Mobile Console Wars – The Second Part of the Battle for Gamers Andrew Nino February 10, 2013 Featured, Opinion 27 Comments The heat is on, with the Wii U now released Microsoft and Sony are left to duke it out as the remaining veterans of the “next generation”. With Sony planning on unveiling their next console in just a few weeks all eyes are focused on the Xbox 720, PlayStation 4, and other less than mobile newcomers to the living room such as the Ouya and Valve with the SteamBox. Meanwhile the little brother of console and PC gaming (mobile gaming) has largely been left on the sidelines as both the 3DS and PS Vita are already well into their life cycles. Though this may be true, both Sony and Nintendo reported lackluster sales of their mobile outings. The result is a class of gamers that multiple console developers are now vying for with both new and strange approaches to the new generation of mobile gaming. So put your Xbox Illumiroom and Big Picture Mode aside for the strange plays being made for control. Microsoft Microsoft has put themselves into a strange place with a surprisingly high amount of options. Despite being the only one of the three console makers this generation to not release a dedicated gaming device they’ve managed to come out with many approaches to mobile gaming including their own phones, as well as iOS and Android phones and tablets. Originally the Windows Phone was an Xbox gamer’s dream. A mobile version of the Xbox Live arcade with achievements, not to mention the games that seemed to rival the DS in quality. To top it off, a gamer’s Xbox profile would be integrated into their phone allowing them to essentially always be connected to their personal gaming community. While gaming (and the app store in general) for Windows Phone has been lackluster Windows Phones have found another purpose, in fact in this regard Microsoft managed to enlist the power of most iOS and Android devices as well with Xbox Smartglass. Using this app on a smartphone or tablet allows users to control their Xbox and perform any number tasks from texting Xbox friends using an onscreen keyboard, to literally using your phone as an extra controller (ideal for apps like Netflix). It’s in this strategy that Microsoft has won the second screen war, why create a dedicated gaming device and worry about getting it into the hands of gamers when many already have a smartphone. It is infinitely easier to get a free app into the hands of a gamer as opposed to a new console. They already beat the Wii U in terms of touch screen controllers without ever having the need to release any new hardware. Another step Microsoft has taken to take over mobile gaming has actually just begun with Wordament for iOS. It’s the first game on the platform to award Xbox Live Achievements, which up until now was a Windows Phone exclusive. What this means is, Microsoft can potentially make itself the number one gaming service for all three major operating systems. Xbox Live is already a well-established brand that many people already have a social connection to. The current options of Xbox Smartglass already blow mobile game hubs like Game Center and Open Feint out of the water. Soon the increased usage of smartphones over consoles may not matter to Microsoft; they’ll already have that market under control. Nintendo Nintendo has a mobile console and a half, that half being the Wii U. The Wii U is a game changer certainly, but was not nearly as revolutionary as the secondary touchscreen with the DS. The 3DS even with its tremendous price cut has been met with relatively unsatisfactory sales figures; as a result it’s clear that Nintendo needs to act fast if it hopes to reclaim its spot as the dominating mobile console. With the 3DS already being sold at a loss, a price cut for the console is already out of the question that’s why Nintendo’s focus for the year will almost be exclusively on software, this is clear by the laundry list of well-established franchises making their way to the console this year. To name a few Pokemon X and Y, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, and Luigi’s Mansion alone could appeal to Nintendo fans enough to call for a new system. Though Nintendo really is pushing for even more games and that’s evident in not only their demeanor, but that of fans. In my experience this is one of the first times in years that gamers around me are excited to own a Nintendo console. Ever since the hype for having a Wii died down Nintendo has struggled to get units out, and now by focusing again on less casual games I believe the big N is on the right track to make a serious play on the mobile market with the 3DS years after its first release. The Wii U on the other hand is an experimental phase, just like the original DS release years ago developers are unsure what to do with the second screen. History is repeating itself with the new console, with developers using the second screen for things like maps, menus, or simply duplicating the other screen. It’s this last method that should be generating the most interest in terms of mobile gaming. As shown by New Super Mario Bros U, or even Black Ops 2 it’s possible to fully replicate the gameplay displayed on a TV on the small screen of the Wii U Gamepad. What this means is for these games, the middle man (the television) can be taken completely out of the mix. Gamers can plug their consoles in and be up and playing within minutes with no additional hardware. It’s the power of the one and a half mobile devices at Nintendo’s disposal that makes it a serious contender for the next generation’s mobile scene. Oculus Rift If the name Oculus Rift sounds foreign to you, watch