That's it, folks. Another CES is in the books. Brian Leahy and I headed to Las Vegas last week to cover the first major event of the 2010 season, a show that's moved further away from video games every year, but remains a technological institution that's influence on games is undeniable.
Before CES 2010 kicked off, we made three major predictions about the gaming trends that would come out of the event. With the CES doors now closed, it's time to ask...were we right?
1. In A Post-Avatar World, 3D Is The Next Big Thing
WHAT WE SAID: "At CES 2010, it will be shocking to find a device that isn't incorporating 3D technology somehow, whether it's in your television, computer monitor or the phone that's resting in your pocket. It's the new tech buzz, the new HD. Even if it's not priced consumer-friendly, if you're not thinking 3D, you're crazy."
WHAT WE SAW: That depends on who you talk to. According to the tech industry, the response to Avatar means it's full-steam ahead for 3D in the home. You could not walk five feet without bumping into 3D something or other. That's not exaggeration or hyperbole, but a reflection of how amazingly prominent 3D was featured at CES 2010. With the next-generation disc wars over, the industry needs something new to push. At CES 2010, it was 3D. Games, music, movies, sports -- it was all shown in 3D. The only medium missing was books, which is something I'm sure they're working on, too. The technology was not consistent across every TV, every medium, and every piece of eyewear, however, meaning the 3D experience changed every five feet. Plus, while CES is supposed to be a "consumer" show, nothing at CES 2010 looked like it was ready to show up on Wal-Mart's shelves. Most people are just getting around to picking up a vanilla HDTV. They might buy a 3D-capable set eventually -- but it'll be by accident. CES 2010 did little to provide evidence consumers want home 3D, only that the tech's there.
2. The Way You Interact With Games Is Changing
WHAT WE SAID: "Expect a number of tech companies, emboldened by Microsoft and Sony's approaches to motion expected to arrive in 2010, to push interactivity in new directions. Tablets are making a big emergence in the coming year, following consumer's embrace of touch with devices like the iPhone. Whether it's through a camera watching body movements, sensors hooked into arms, moving fingers across a screen or something else entirely, the controller is changing."
WHAT WE SAW: Microsoft confirmed Project Natal is for the holidays, marking the first steps to properly revealing the Xbox 360 motion add-on. CES 2010 also included some interesting attempts to push motion and physical interactivity in new directions, such as a motion-controlled version of Left 4 Dead 2, and an influx of tablets. Tablets, widely believed to be a major focus of CES 2010, took a backseat to 3D, perhaps because most people are waiting to see Apple's rumored tablet to unveil later this month. Even in cases where tablets were being demonstrated, however, gaming was not on the agenda, but Project Natal and other interface experiments underscore a trend that's not going away.
3. Mobile Advancement Begins Eyeing DS, PSP
WHAT WE SAID: "At CES 2010, mobile hardware will continue to move forward at a faster clip than DS and PSP, as consumers are more accustomed to replacing their phones every few years than their handheld gaming platform. More developers will show an understanding of what makes games work on a cell phone, increasingly removing the need for many users to have a gaming-specific device. The endgame is a ways off, but it's close enough for Nintendo and Sony to start paying attention."
WHAT WE SAW: The biggest news in mobile took place just before CES 2010, when Google officially announced and started selling the Nexus One. More developers are on iPhone, however, which means the most innovation is still happening over there. Nintendo briefly talked about a successor to the DS, but has not addressed the largest difference between mobile and gaming handhelds: a persistent data connection. At the moment, gaming handhelds rely on Wi-Fi hotspots. CES 2010 didn't provide much evidence which direction gaming companies are moving in, but the increased persistence and acceptance of mobile and mobile gaming doesn't change our original prediction, it only means it's going to play out over a very long time.
And with that, CES 2010 is a wrap...until next year. Did you notice something we didn't?