Another year, and the Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone. Starting back in 1967, CES has been an annual extravaganza for electronics companies to hype up their best new products and projects. How important is CES? Well, consider this: the VCR, CD, Camcorder, HDTV, Blu-Ray, and Xbox were all debuted at the show. Yeah, its kind of a big deal.
Like every CES before it, news out of 2104s show is a jumbled mess, running the gamut from games to phones to GPS devices to televisions to washing machines. Itd take some serious dedication to follow everything that came out of the massive expo, but dont worry: weve got you covered. We sifted through the madness and found the juiciest tidbits for the gaming crowd.
Lets just get this one out of the way, since youve already heard about it. Early at CES, Valve head Gabe Newell hosted the reveal of its first bout of partners for its Steam Machine project. Joined by the likes of Alienware, Digital Storm, Origin, and Falcon Northwest, Valve looks to take over the living room with its free, Linux-based operating system SteamOS.
While the new devices are as pretty as they come, there are still a few questions that need to be answered before Steam Machines become a staple of households across the world. From humble set-top box to ultra-powered titans of performance, Steam Machines dont seem to fill any immediate need. We've discussed it before, but we're skeptical as to whether they spark the open-source revolution that Newell has been advocating for remains to be seen.
Sony made waves with the announcement of Playstation Now, a game-streaming service set to debut later this year for your Vita, PS3, PS4, and Bravia TV, with more devices to come in the future. Weve known something like this was in the works ever since Sony acquired Gaikai back in 2012, but details have finally emerged at CES. No news on what specific games will be available, but all indications suggest that a selection of Playstation, PS2, and PS3 games will be made available for streaming.
As exciting as the announcement of Playstation Now was, Sony left a lot of questions hanging in the air. How much will Playstation Now cost? Will Playstation Plus members have access to it for free or at a discount? What games will be available? What steps has Sony taken to minimize latency--the plague of game-streaming services? Unfortunately, were still waiting on answers to those questions.
CES has always been a showcase for high-quality, futuristic televisions, and this year was no exception. The name of the game in 2014 seems to be bigger is better, because this years crop of televisions are immense. With 4k (the industrys nom de rigeur for devices with a native resolution of 3,840 x 2,160) on the rise, manufacturers are producing televisions on a scale that boggles the mind. Both LG and Samsung plan to produce 105 inch screens. Thats almost 9 feet! Not to be outdone, Vizio revealed a whopping 120 inch model. Just imagine playing Battlefield or Metro on a screen with a 10 foot diagonal.
Size isnt the only talking point for TVs this year, though. Were also seeing a spate of curved designs which we're not entire sure is really worthwhile. While manufacturers advocate the uniform brightness and a heightened sense of immersion, some arent convinced that the curvature is needed for the small screen. Cant decide between flat and curved? Samsung is offering the best of both worlds with an impressive 85-inch model that switches between flat and curved at the touch of a button--simply choose whichever suits your fancy.
AMD's Project Discovery
Interface has always been the big reason that hardcore games havent really flourished on mobile platforms. The simple truth of the matter is that the modern tap and gesture controls simply dont translate into the precise, satisfying control that serious gamers need. To try and close the control gap, manufacturers are developing tablets designed for use with cradles that serve as dedicated controllers. The design got a lot of attention last year with the Razer Edge, but according to TechRadar, AMDs Project Discovery might be even better.
Designed around a brand new Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) with the charmingly Edwardian codename Mullins, Project Discovery is looking to attract a more game-focused audience. Packing Windows 8 64-bit on the show floor, the device didnt seem too impressive until you slotted the tablet into its controller-cradle and powered up a few games. Mullins handled all the strain of gaming with admirable aplomb, giving up nary a hitch or stutter. Its a shame Project Discovery isnt slated for retail, but its an exciting demonstration of how far tablet gaming has come.
Oculus Rift improvements
Though the Oculus Rift was released to the public last year in the form of a $300 developers kit, 2014 could be even bigger for the VR headset. With a wide release slated for sometime later this year, Oculus VR revealed the fruits of their labor: a brighter OLED screen, additional capability for positional head tracking, and a reduction in distracting motion blur. These are big steps forward for a device that was already poised to start the VR revolution weve been waiting for.
But the new hardware isnt the only thing Oculus VR has in the oven. Midway through 2013, Oculus announced they had hired John Carmack as their new CTO. Carmack's work is legendary--you may have heard of Wolfenstein 3D or Doom--and hes bringing his experience to Oculus VR. Chatter around their CES booth indicated that Carmack is pushing Oculus to develop its own games to match its new hardware. Designers looking for a new job might want to keep an eye on the Oculus HR website.
Razer's Project Christine
Last year, Razers Blade stole the show at CES, and the San Diego-based hardware manufacturer is looking to make waves in 2014 with Project Christine. Described by Razer as the worlds most modular PC design, Christine is indeed a slick looking device--a central structure to which users can attach various modules to tweak their performance. Christine simplifies the process of building your own PC by making it entirely modular. Curiously, Razers head Min-Liang Tan hinted to that the hardware could be made available on a subscription basis--Hardware as a Service, if you will.
The design is as slick as youd imagine for a Razer product, but there are a lot of questions to be answered before Project Christine becomes the next great PC standard. For one thing, cost is almost certain to be an issue--Razer products have never been budget-friendly. For another, its unclear whether other hardware manufacturers are on board with Razers modular design. How will Christine-friendly PC components compare with their off-the-shelf equivalents? Only time and hands-on-experience will tell.
ASUS huge, but affordable, monitor
Televisions arent the only things getting bigger this year--computer monitors are headed going the same direction. With the entertainment industry settling on the 4k standard PC monitors are struggling to keep up. The technology is there, but current 4k monitors cost a pretty penny--usually somewhere north of $2,500 dollars.
ASUS is looking to bring 4k monitors out of the realm of the ultra-rich with its new PB287Q model. Its an impressive screen with a 28 inch diagonal, 1 ms response time, native 4k support and the ability to rotate into a vertical orientation (a godsend to anybody writing code or staring at screens of text), but whats really impressive is the $799 price tag. Thats nearly an entire order of magnitude down from the cost of most 4k screens on the market.
SteelSeries Stratus wireless iOS7 controller
Another effort to make hardcore games viable on touch-based mobile platforms, the SteelSeries Stratus looks like it might be a contender. Though it looks somewhat odd--something between the Genesis controller and an Xbox 360 gamepad--the Stratus has a slew of features that make it pretty interesting.
For one, its entirely wireless, meaning you dont need to wrap your hands around something big enough to hold your table or phone. For another, the design and layout look surprisingly comfortable, though itd require hands-on time to say for sure. But the real killer feature is multiplayer support. The ability to play multiplayer games with buddies on the go is pretty appealing, though the $100 price tag may be a sticking point.
CES is done for this year, but dont you panic! Itll be back next year to bring you a slew of shiny new toys. Plus, GDC is coming soon, and there will likely be plenty of things out of that show to get excited about.