The world’s largest third-party publisher of video games, Activision Blizzard, had a booth with a mammoth screen looping a trailer for the title that will appear on more kids’ 2012 holiday wish lists than any other: Call of Duty®: Black Ops II. It is the follow-up to last November’s Call of Duty release, which became the biggest entertainment release of all time, surpassing the previous holder of that title, the movie Avatar.
But if you still believe video games are mere children’s toys, consider for a moment that the best-selling home gaming console of the current generation, Nintendo Wii, has been able to outpace Microsoft® Xbox 360® and Sony’s PlayStation®3 by attracting a far broader audience than children and young adult males – you.
Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo Wii focused on its motion controllers, paired with the fun-for-all-ages Wii Sports, to draw in casual gamers and non-gamers. It worked.
Wii is evolving to a touch-screen-controlled Wii U™ unit, launching for the 2012 holidays. After teasing Wii U last year, it took center stage in L.A. All of the motion controls are back, and it will support its predecessor’s controllers.
With the touch-screen controller, the Wii U looks poised to bring console gaming to new heights. If you have a tablet PC, then imagine a smaller version, framed by physical controller buttons, sticks, triggers, and grips, and you have what to expect of the control unit. The device also functions as a television remote and a second screen for displaying additional game info, such as fantasy game maps, action game inventories, and designed plays in football. Conveniently, all data is transferred instantaneously between controller and console, meaning it isn’t subject to lag that can be caused by your wireless network.
Microsoft also has second-screen functionality in the works, called “Smartglass.” The Redmond software giant seeks to deliver many of the same elements to gamers’ hands, but will do so through a tablet or smartphone (iOS, Windows®, and Droid devices are to be supported) along with a traditional game controller. It’s another step forward in making Xbox the central, connected entertainment hub of a play space.
Sony also brought its second screen, which has been on the market for most of 2012. The PlayStation Vita hand-held gaming system launched in February competes against Wii U and Smartglass. Cross-play allows gamers to use Vita as a controller for PS3™ games and can take PS3 games on the go.
It’s a bold, new world for gaming, and one that will play out through first-hand experiences. Ultimately, the industry hopes to dispel the negative connotations that still live on in the heads of outsiders, breaking the divide between “gamers” and “non-gamers” through experiences that offer something for everybody.
Will it work? Well, that Angry Birds icon residing on your mobile device says it already has, fellow gamer.
A gamer since the mid-1980s, Nick Santangelo also works as a freelance video game reporter and critic. He attends a handful of gaming conventions each year.