Gaming in transition
By Will Greenwald and John P. Falcone
December 16, 2005
The video game landscape has gone through some interesting changes in 2005. The year started with Sony's PSP making a strong debut against portable king Nintendo, and it ended with the Xbox 360 hitting stores--and immediately selling out. Meanwhile, the 360's main competitors--the Nintendo Revolution and the Sony PlayStation 3--won't be available until sometime in 2006. That leaves CES 2006 squarely in the middle--which means few, if any, big gaming announcements. Console gaming in transition
Don't expect new details on PS3
Details about the new consoles from Sony
are sketchy at best. In fact, neither company has confirmed a firm release date for its respective console beyond a vague 2006 time frame. Nintendo won't even be showing up at CES, and Sony will likely focus on its consumer electronics products instead. Expect to see the PS3 and its Blu-ray compatibility widely touted, but don't look for playable game demos on the show floor. We're expecting nothing more than a product mockup under glass and maybe a looping video trailer for Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots
. In all likelihood, any substantive information on either system won't be forthcoming until the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) show in May.
Of course, the Xbox 360
is the only next-gen gaming console that you can buy right now, supply shortages notwithstanding. Look for Microsoft to use CES to crow about the system's early lead, remind everyone about its impressive media capabilities, and tout it as the keystone of the 21st-century digital home. There will also be a bevy of accessories
(controllers, cables, headsets, and the like) shown from third-party vendors, but once again, you'll have to wait for E3 for juicy tidbits on actual games. Portable gaming levels up
More media upgrades for the PSP?
The PlayStation Portable (PSP)
and the Nintendo DS
are competing for the top slot in the handheld gaming market, and both should be seeing interesting new peripherals. Cases, screen protectors, and grips will be common, but look for more interesting toys such as television hookups as well. Sony, meanwhile, may very well have a few tricks up its sleeve for the PSP. It's already expanded the PSP's media functionality significantly since its launch (Web browser, LocationFree TV
, media management software
), but we'd like to see Sony bring some of the Japan-only features--such as online video downloads
and video recorder transfers
--to the rest of the world.
Nokia may no longer be developing
the N-Gage, but that doesn't mean mobile phone gaming is unpopular. Expect newer, smarter, and more powerful mobile phones to support increasingly complex and graphically intense games
. PCs: gaming, home theater, and more
Rumors of the death of PC gaming have been greatly exaggerated.
New gaming consoles get all the glory, but PC gaming continues to thrive, thanks to ongoing improvements in processors, video cards, and other components. Intel, AMD, ATI, and Nvidia will all be on hand to show their latest and greatest gaming and media solutions, as well as the chips that power them.
Also look for PC gaming to begin to slowly but surely invade the home-theater space. Unlike older low-res televisions, HDTVs double as credible PC monitors, and Microsoft's enthusiasm for Windows Media Center Edition
means that an increasing number of PCs will be in the living room. Toss a supercharged video card into the mix--along with Microsoft's 2006 OS upgrade, Vista
--and you have a formidable gaming solution on the big-screen TV that surpasses even the Xbox 360. That leaves only one challenge unanswered: Will we see a hardware vendor touting a sofa-friendly mouse and keyboard combo for deskless home PC gaming?