The Electronic Entertainment Expo – more commonly known as E3 – has closed its doors for another year. The annual show based in Los Angeles runs from the 14th to the 16th of June and plays host to press conferences from industry leaders such as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo – but this year it was augmented and virtual reality that stole the show…
Hyped-up fans queue for these highly anticipated events for hours in person, while online viewers around the world tune in via YouTube and Twitch to watch the live streamed events and find out what their digital-futures hold.
Hundreds of games were announced during the 2 day event and a whole slew of fresh gadgets were displayed on the show floor, of which a few stood out for their innovative story telling or usage of new technologies.
Arguably, it was virtual reality that stole the show this year as we got to see the progress that VR developers had made since E3 2015. With solid game franchises such as Resident Evil, Batman Arkham Asylum and Star Wars demonstrated at the event, VR sceptics may want to take some time out to rethink their position on the tech.
A major argument against VR is its inclusivity: Headsets don’t come cheap. The majority of PC’s currently in use would need expensive upgrades to be able to meet their demands. Hardware manufacturers have long been aware of the need for affordable solutions. Fortunately many of the bigger industry players delivered at this year’s show.
Microsoft revealed Project Scorpio; an updated Xbox One that is both 4K and VR ready, but it’s Sony’s long-awaited Playstation VR that will be the most affordable of the high end devices, expected to cost around £349 when in launches in October.
Dell-owned gaming hardware company Alienware unveiled an impressive array of gear for PC gamers including their thinnest laptop to date which sports a 13 inch super-sharp OLED display with optional upgrades for VR enthusiasts and those needing a graphics boost; a slick designed, compact VR backpack that frees players from the restraints of a desktop allowing for more movement, and a polished Steam Machine.
The evolution of augmented reality however has been much slower than VR. In fact, the biggest companies – Microsoft Hololens and Magic Leap – were nowhere to be seen at E3’s conferences. Pretty disappointing after the incredible Hololens Minecraft demo we were shown at last year’s show.
Augmented reality technology is growing…
Perhaps unsurprisingly it was mobile developers who ran with augmented reality (AR) technology this year. Among the numerous AR titles was Pokémon Go from mobile developers, Niantic who held a Q&A about their collaboration with Nintendo. Pokémon Go sees the player take on the role of a Pokémon Trainer. Players don a wearable device, aim their phone’s viewfinder at targets in their immediate environment to interact with or catch the Pokémon that appear on screen.
VR seems to be the future of the games industry, but traditional gaming isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Microsoft announced plans to merge PC and Xbox gaming under the Windows 10 umbrella with their new cross-platform program, Play Anywhere. A program that allows gamers to play downloaded games on both PC and Xbox. The strategy could help Microsoft dominate the console market once again after reports of Xbox One unit sales dropping dramatically below its competitors earlier in the year.
With new powerful consoles soon to be on the market, the lines between PC and console gaming are starting to blur. Ultimately though the choice will always come down to two factors: Affordability or upgradability.
Thankfully, whatever your budget or platform of choice, quality VR is finally becoming an option.