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New Ways to Play Videogames Announced in California

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Steven Williams | 12:13 PM, Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Andy Robertson

The overall theme of this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo was the fight back of the console in response to the rapidly rising popularity of games on smartphones and tablet devices. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all competed for attention with a range of announcements that aimed to win back consumer's interest in videogame consoles.

Microsoft was the first to take to the stage in Los Angeles on Monday. Among a wide range of announcements, its new SmartGlass concept stood out. It's a new way to use smart phones and tablets to control the Xbox 360 and promises to make it easier to find content using the touch screen before "sending" it to the TV.

Once the content has started playing, complementary information is displayed on the touch screen devices. For example a map that depicts the location of a current scene, or information about the cast. There isn't a firm date yet for this to come to market. It'll be interesting to see how close to concept SmartGlass is by the time it reaches consumers. There are still a number of technical and commercial barriers to sort out between now and when the service launches.

At Sony's press conference on Monday afternoon, a range of new features for their PlayStation 3 and PS Vita games consoles were announced. Most striking is the Wonderbook accessory that creates a new way to play a videogame using the metaphor of a traditional book.

Players are invited to place a blank story book in-front of the PlayStation Eye camera which is then transformed into a virtual pop-up book on your TV screen. Players can interact with the story using the PlayStation's Move controller - the equivalent to Nintendo's motion sensitive remote control.

When it launches in the autumn a number of books will be available, including a title called Book of Spells from J K Rowling. In addition to delivering great content, the reliability of the experience will be key for consumers - something underlined by demonstration difficulties in the press conference.

Nintendo held their press conference last, on Tuesday morning. Having announced the Wii U last year, Nintendo's task was to persuade consumers why they should invest in what is essentially the Wii mark 2.0.

The answer revolves around its new Wii U Controller. This adds a tablet-style screen to the traditional game controls to offer new ways to play. One player can use the Wii U Controller with extra information from the screen in a different role to other players who use the old style Wii Remote.

Enhanced HD graphics and new style Wii U games are the other key incentive and mean it can compete for enthusiast gamers who have previously migrated towards Microsoft and Sony. Unlike Microsoft's Kinect accessory, the Wii U Controller requires a new console and replaces the original Wii. Again a firm date and price has not yet been announced for release.

Despite the glitz and the glamour, it remains to be seen whether these gaming console products and experiences will attract public attention away from cheaper, shorter games on phones and tablets. Watch this space.

Andy Robertson is a Family Gaming expert and presents the Family Gamer TV show

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