Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club: All the new hardware and promises for 2013 are delights for gamers
Three new home hardware video game machines are set to release this year. It's also expected that the big boys that make Xbox (Microsoft) and Playstation (Sony) will announce their own next generation machines this year (at the Electronics and Entertainment Expo in June).
With smartphones and tablets pulling in millions of dollars with simplistic "app" games such as Angry Birds, the next step of connecting those devices to your TV and/or increasing the power was an obvious one.
Nvidia announced its device last week, called Shield. It's based on Android technology and looks much like a tablet mated with an Xbox controller.
Shield appears to be a high-end portable gaming device. That means it's going to be too big and clunky for your pocket and not have enough power to run legitimate video games that Xbox and Playstation support.
However, it should fit a nice niche for gamers who want to be able to throw a gaming device in their travel bag that plays more than simple app games. And as with most new devices, eventually game designers figure out the right way to use it and build games that get the most out of the devices.
Then there's the Ouya, which shattered Kickstarter's record for the most money taken in on the site's crowd-sourcing/fundraising mechanism, garnering $8.6 million.
And that money was all made on the promise of what it can be, not on anything tangible.
The Ouya is a home console rumored to be out this year with a price tag of just $100 and boasting 3D capability.
The innovative idea behind the Ouya (and the reason there was nothing to promote for games) is that the system will encourage developers to either port over older games or create new ones.
To that end, the Ouya folks are offering $45,000 for a 10-day competition that will start Monday in which game designers build a game from scratch using the system's specs.
Ouya clearly has a lot of people interested as the Kickstarter numbers attest, but with so much "unknown" about just where it will end up, it does have some people (myself included) taking a wait and see approach.
Then there's Steam Box from Valve. The Steam game-downloading engine has been very popular with PC gamers and the early word is that the Steam Box would be an entertainment system for the whole house, meaning you could play on multiple TVs at once.
Valve has plenty of money and millions of users to push the Steam Box and, if done correctly, this one looks to have the potential to give Microsoft and Playstation a serious run for their money.
Three different pricing levels, from $99 to $300, will also ensure that the system is available to most anyone who wants one.
If the home box can be configured to support the thousands of games already on Steam, it will have that much more appeal when it launches sometime this year.
So where does all this leave development for Microsoft and their Xbox 720 machine and Sony's new Playstaion console?
Considering that those two have been largely unopposed for years (Nintendo has always gone after different demographics, such as families with the Wii U) and just how different gaming is now because of smart phones and tablets, both Microsoft and Sony are going to have to really come up with some major innovations to stay on top of the heap.
Regardless of the plans of the big two, all the competition means video game enthusiasts will have that many more options to choose from.
Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Check out his podcast "Nerdherders" on iTunes or at www.3nerds.us. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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