E3 2015: The Game’s Afoot!

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I have attended E3 for more than twenty years (the last five notwithstanding) in my work as a games journalist. I’ve been at it so long, that I remember when E3 was just an offshoot of WCES—and to age myself even further, that’s when CES was split between shows in Chicago (ECES) and Las Vegas (WCES). Yikes.

In those years, I’ve seen E3 evolve from a media meet-and-greet for games writers into a virtual Cirque de Soleil of gaming. I could tell you stories for hours on end about what a spectacle E3 has become. I remember the days when E3 was not as loud as it is now. And while you’re at it, sonny, get off my lawn.

But there is still an amazing allure about E3, especially if you’re a gamer. It is the showcase of all things gaming, a real live circus of entertainment, from PC games to handhelds to the newly emerging field of toy hybrids like Amiibo, Skylander, and Infinity figures. If you love gaming, E3 is the place you need to eventually find yourself—but it’s easy to get lost in the frenetic jumble of marketing hype and screaming accolades surrounding the newest, hottest title.

B&H is now jumping into the video-game swimming pool, and it’s a slow and steady lap of products every day. The SuperStore has always had a solid hold on the PC side of things, but now that it offers video games, hybrid toys, and console systems and accessories, it’s time to look at the video game industry with a fresh eye and see what we can offer our customers, in both product and coverage.

Virtually, Everything

This year’s E3 was touted as being one of the best ever, and they certainly started off with a bang—a virtual bang. The Oculus Rift finally came out and saw its shadow, predicting a shortened wait for an early 2016 debut. Facebook-owned, the Rift has been a lynchpin for the burgeoning virtual reality field, and will certainly be the test subject for the genre.

And who else will be part of that genre? Microsoft, of course. The company came to E3 to debut its new HoloLens project, which will bring augmented reality to the Xbox One sometime in the future (no hard dates have been set). One of the most impressive demos was for Minecraft in 3D, in which a player can build, construct and develop their Minecraft world on any flat surface of the house. The HoloLens is still in early development, but smart money is on a 2016 release date.

Old Games Get New Life

Another big announcement at E3 was about bringing things back to life—no, not a reference to my career. Instead, Microsoft announced that a software patch is available that allows you to play select Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One.

This is a sticking point that has annoyed gamers since the Xbox One launch, but good on Microsoft for at least developing something that gives us Xbox 360 owners some recompense. Working with disc-based and digital games, you can play the older titles, but still enjoy Xbox-One-specific features like Game DVR, screenshots, and the upcoming Windows 10 streaming.

It was such a major announcement that Sony, caught unaware, reportedly announced that backward compatibility won’t be an upcoming feature for the PlayStation 4. Gamers delight—we hope you didn’t sell off all your Xbox 360 titles just yet!

Toys Will be Toys

The biggest trend that will affect gamers is the influx of gaming peripheral toys that enhance or add to game play. Amiibos, Disney Infinity characters, and the trailblazers in the genre, Skylander, will all be making a push for video-game dollars this season. Amiibos are wildly popular (we stock a full lineup at B&H) and Nintendo has committed to making even more, with additional features like hidden levels and loot, to round out their software titles. With the exception of Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes and Super Mario Maker, Nintendo took a low-key approach to E3—as the company can afford to, since its Nintendo 3DS hardware obliterates the competition in portable gaming.

AMD Radeon Gets Graphic

AMD’s event at E3 showcased the power of a brand-new graphics card that looks stunning and boasts specs that will certainly catch NVIDIA’s attention. Getting into the base level of components, the company showed the Fury X9 liquid-cooled 300 series cards, which will make 4K Ultra HD gaming a reality—and with the high demands for virtual reality graphics processing, this comes into the market at just the right time. The new Radeon R9 Fury X card introduces HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) technology that allows the card to improve power consumption and shrink the overall card size. The 300-series cards will include the R9 Fury X and the R9 Nano, which mimics the Fury X, but uses an air-cooling, and not a fancier liquid cooling, system. Also debuting were the R9 390 and R9 390x, all increasing power and performance over the previous R9 290 series cards. 

So there you have it—E3 in a nutshell. With gaming becoming as ubiquitous as smartphones and tablets and traveling the mainstream highways of movies and music, battling for our entertainment dollars, it’s about time to take a serious look at all of the fun around us.

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