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Gaming’s Next Big Things

Posted by foreualways on July 5, 2009

Three days, hundreds of video games, and even a handful of new ways to play them.

The annual blur of bleeps and bloops known as the E3 video game conference officially ended Thursday, but the future of gaming is just starting to come into focus. Wondering what to expect from your computer or console in the coming months (and years)? Here are five of the Next Big Things in gaming:

The Motion-Sensing War.

Before the show even officially started, both Microsoft and Sony unveiled their efforts to out-Wii the Wii with impressive new ways to control video games.

Project Natal

At the top of everyone’s must-see list was Microsoft’s Project Natal, a much-hyped but never-before-seen motion-controlled camera that seeks to revolutionize the way people play video games. Forget Wii waggles and complicated button combos — the impressive Natal system lets users control games simply by moving their bodies. While it’s still a long ways off, those few who got some hands-on (er, body-on?) time with Natal were floored by the fact that even in this early stage, it works as advertised.

Not to be outdone, Sony showed off their own prototype motion-controller that transforms a wand into a sword, bat, gun, flashlight, and, well, pretty much anything else a game maker could imagine. Much like the Wii remote, gamers can wave the wand to interact with onscreen objects, although the level of precision looks much sharper here. Though it wasn’t on display at the show, it’s due out in spring of next year, so expect more info soon.

But while Microsoft and Sony touted future tech, Nintendo is all about the here and now. The Wii MotionPlus attachment, which promises to dramatically increase the accuracy of the Wii remote, will be in consumer hands later this month. Packaged with the surefire sales blockbuster Wii Sports: Resort, the attachment should spread like wildfire, giving the Wii an even greater head start in the motion-control race.

For the first time, however, they’re no longer the only player in that game.

The All-Access Pass.

Thanks in large part to the unparalleled crossover success of the Wii, everyone and their mother are gaming these days. And the industry is reacting by making gaming as accessible to those moms as possible.

When it comes to simple, intuitive gaming, nobody does it better than Nintendo. In addition to new versions of landmark titles Wii Fit and Wii Sports, the company will make gaming more accessible than ever by incorporating an in-game hint system that would help new players get through tough games without sacrificing the challenge for veteran gamers. Dubbed the Nintendo "Kind Code," it could be just the ticket to keep casual players interested in games they would otherwise stop playing out of frustration.

Other companies are following suit. Massive game publishers Ubisoft and Electronic Arts are reaching out to the tween market with loads of games targeted at younger girls, while the popular fitness game genre will see multiple new entries as companies vie for a slice of the pie baked by Wii Fit. And to make consoles more inviting to casual players, both Microsoft and Nintendo will be offering Facebook and Twitter applications, turning their once single-minded machines into legitimate social networking systems.

The Return of 3D.

And we don’t mean those little red and blue paper glasses.

Avatar

Featuring bleeding-edge graphics that take full advantage of the stereoscopic 3D technology powering the film of the same name, James Cameron’s Avatar video game stunned showgoers with its amazing look. While most consumers don’t have the kind of 3D-powered television set required to truly take advantage of the game’s effects (it will still work on standard and HD sets, though), it’s clear that this could be the blueprint for the future of the medium.

Only a few other titles, like Namco/Bandai’s downloadable action game Invincible Tiger, are utilizing similar technology, but it seems everyone is interested in breaking dimensional barriers. Microsoft’s motion-sensing camera Project Natal takes 3D to the next level by letting players control games using their entire bodies, while Sony’s Playstation Eye will give lonely gamers a 3D companion in the underreported but adorably awesome EyePet. Even Sony’s PSP is going inter-dimensional with the reality-blurring Pokemon-esque creature catching game, Invisimals.

The Death of Discs.

Sick of shelves cluttered with game boxes? You’re not the only one. Digital downloads have already made a huge impact on the way gamers purchase and play games, and after E3 2009, it’s clear that the traditional retail disc format is on its last legs.

Announced with little fanfare, Microsoft will offer Xbox 360 owners the ability to buy and download full versions of disc-sized releases. Initially those will be older, top-notch titles like Mass Effect, BioShock and Lego Star Wars, but eventually the service will launch downloadable versions of brand new games day and date with the retail versions. Much like what the iTunes store has done to classic brick and mortar retail outlets, the system makes trips to the mall — or even online retailers like Amazon — a thing of the past.

Also destined for the history books is Sony’s UMD disc format. Sony’s upcoming, compact PSP model, the PSP Go, doesn’t have a UMD slot at all, instead asking its users to download games on to the system. And while Nintendo’s recently released DSi handheld still lets gamers play DS cartridges, the company will only expand its DSiware download service. Tack on the outrageous numbers Apple is doing with the disc-less iPhone/iPod Touch, and it’s looking like the future is all about going digital.

The Hip-Hop Revolution.

Music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have made virtual rocking an everyday gig, but what about the legions of hip-hop fans more interested in mixing than moshing?

DJ Hero

DJ Hero, that’s what. Activision’s upcoming scratch simulator taps into the lucrative world of rap and hip-hop by letting gamers mix and mash jams from artists like Jay-Z, Eminem, and Black Eyed Peas using a new turntable controller. Best of all, it brings rock and hip hop together by supporting Guitar Hero guitars as well. You’re the DJ, I’m the rocker.

But like the battle of the bands between Guitar Hero and Rock Band, DJ Hero isn’t the only star in the house. With its own turntable peripheral and stellar lineup, Scratch: The Ultimate DJ will try to give it a run for its money. And we don’t just mean thorough litigation.

Joining those two is a third contender for the hip hop game crown. Courtesy of the interactive arm of legendary Def Jam Records comes Def Jam: Rapstar, a karaoke-style game featuring a combination of rapping and singing. Deep community features, such as the ability to email custom rap videos to friends, makes this a (too) legit (to quit) threat.

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One Response to “Gaming’s Next Big Things”

  1. Michael said

    Great article. That definitely matches the latest trends in video gaming.

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