E3 2012’s going to be different from the years hence. It’s going to buck the usual trends in a way that’ll initially sound disappointing. ‘No new Xbox’ and ‘No new Playstation’ will be what makes most of the headlines and, under E3’s normal rules, that means a weak show.
But it won’t be weak at all – it’s just that the parameters are changing very suddenly. What do we mean? Well, traditionally E3 has acted as a big plinth on which to put new hardware, but this year the hardware already exists, and it’s already in your living room. This is the year that your TV becomes your game console.
A different kind of E3
Over the past few weeks, gaming rumours have been as prolific as iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 ones. It’s always the way before E3, but what’s been interesting is that the nature of the rumours has completely changed from earlier in the year. Whilst the pre-pre show gossip was focussing heavily on the idea of new consoles from Sony and Microsoft, all that’s dried up in favour of hearsay about the cloud, streaming and disc-less devices.
And with good cause, too. People with links to Sony’s plans have been outing concepts and deals left right and centre. The most exciting news? Sony’s inking a contract to partner up with a major game streaming service, to announce that its titles will be able to be played from the cloud.
As long as your internet speed is up to muster, that’s huge news, because it means that Sony would have the power, if it chose to, to serve you all your gaming needs without a Playstation. Thanks to Sony’s ever expanding series of web-connected devices that share a common bond through Sony Entertainment Network, that means that its gaming arm can come to you from far more than just the traditional means.
Two can play that game
But it’s not just Sony. Yesterday the Verge reported on a deal between Samsung and OnLive’s main rival, Gaikai, which it learned about straight from the latter horse’s mouth:
“At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Samsung will formally announce a partnership with Gaikai to introduce a cloud gaming service for its high-end televisions, and roll out a private beta soon afterwards.”
First off, we should point out that if Gaikai’s teaming up with Samsung, it’s incredibly likely that Sony’s deal is with OnLive. Secondly, though, this should hammer home that this isn’t just an experiment from one company – this is a trend.
Manufacturers are starting to realise that there’s more than one way to get their bread buttered. In the past, customers went out and bought a console because it was the only way to play. That doesn’t make the company in question much profit, but it locks the user into several years with one machine, and the money piles in from the game sales.
But as the lines between consoles and broader entertainment devices blurs, Sony, Samsung and a myriad others will realise that there’s no real point in limiting gaming to the people who buy consoles. Not everyone has a games console, but everyone has a TV. As soon as you cross the line where the majority are smart TVs, you can offer gaming to everyone, as and when they like, without having to pull £300 out of their pockets for a bulky console.
Not just TVs
The required tech is already there. And, hey, while we’re at it, why stop at TVs? OnLive is now available on Android, and HTC owns a big stake in it. Streamed gaming will eventually be the as much the norm as having a Spotify account is today, and it’ll work in the game-makers’ favour because you won’t be able to get away from it. Much like Spotify or Music Unlimited, you’ll have a TV, Blu-Ray Player, PC, Mac, tablet and phone that are all capable of letting you play the same top-tier games. And of letting you pick up on one where you left off on another.
Netflix for gaming is coming, and E3 2012 is going to see the first wave. Sony will unveil something. Gaikai and Samsung will unveil something. Will Microsoft? Well, it’ll need to partner up with a TV manufacturer, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t – the future of gaming is definitely going to see your TV become your console.
Of course, that might all go unnoticed, given that most people will simply be upset at the lack of an Xbox 720 or PS4. But they won’t realise the crucial point, here – that they’ve probably already got one sitting pride of place in their living rooms.
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