E3 attracts video game developers, publishers and exhibitors from around the world to Los Angeles each summer, all hoping to get to grips with the latest technological marvels. We pick the surprise standouts of the event.
PlayStation TVReleased in Japan last November, this microconsole shares essentially the same innards as the handheld PS Vita – it's even called PS Vita TV in Japan. The machine can play Vita games bought on the proprietary memory card format or stream content from a PS4 using the same system link software as its portable cousin. It can also access the back catalogue of hundreds if not thousands of games on the PlayStation Store. Launching late 2014 at £80, the PS TV is another step towards digital and streaming content for Sony.
Near Field Contact Toys
A boring-sounding umbrella term but these hi-tech figurines which come to life through video games show no signs of losing their vice-like grip on kids' attention. Skylanders remains the champion of the field, now in its fourth iteration with Skylanders Trap Team, but Disney Infinity has proven surprisingly strong, merging characters from across the Disney vaults into one game. Now Nintendo has joined the party with amiibo, colourful and well-sculpted figures that connect with Wii U games and allow training of toy Mario and pals between different titles. The notoriously conservative Nintendo's arrival in the field is an indication this trend isn't going anywhere.
Nintendo, full stop
E3 2014 marked a welcome return to form for Nintendo, seemingly having a renewed confidence in its content. Nintendo introduced new IPs for the Wii U, including puzzle platformer Captain Toad: Treasure Hunter and arena shooter Splatoon, where you battle for dominance as a team of squid/human hybrids. Mario Maker, a creation tool allowing players to make their own Super Mario levels, is also a rare case of Nintendo trusting its fan base with any control of its most important mascot. A new open-world Legend of Zelda was the true star though, offering a remarkable new world ripe for exploring, and promise of a new Star Fox is almost as exciting.
Just Dance Now
Ubisoft's dancing game is an unlikely contender for tech innovation, much less its mobile offshoot. Yet Just Dance Now has the potential to revolutionise online play. Thanks to some patent-pending (read: can't talk about it yet) wizardry, the game allows players to test their moves using only the accelerometer in their smartphone and any browser-based device. The communication between the two has effectively zero latency, allowing for real time scoring and play. Dancing games may not be your thing but if the tech can be applied elsewhere, the ramifications for online gaming could be huge.
Once thought a gimmick, VR seems set to make huge strides in the near future. Oculus Rift has become the big name in the industry since its $1bn acquisition by Facebook, but Sony's in-house effort, currently dubbed Project Morpheus, is also showing promise. Having tried several games and tech demos over the week – a downhill street luge and being trapped in a shark tank on Morpheus, plus a pants-wettingly terrifying session on Sega's Alien Isolation on Oculus – it's hard not to come away thinking VR could be the biggest change to the games industry since the arrival of 3D worlds. And outside of games, the potential for entertainment, sports, education and business is practically endless.
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