We're just two weeks away from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Once again, Gaming Nexus will have coverage starting on Monday, January 9. Dan Keener, Ben Berry, and myself, all took time out to answer some of the big questions regarding this year's show.
Do you think MS will announce a new Xbox at the show?
Ben: I'm on the fence on this. Could they drop hints in a "one more thing" kind of moment, a la Apple, that it's coming at E3? Sure. But I don't expect the official notice to happen anywhere other than E3
Dan: In lieu of the supposed Microsoft/CEA supposed spat and subsequent announcement that Microsoft will not be returning to the CES show floor or keynote slot, I think the answer is no. Not to sound too cynical, but I would question whether or not Microsoft has been a relevant participant at CES and as the lead keynote since Bill Gates retired and gave his farewell keynote. Any gaming announcements have either been tepid at best, or flat-out buried and never come to fruition. Last year, Microsoft had some Kinect pods that took up a solid 1/3 of their booth and just ahandful of PC and Xbox 360 titles. This year I expect more of the same, with a few titles that are due to be released on Windows 7 platform and some Live integration activity (Xbox 360, PC and Windows 7 phone), but nothing more.
Sean: Microsoft always likes to make a splash at places not named E3, which is why I believe that the time and place are both proper for this. It's been over six years since the 360 launched and you would have to think that, sooner or later, they have to pull the trigger. Considering that Nintendo has already announced the WiiU and Sony has announced the Vita, what is keeping Microsoft from making their own big announcement? If we don't hear anything at CES, you have to imagine that they are having problems deciding on a format, given that their partnership with the now defunct HD-DVD was a tough pill to swallow, especially since rival Sony's Blu-ray is the standard in physical media. However, who's to say that the next game system will have physical media at all?
Will the WiiU will garner any more positive praise by appearing to press only at the show?
Ben: I think it will depend a lot on the controller. If there truly is no real change to the console in terms of horsepower, then it seems unlikely. I've been preaching "revolutionize the control" for years, and Wii made the first real beachfront, but I'm nervous this will be a step back.
Dan: Yes it will appear, but no it will not garner any positive praise. In mid-December, Nintendo released this statement about their 2012 CES plans, and I think it is pretty straight forward:
"Nintendo of America, working with the 2012 International CES management, will offer demos of the upcoming Wii U console to members of the media who did not see the system at the 2011 E3 Expo. However, Nintendo will not have a booth at CES, nor does it plan to include any games, experiences or information beyond what was available at the 2011 E3 Expo. Production and development efforts remain on track for the Wii U launch, which will take place between the start of the 2012 E3 Expo in June, and the end of 2012."
So select members of the press (i.e. CNET, NBC, etc.) that were unable to experience the WiiU at 2011 E3 will be given a look at the same rehashed E3 presentation. If the WiiU that was shown at E3 is in fact unchanged, we can probably expect another round of disappointing reviews. However, the mainstream media could very well be snookered by the shock and awe of the WiiU beast of a controller and ignore the disappointing facts of the device, so there is a chance that someone could hop on Nintendo’s bandwagon for the WiiU on sheer ignorance alone.
Sean: You would have to think so, considering that we have learned little to nothing about the system since E3, even though Nintendo has said that they will not have a booth at CES. Nintendo always seems to change up the playbook when it comes to their new systems, but this one seems to be following the exact same steps as when they released the Wii.
Is gaming at CES growing or not?
Ben: I think gaming at CES is clearly growing. The number of people wanting bits of my time in relation to gaming has grown every year I've been in attendance. Not everyone gets space on the show floor with the economy the way it is and the cost of that space, but companies at the smaller side shows or in suites have certainly continued to increase.
Dan: I believe it is growing, but from the outside in. What I mean by this is that gaming has become more closely integrated with two very important CES genres: Home Theater and Mobile devices. As a result, we are seeing more and more of the companies that manufacture Audio, Video and mobile devices, as well as companies that manufacture accessories for these devices present more gaming related products than ever. Examples include three of the largest console accessory makers (NYKO, Mad Catz and Guillemot Corp) as well as a slew of top-tier PC accessory makers (Razer, Steel Series, etc) having a contingent at the show. Along with the countless mobile (iOS in particular) accessory companies, the presence has shifted slightly from the gaming hardware to the gaming peripheral market. You also will see consoles (Xbox and PS3 primarily) all over the show floor integrated into the booths for demo purposes. What always surprises me is the amount of games (announced and unannounced) that always seem to pop up somewhere in Vegas during CES. On a sour note, with Microsoft likely pulling off the show floor and Nintendo having only small-scale closed door meetings, Sony is left as the last man standing from the big three console companies.
Sean: Absolutely. Many people argued against this years ago since E3 was the big thing for the United States, but when it hit a rough patch in the mid-2000s with the explosion of other conventions such as TGC, PAX Expo, etc, it seemed that there needed to be another big show for gaming. CES seems to have welcomed gaming, especially in the last few years, with open arms, and it is a refreshing sight for all of us.
