Live From Vegas! The CES 2013 Halftime Report!
I've never been flown anywhere by anyone for something of this magnitude, but apparently its pretty common for companies to want people talking about their big unveilings. And in the interest of transparency, I'm telling you that Sony have covered the trip. That, however, does not mean I'm here to work for them, I'm here to cover CES. It's just a happy coincidence that they pulled out all the stops this year. Also, this is the first time I've ever left the country. I turn thirty in a few days, and I've only just managed to touch down on foreign soil. Is that bad? I thought so, until I got here. Vegas has just gotten denser, weirder and more wonderful over the years, and CES has been epic, so I'm glad I waited for the most part.
So without further ado, here's a rundown of the things I've seen so far at CES that really struck me, both figuratively, and literally.
1. Sifteo Cubes. Alright, so maybe I came to CES looking very intently for innovative gaming tech. And maybe I spent a full hour in the wrong hangar (the halls here are big enough to house several planes a piece) wandering around in an ocean of car stereos. But the one gaming development project I saw that truly grabbed me was the Sifteo Cube. Well, cubes. What happens is this: you buy a sadly overpriced starter set ($129USD, according to the publicist), which contains a tiny rectangular hub, and three tiny cubes. The cubes then wirelessly connect to the hub, which feeds them one of five games (four come with the initial kit, and the fifth, Sandwich Kingdom, can be downloaded).
What makes Sifteo so clever is that the games are specifically designed for the system; in Sandwich Kingdom, for example, your tiny character traverses through a charming pixelly RPG environment with each cube basically serving as a means to clearing the unknown; when you place a cube next to yours on any of the four sides, it reveals the next piece of the world map. In this way, you end up removing places you've been to reveal places you'll go. You can conect up to twelve cubes to expand the experience, and for puzzle and multiplayer titles, the cubes use motion sensors and accelerometers to make things really fascinating. Like I said, it's a shame they're so expensive, because otherwise they'd (a) sell like (admittedly inedible) hotcakes, and (b) become a hotbed for indie game developers who can't afford to take a stab at the equally specialised WiiU.
Sifteo Cubes are crazy, crazy fun, are genuinely engaging, and show great promise. Also, they're pretty durable, so you can probably eat them and poop them out intact. Don't do that, though. Just don't.
2. Boomdizzle. In addition to having the kind of name that makes me feel like a godzilla sized cracker, Boomdizzle Boomdizzle is the brainchild of L.L. Cool J. Yes, that L.L. Cool J. Ladies Love Comprehending Jaundice. I met the guy, had a quick friendly chat with him, and then saw him talk on stage. If you're worried that this in any way tinted my perception of his talk, then look at this photo of us together and tell me if I look giddily happy enough to undermine my cred whilst critiquing his product...
Dammit. Fine, so he was charming as hell and was incredibly friendly. Nevertheless, Boomdizzle (oh my god) looks compelling; it's basically like facetime for musicians, complete with audio mixing equipment. So you can talk to and interact with fellow collaborators face to face, lay down audio tracks and layer them in realtime, mix channels, and do other things that musicians and sound engineers get and that I totally get too... Quick! Fade the levels! Pitch that guy! Pitch him up a vibrato! See? Total music guy. Anyway, he gave a demo on stage by laying one layer over another, then gave a genuinely passionate talk as to why he believes Boomdizzle (still having trouble with this) can help performers who can't yet afford to jet from home to studio make stuff happen. If you're interested, you can go to Boomdizzle.com and get a free taste.
3. The PS Vita. This'll just be a quick one before I head back into the fray at CES. I love my Vita, I really do. CES doesn't have a big focus on gaming, but there were still a few Vita's on display, and I was gripped with the urge to write about mine very quickly. Sony has suffered a bit right out of the gate on account of a low number of titles for the platform, which is a damnable shame, as one of the debut Vita games, Gravity Rush, was one of my games of the year. The system is sleek and gorgeous, it runs well, it feels good in your hands and it has so, so very much potential. So whilst it wasn't at CES in a debut capacity, and whilst it wasn't a reveal, I really hope Sony don't give up on it. If the promised Remote Play feature actually becomes a reality, it'll become a vital part of the PS3 owner's arsenal. There's a whole bunch of stuff I'll be blogging about for you tomorrow, including the new Steambox case prototypes, freaky dancing robots and chairs that rub you in creepy, intimate ways, so stay tuned.
Live from Las Vegas, this is Paul Verhoeven signing off. ...Holy crap. I have always wanted to say that.