the video below before continuing. The video above was featured on the Oculus Rift KickStarter page which scored almost $2,500,000 as opposed to its original goal of $250,000. Now aside from being the most original device featured in this article, it actually works. Oculus VR (The developer of the Rift) has created a device that has fulfilled a need that has been in the minds of gamers for decades. The need for virtual augmentation has been around since the dawn of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, and has recently reemerged with new augmented reality headsets like Google’s Project Glass. Using your head to control where you look is a novel approach to gaming that could make first person games much more accessible to the masses. Traditional consoles use the tried and true two stick method to allow for camera maneuverability in first person games, even handheld consoles like the PlayStation Vita and the 3DS (using an attachment) have embraced this method. However for people who are unfamiliar with gaming, the concept of using one joystick to move and one to look around may be difficult to process much less actually carry out. The Oculus Rift takes care of half of the problem, looking is no longer a case of moving a mouse or a stick. It’s the much more natural action of looking around at your surroundings. Naturally when watching non-gamers play first person shooters you’ll see them try and look around cover with their heads, which on current consoles wouldn’t help much but with the Oculus Rift takes on a whole new meaning. With first person shooters becoming one of the most dominant genre’s in gaming thanks to franchise’s like Call of Duty and Halo it’s no wonder there is a lot of excitement across the industry for the Oculus Rift. In the video alone we are introduced to prominent figures in the industry like Cliff Bleszinski and Gabe Newell. Both Bleszinski and Newell both command a large following of gamers, and with their expert testimonials verifying the feasibility of the Oculus Rift as a platform many gamers are anxiously awaiting the release of the Rift. Oculus VR may very well be in a position to turn the next generation of mobile consoles into generation VR. Razer Edge Of the consoles we’re talking about today, the Razer Edge should be the most familiar. Take one part tablet, one part gaming laptop, and one part gamepad and you’d have a rough idea of what the Edge has to offer. Most home consoles are usually much more powerful than those which we carry in our pockets, and while handhelds like the Vita have definitely bridged the gap in terms of power, the Vita leaves something be desired. Cue Razer, their gaming tablet/handheld is planning on taking the market by storm. Running Windows 8, the Edge is flexible enough to fill the void of a computer with access to all the features of a Windows 8 computer, while still retaining the mobility of a tablet powerful enough to run modern games such as Dishonored beautifully. The price of $1,200 may seem steep for most gamers, but given the inherent value of more mobility than a laptop plus the nifty gamepad attachment (adding the $200) the Edge is more capable than any tablet on the market be it an iPad, Nexus 7, or even the Wii U gamepad. The Razer Edge is a major step in bridging the gap between traditional PC gamers and the home/mobile console market. The reason for that, as well as being a traditional tablet with the power behind a decent gaming laptop, is a dock that allows footage from the Edge to be displayed on a TV. Making it an ideal candidate for Valve’s Big Picture Mode. Big Picture Mode alters the Steam UI to be incredibly minimalistic, and easily navigable using a controller. In a world where PC makers are clamoring to make a “Steam Box” for PC console gaming, the Edge may prove to be the mobile jack of all trades that wins the market over. Non-Mobile Mobile Consoles Pistin + Ouya “Honorable Mentions” Speaking of the Steam Box, these two upcoming consoles while technically not mobile consoles seem versatile enough to warrant classifying them as “mobile”. Ouya After a massively successful Kickstarter, the Ouya a $100 Android powered home console has regularly been receiving hardware updates in response to the development community. Building an ecosystem is a difficult challenge, especially for a console without a big name behind it. Fortunately, developers have eagerly been creating games and prototypes in response to the hype surrounding the affordable console arriving at stores like Target and GameStop this coming June. The aggressive pricing is sure to attract gamers, and non gamers alike to the newly emerging Ouya game library. Pistin X13 has been hard at work making a Steam Box that’s attractive enough for gamers to want to make the jump. The Pistin, is an adorable PC that has a form factor that would make any designers excited to get their hands on it. The minimalist approach to the Pistin means that gamers won’t need to worry about a massive Black Rectangle sitting on their entertainment center; instead they would be treated to the small modular design of the Pistin. Truth be told, the price for the Pistin ($999) is not worth the performance received. That being said however, the design and the size contribute to the Pistin’s high price. For PC gamers who regularly build their own gaming rigs, building a PC with the Pistin’s capabilities may be a cake walk (and several times the size of the Pistin). However for the Xbox or PlayStation gamer who hasn’t had to modify their console, excluding perhaps a hard drive the Pistin in its ready out of the box state may prove to attract console gamers to Valve’s Garden of Eden.