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Where Is Gaming Going?

The next console generation hit and continues evolving their features but new technology announcements suggest that where games settle in the next few years remains unknown.  More and more gamers are being given the option to shape our gaming set up with our personal preferences. 

2014 CES found gaming relevance this year with Sony's keynote and PC gaming's foray into our living rooms. 

The new gaming generation may not be so much the differentiation between the television consoles but defined by the disappearing lines between console and PC gaming.  The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) brought us more announcements of the television based consoles branching into entertainment, PC games playable on the television, and gaming libraries distilled into apps.

Personally, I have not yet jumped into the new console generation.  Instead, I game happily on my Xbox 360, Steam account, and even occasionally on my iPad Air.  The upcoming new generation blockbuster games have my attention but with the gaming news from 2014 CES I am more confused than ever as to what gaming platform I want most when I upgrade.    

Sony's Console-less Playstation Now


Mind. Blown.  All of those missed Playstation exclusives via my television?  Now I just need to avoid all spoilers for The Last Of Us...

Sony's CES 2014 announcement for Playstation Now is stunning.  Sony presented an app that plays Playstation games.  For now the reality is that in summer 2014, Playstation 3 games will be available on the Playstation 4 essentially meeting the demand for backwards compatibility less than a year after launching the Playstation 4.  Admittedly, Playstation Now is not truly backwards compatibility because the app most likely requires a new purchase rather than playing currently owned games given that the gaming is cloud based.  Sony revealed that both subscription and a la carte purchase options will be available but did not release any price points.   

However, a service originally announced as providing previous generation Playstation games on the Playstation 4 via Sony's recently purchased Gaikai's game streaming service has morphed into a much larger feature.  Sony distilled its entire, and impressive, Playstation gaming library into an app that does not require a Playstation console for playing Playstation games.  The mind reels.  Instead, a Bluetooth connection to a Sony Bravia television will allow gamers to play The Last Of Us with Playstation Now and a Playstation 3 or 4 controller.  Eventually, the app will transition onto tablets and other internet connected devices which raises the question of porting the controls to the touchscreen or using a Playstation controller.  Still, Sony is bypassing its own consoles by creating a pipeline for its games onto nearly any electronic device in the future.

Questions abound about whether or not the game streaming will be effective on most home internet connections or suffer from lag and unresponsiveness.  But the idea is there, if the app works as advertised, Playstation games complete with all single player, co-op, and multiplayer modes will be available without a Playstation console.      

Valve's Preconfigured Steam Machines

IF I find a Steam Machine that is comparable price-wise to consoles, IF I like the Steam Controller, and IF I don't have to overly worry about system upgrades...I may be persuaded. 

Valve's Steam is already the app that Playstation Now wants to be.  In 2014, Valve is stepping squarely into the console manufacturing business but diversifying by allowing PC companies to build their own Steam Machine.  Essentially, Valve is porting the PC from the home office or bedroom into the living room for sitting alongside the television for Steam gaming.  The Steam library is already vast, only requiring successful ports onto the SteamOS that runs the Steam Machines and roughly 250 games are already available.

Many remain skeptical of the Steam Machine.  PC gamers' longtime boast is the upgradable nature of PCs.  The Steam Machines are preset systems intended to provide more impressive technology compared to the other consoles with some systems allowing for unspecified upgradable components.  But the greatness of the Steam gaming library is indisputable as well as access to exclusives.  Most Sony and Microsoft exclusives are available on the company's console and on PC.

The looming questions remain of final pricing for a successful Steam Machine running all available games and whether or not the controller is effective to use.  Valve's extension into the living room is confusing with the multiple machines, a bizarre controller, and the all-important pricing but as soon as the Steam Machines are set up and working the games are there for playing.          

Microsoft's All-In-One Xbox One

This screen looks surprisingly like my Windows 8 (now 8.1) screen.  Conspiracy?  

Microsoft famously stayed home from CES 2014 regarding major announcements.  The Xbox One is touted as the all-in-one box that as of now allows for streaming the gamer's cable connection through the Xbox One, snapping two different features onto the screen, and instantaneously switching between apps.  The all-in-one box seeks to outdate the cable box and DVR as well as possibly casual PC use for using the television through the Xbox One for all entertainment apps and electronic social interactions.

Xbox's heritage is social connectivity.  The Xbox brought online multiplayer to the consoles, the Xbox 360 refined the feature with party chart, and the Xbox One launched with a Skype app made possible by the Kinect's integrated camera.  The Xbox One highlights gaming that connects us to each other and to other features.  While the Playstation 4 is already known for its friendliness to indie game developers and launched extolling the virtues of games such as Resogun and Doki-Doki Universe.  The Xbox's response to exclusive games is one word, Titanfall.  Titanfall will include no single player only content instead gameplay is a single player and multiplayer hybrid that is seemingly more multiplayer than single player. 

  

Steam sales are fabulous.  We are quickly paying extra for the option to buy physical copies of games. 

We are all gamers who want an avenue for game playing.  But we are also people who have a world for connecting with whether friends or family or homework or work assignments.  Finding the time to game is not a given without a dedication to carve out the time from our daily lives.  In 2014, interconnectivity is now a given.  I, who left Facebook for years until recently, even have a Twitter handle (@rhia29).  How we interconnect and what platform we use is what the corporations are fighting for. 

Technology is breaking apart into what does any given machine "do" versus what I need to "do" and finding the solution that allows me to "do" what I need on the devices that I prefer to use. 

As a gamer, I want to play games.  Playstation Now suggests that I can game on nearly any device that I choose.  The Steam Machines suggests that the higher end PC gaming capabilities of larger online matches and better graphics are available on my television.  The Xbox One suggests that while I play I can watch a television show, hold an online conversation, or work on my musical playlists.  Now the question is, which one do I want?  Such a question eventually becomes, which system are my friends on?  

Did any 2014 CES revelation blow your mind?

How do you feel about your decision to or not to upgrade to the next console generation?

Do you want Steam in your living room and Playstation an app on your laptop?

 

 

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