablet WAS built with your TV in mind, and can instantly with 100% NO LAG, display what is on the TV on your controller, and vice versa, as well as enhancing it.
As for Sony, they went as far as to rename their “PlayStation Suite” service and simply call it “PlayStation Mobile”, and they, just like Microsoft, are renewing their focus on hooking the PS3 and PS Vita to mobile devices. They are also pushing hard the ability to hook your PS3 up to your PS Vita, and to use the two vices together. Connectivity between the two will mean the ability to play the same game on both machines, and then stop playing on one machine, and pick up from where you left off on the other. The ability to share save files between both your PS3 and PS Vita, and surely much more.
Of course, Nintendo also messed around with portable connectivity between their GameCube and the Game Boy Advance back in 2004-2006, but that didn’t go anywhere important and very few people used it. Will people use it now with Sony?
I think the more likely answer is “probably not”. Few people have both a PS Vita AND a PS3, and for the most part they probably cannot be bothered or won’t care enough to link the two together and use them constantly. And the same goes for Microsoft. And THIS is where the other two run into problems that Nintendo avoids. Unlike Nintendo, these devices must already be owned, and must then be hooked up and synced in with the home system. Beyond that, the person has to give a sh*t about what you are doing with the connectivity. While people think that being able to see information about a TV show or movie on their cellphone as the movie or TV show is playing is cool, how many will actually care? When was the last time YOU watched a DVD/Bluray information pop-up special feature where you watch the whole movie as it pops up tidbits of info while you are watching it?
Most people do not care and find it distracting, and would rather just watch the movie. i.e., how often will you actually look down at your Xbox 360 SmartGlass-connected tablet or cellphone while you are watching The Matrix 4? It is more likely that you will NOT do this. Nintendo’s advantage is that everyone who buys a Wii U is buying it SOLELY for the Wii U tablet. This is the big selling point of the Wii U, and everyone who buys one will immediately be interested in using said tablet, and will not have to hassle with connecting the devices together and then remembering to use them.
Having additionally connectivity and functionality is one thing. Remembering to use it and caring enough to do so is a whole other ballgame. Case-in-point, I often have bought calenders, and hung them on my wall. But how often do I REMEMBER to check it every single morning? Hardly ever. I always forget even when I MEAN TO check it. This is Sony and Microsoft’s challenge. And it’ll be extremely interesting to see where we go from here. :)
Enjoy E3 2012!