Date Posted: July 4, 2011
Print Edition: June 24, 2011
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is by far the biggest show of the year for the video game industry. At this year’s E3, both Nintendo and Sony unveiled sequels to the game machines that have paid their bills for several years. Nintendo announced the Wii U, sequel to the incredibly popular Wii. The new device comes with an iPad-like tablet as a controller, which allows a portable screen to add to the possibilities of a game. Sony announced a portable device called the PlayStation Vita, which becomes the official sequel to the popular PlayStation Portable (PSP). The device has two sticks, touch pads, and cameras. Both devices promise to offer a ton of new software and many new ways to play.
While the Wii U will offer vastly improved high-definition graphics, its tablet-style controller stole the show. One of the most interesting features was the way it could be aimed at the television screen and used in a variety of gameplay mechanics. For example, the screen could be used as an aiming reticule, zooming in on-screen and lining up the crosshairs with the target. However, the screen could also be used to increase the viewing field. One example was to put the screen on the ground during a golfing game. It would display the ball, and then, in conjunction with the Wii’s motion-sensitive Wiimote controller, the player could more accurately aim and execute their shot. However, what was maybe the coolest feature of all was the way the screen would allow players to keep playing even when the rest of the family wanted to watch TV. A demonstration showed a player simply pausing the game on the TV, and un-pausing the game on the tablet’s screen. If two players each have a tablet, they can play multiplayer games each on their own screen.
Another cool feature of the tablet is that the screen is touch-sensitive and can even be used with a stylus to create impressive drawings. Nintendo even suggested that certain multiplayer board games like Reversi could be played on the tablet away from the living room. The controller is set to feature a built-in gyroscope, accelerometer, a front-facing camera, and a microphone. Other Wii devices should also be backwards compatible with the Wii U, such as the Wii Balance Board. The Wii U should be coming to stores sometime in the spring or summer of 2012.
The PlayStation Vita is set to release at the end of 2011 at two different price points. The cheaper model will sell for $249 while another version that comes with 3G connectivity will sell for $299. Unlike the different models of PlayStation 3 that feature differently-sized hard drives, the cheaper model cannot be upgraded later.
The Vita will have built-in GPS, a front-facing and rear-facing camera, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technology. It will also feature a three-axis accelerometer, three-axis electronic compass, and a three-axis gyroscope to provide players with a full-range of motion gaming options. Besides the touchscreen, the Vita also offers a touchpad the size of the screen on the back of the device. This allows additional touch to play a role, without covering up the screen with fingers. It will also offer full backwards compatibility with the PSP lineup, but only for games bought digitally, as the Vita will not play discs of any kind.
It should be interesting to see the different ways the most creative minds in the industry will use these features to redefine the way we play games. Although the names are silly and the prices steep, both devices offer the options for some incredibly unique gameplay experiences that cannot be denied.