Turn three gamers loose at CES 2011, and among the plethora of hardware and software booths, naturally we will be drawn to anything and everything related to video games. Sunday was the final day of the Consumer Electronics Show 2011, as Cory, Skyler, and myself hit the floor for some free coverage. Having little time for games the past four days resulted in a thorough scouring of the convention center for demos, trailers, and announcements.
The difference between E3 and CES is no secret; the latter is focused on hardware and gadgets in a much broader scope, opposed to the video game theme of the former. However, companies have seemed to find two truths: video games are some of the most taxing programs you can run on a computer, and gaming is often a coinciding hobby for tech enthusiasts. Therefore, finding video games at the Consumer Electronics Show is not a difficult task.
I'd like to first mention that since last year's show, I noticed a much larger emphasis on the gamer demographic. Perhaps the greatest show, outside of companies already targeting gamers, was Gigabyte. Gigabyte's launch of their G1 Killer motherboards
was all about PC games and the best way to enhance the end user's experience. They aren't the first company to do this, not even recently (reference Fatal1ty's recent launch
of the Sandy Bridge Profess1onal motherboard), but the scale in which they presented the line, both in conference and suite showcase, was impressive.
The entire staff of Gigabyte, from Senior Vice President Henry Kao to Tim Handley, Marketing Team Manager, were clad in miltary vests and camoflouge, equipped with foam grenades, also included in the press kit that we took home and consequently tossed at one another for the next four days. Outside of the slideshows presented during speeches, both of the large projection screens on either side of the room displayed a live feed of Call of Duty: Black Ops being played from inside the meeting.
David 'Zaccubus' Treacy from Team Dignitas
was on hand to show off the new hardware from Gigabyte, paired with the full line of gaming hardware from the companies professional gaming series Ghost. Wes had a chance to sit down a play a few rounds, managing to get a few kills off (the majority of which being knives of course), maintaining about a 1:3 kill-death ratio. In his defense, Wes was playing with unfamiliar hardware and a less-than-stabile mouse pad (I wouldn't even call it a mouse pad -Wes).
Gigabyte wasn't the only company, not even the only motherboard manufactuer, who brought game to the show with pro gamers. MSI had two members of Evil Geniuses stationed at their booth on South Hall, challenging any on-looker to a game of Street Fighter 4 or Counter-Strike 1.6. The reward for winning? A top-of-the-line gaming laptop from MSI on the spot. After watching for three days and even sending our best CS player, at that time no one had won. Justin Wong
was the star Street Fighter 4 gamer from EG, while Jordan 'n0thing' Gilbert
took all in Counter-Strike.
Additionally, Johnathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendell
was also at the show, meeting up with the LanOC Crew at the OCZ party, promoting the aforementioned Fatal1ty line of gaming hardware.
Gaming giants such as Microsoft also had Games for Windows kiosks on hand, which I enjoyed a bit of Fable III on. About three rows of such units lined the right-hand corner of their very large booth, dedicated to showing off their feats in gaming for the year. Several 3D television companies also had 3D game demos set-up, such as Samsung, running a 3D trailer for the upcoming Knight's Contract on a beefy gaming laptop that got us interested in the title. I may be one of the most skeptical when it comes to 3D, but I'll admit I was a little impressed with what was on show.
Samsung struck an amazing cord with me when we found an entire wall dedicated to a Guild Wars 2 demo. Searching for a demanding title to show off their hardware, ArenaNet answered the call with a live demo, the first I had seen in person, which was significant enough for me to want to shake the man's hand. Neighboring this display was another showing off DiRT 2 as well as a member of the Razer team showing of that Portal 2 tech demo for Hydra (formerly known as Sixense) that we've all come to love.
Razer was a very dominate name this year for gamers, showing off a holy tri-force of the Hydra, the Onza, and the Switchblade
. As mentioned above, specially designed levels of the upcoming Portal 2 as well as Left 4 Dead 2 that were optimized to show off the potential of Sixense were being shown. A professional Gears of War 2 player was also on hand to demonstrate that very good example of how the Onza aids in games such as GoW. For instance, the traditional directional pad on the Microsoft controller is notorious for inaccuracy since it is more of a complete disc design. The Onza, however, features four dedicated buttons for each direction. If you are familiar with Gears of War, you know that the D-pad is used to switch weapons, an action you want to be precise when you need that shotgun out stat.
The Switchblade was perhaps the holy grail of the event, winning the CNET's Peoples Choice Award for CES 2011 minutes before we arrived for our lunch with Robert Krakoff, President of Razer. We had a chance to get an exclusive one-on-one demonstration of how it works, the LED keyboard switching to skill set sprites instantly as Warcraft 3 booted, a game that anyone who is familiar with LanOC knows were fans of.
Playseats managed to catch Cory's eye as we walked the floor, the racecar-style seats paired with pedestals on both sides for mouse and add-on peripherals such as his required G13. In nothing sort of a miracle, the set-up Playseats had on hand managed to get Cory to sit down and play Halo 2; that should be an indicator in itself on how comfortable an environment this creates.
3rd party developers such as MadCatz
had mostly private showings, the coverage of which you can see here. Naturally new products for the recently launched motion controls for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 were present, but I was pleasantly surprised by the innovative products outside the ordinary that especially MadCatz had to offered. Having acquired two large gaming peripheral companies, Saitek and Tritton, within the past year, MC has a lot to work with and is doing an excellent job.
Throughout our entire weekend at CES 2011, we encountered much more gaming than what I have listed above. That's not even counting our secret games of Defense of the Ancients that we squeezed in, sacrificing about an hour of sleep each night. After this year at the show especially, there is no doubt in my mind that the gamer's presence is known throughout the entire tech industry. We're sure to have some good and bad result from this of course, but it will certainly be one hell of a ride.