What's going to be the biggest category at E3 this year (e-reader, tablets, TV's, cell phones etc)
Ben: Tablets will be the big thing again this year, with 3D televisions continuing to make a strong push.
Dan: I actually have a trifecta of products that I think will be all over the show floor.
The first is tablets, which I think will see another population explosion similar to a rat-infestation in the Las Vegas Convention center. However, I think these small companies trying to get a slice of the tablet market are really too little too late at this point. I believe the entire tablet/e-reader market is about to implode on itself due all of the competing OS formats, lack of standardization and too many companies trying to produce cheap alternatives. At some point, the market will reset itself and only the strong will survive, so expect these fringe companies churning out crap to go by the wayside, and only 3-4 major players with 2-3 OS in place in the future.
This leads me to my second category (very much related), which will be Android powered devices everywhere. From Phones, to tablets to TVs, Google is worming its way into every nook and cranny of the electronic world. Some would say that Google is becoming worse than Microsoft ever was (and I agree) as there is a very large cautionary tale here. Google is releasing new OS versions faster than any OS in history, and it will have a nasty side effect in the near future. Too many versions (Ice Cream Sandwich is trickling out now), too many Android specific stores and older Android devices unable to upgrade to newer Android versions may ultimately be the undoing of Google. Much like the tablet/e-reader market, Google needs to slow itself down and start to standardize its OS with an eye toward the future. Otherwise, the fractured Android market may cause consumers to turn on Google.
Lastly I think ultra-thin laptops will be found in all of the major players booths. Toshiba, ASUS, Sony, HP and so one will be trying to get the smallest and lightest notebook with full functionality they can muster to consumers.
Sean: I really think that tablets and cell phones are the biggest things to watch for. Tablets have exploded in the last two years, and they aren't showing a single sign of slowing down. However, cell phones have always been the biggest rumor maker, especially now that we are seeing two clear cut systems above all others with iOS and Android. Windows phones seem to just be a cut below the big two, and you have to believe that both Apple and Android are going to make huge strides in separating themselves from the pack.
What are you looking forward to seeing the most?
Ben: I'm looking forward mostly to the innovation. Every year I try to hit each of the major show innovation award winners, and I always find something I either didn't believe was technically possible, or is something I never imagined we'd see in the consumer segment at and affordable cost. I also hope to find a few products in the health gaming sector that will blur the line further between healthy living and hardcore gaming. Finally, I think there will be some core gaming products like the Razer Star Wars: The Old Republic peripherals that I'll want to take a spin with.
Dan: This is always my toughest question to answer, because I usually don’t know until I see it. I haven’t yet played with the PlayStation Vita, so that is on my to do list as well as checking out any games that are scattered around the show floor and the Vegas area. However, if I had to pick one thing, I am looking forward to the advancements in the processors for mobile devices. With companies like NVidia, Intel and AMD constantly improving their mobile processors, I am really looking forward to seeing who comes out with the fastest and baddest Mobile and GPU processors at the show. These little guys will dictate the future of mobile gaming (and potentially PC, Notebook, integrated TV and Consoles gaming in the future), so it is always cool to see who steps up and when it will be available.
Sean: Looking at the lineup we have scheduled, I have to answer the fanboy in me and say that I'm quite eager to see Square Enix's lineup for 2012, especially Final Fantasy XIII-2. Outside of SE, I'm eager to see nVidia's lineup of hardware for PCs as well as Razer's "The Old Republic" accessories.
Will there be any cool innovations in the 3D space this year (i.e. cheaper no glass 3D)
Ben: I think the innovation will continue to push in the direction of less expensive glasses-less 3D. As to how whether or not we see one of these break the $500 price point SRP barrier this year seems unrealistic.
Dan: It is really hard to say, as 3D only has a couple of ways to improve at this point. The first is glasses-less, and the second is price. I could be wrong, but I think that 3D (despite being a convert myself) is still viewed as a niche product despite the industry effort to make it mainstream. The results of 3D, when done right, can be exceptional. However, the stigma of the price, no standardized glasses format and the sheer amount of glasses needed for a group to experience it will continue to hold it back. If we see any innovation in the format this year, it will have to be in one of those three areas.
Sean: For companies' sake, there had better be. With the only real innovations in the past couple of years being cutting down on the cost of the technology itself, 3D needs something huge this year to really pick things up again, or 3D is going to be a novelty that is lost. I have always been skeptical about 3D in the home and just how important it is to the consumer, and overall sales numbers agree with me that the support in the home just isn't there. If there isn't a big breakthrough this year, developers may look elsewhere for the next big technology to bring into the home.
Be sure to check back on Monday for the start of our coverage!