The annual Las Vegas-based gadget mega-show CES isn't typically known for its big video game announcements. Sure, game companies have used CES to make some game-related announcements, or to highlight previously-announced game products, but if game companies really want to make a big splash, they'll typically use something like the game-centric summer E3 event (or sometimes, our own GDC).
But while CES isn't typically known for game industry announcements, professionals -- whether from the business or the creative side of the game industry -- would be wise to keep a trained eye on the emerging trends at CES.
Forget bombshell announcements. The tech trends that will emerge at this week's CES have more substance than any new console reveal, and will give us a clearer glimpse as to exactly how and where people will be playing games next.
For example, look at how many televisions, from manfacturers like LG, Sony and Samsung, are continuing their rapid evolution into app delivery devices. Notice how mobile software is becoming synonymous with apps. And as each year goes by, we see more devices that are app-enabled. (At CES 2011, Samsung showed off a refrigerator that was equipped with Twitter, Pandora and other apps -- maybe Fruit Ninja
on a high-res cutting board is next.)
Tablets powered by Google's Android 4.0 will also claim a significant presence at CES, and Microsoft is expected to be bringing Windows 8 tablets to the show, with both companies creating more options for developers interested in the exciting tablet gaming space.
Motion-based solutions will also be at CES. Microsoft's Kinect had a presence at last year's show, and this year, SoftKinetic, which offers motion-sensing middleware for game developers, is eager to show off its latest products, including new technology that lets users control a laptop with gesture-recognition from six inches away.
There are the CES stalwarts like Intel, which will be there with showfloor booths and dedicated press conferences, talking about the latest-generation CPUs that will power super-portable "ultrabooks," which will also have a strong CES presence. GPU firm Nvidia will be on-hand as well, highlighting the gaming capabilities of its latest Tegra mobile processors and Geforce graphics processors.
Of course for these gadgets, the hardware is nothing without advanced, user-friendly software. Mobile tech firm Qualcomm is showing off its Snapdragon GameCommand Android app, which aims to solve the problem of discoverability of games that are optimized for the Snapdragon chipset. Windows 8 is already getting a large amount of pre-CES buzz, with signs pointing to tighter integration between Windows-based desktops, phones, tablets and maybe even Xbox.
One's imagination can run wild wondering how these seemingly only tangentially game-related products might influence video games. But for many game industry watchers, new dedicated video game hardware garners a special kind of excitement. Microsoft is rumored to at least drop some minor details about its plans for the successor to Xbox 360, although a full product reveal is unlikely. Nintendo is even bringing its Wii successor, the Wii U, to the show, an interesting move considering Nintendo isn't known to typically attend the conference. Sony will be there with the PlayStation 3, as well as the PSP successor, PS Vita, a portable device which itself is an amalgamation of many of the technological themes at CES.
Nowadays, there are more companies than ever before that are making "video game players," and it's exciting to imagine the potential that these new electronic toys can open up for gameplay, game distribution and game development. It may not be overtly game-centric, but if you look closely, this year's CES has potential to be one exciting video game show.