The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is an invite-only event that centers on the video gaming industry. Held across two massive halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center, it is a draw for any journalist interested in games and gaming, and a source of endless news stories during the week in June it’s typically held.
No matter where I looked at the Expo this year, I saw mobile games and mobile devices. With a few notable exceptions (Nyko had a huge booth full of Tegra-enabled tablets to show off their gaming controllers for Android), most of the devices I came into contact with were decidedly of the iOS persuasion. I’m fairly sure that Apple is winning this round.
This year was a banner year for mobile and second screen gaming. Microsoft embraced the tablet revolution with a SmartGlass initiative, Nintendo brought their new tethered tablet, the Wii U GamePad, and Sony made sure a few games were playable on their portable device, the PlayStation Vita (though not nearly enough, and incredibly absent from the keynote presentation).
Gree (from Japan) and WeMade (from Korea) both inhabited huge booths on the expo floor, filling large areas with their massive portfolios of iOS games. The amount of money these folks must be bringing in looks to be staggering. I was surprised that there weren’t any catapults or ballistas on either side of the aisle, with the adjacent warring booths firing off salvos of disgruntled avians at each other.
Sony Online Entertainment was pushing an upcoming free to play massively multiplayer online first person shooter, Planetside 2. Their killer feature? An iPad app that allows gamers to connect to the live servers for the game and see real time maps of troop movement, voice chat with faction members, and a huge game-centric information database with info on every possible weapon and armor combination available in the game.
Microsoft’s SmartGlass shows a lot of prescience, really, in engaging the second screen of an iPad or iPhone while folks are using their Xbox gaming console to watch movies, TV shows, and even play games. Why bother creating a whole new single-purpose device when most of your customers already own a tablet or smartphone?
Traditional console gaming companies like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Majesco also have their hands deep into iOS gamers’ pockets, with titles that will appeal to a wide range of game players. Majesco is betting on the freemium type of game with Legends of Loot and Sci Fi Heroes shown off on the show floor. EA had demos of Need for Speed for the iPad in their Chillingo demo suite at an exclusive nearby hotel, while Ubisoft’s incredible surprise console game announcement for Watch Dogs apparently features iPad cross play as well.
Even Disney moves strongly in the mobile market, with Where’s My Water, a huge success on iOS with a large presence at E3, in addition to Where’s My Perry, a spin off/mashup of the original hit game and Disney series, Phineas and Ferb.
What does this all mean for Apple users? Well, it means that we’re no longer second class citizens. Sure, PC gamers have more options when it comes to hardware and games for their gaming platform of choice, but portable gaming? It’s all about iPhones and iPads. I think it’s even clearer today than it ever has been before that Apple’s magic devices will significantly affect the bottom line not only of companies with dedicated handheld gaming consoles, but the big boy console makers as well. And while I’m fairly comfortable with saying that consoles will be here at least into the next generation, it seems like a no-brainer to look out past that potential future and see a lot more of these iOS devices and a lot less of the dedicated ones.
Bottom line, E3 continues to be the biggest source of video gaming news and spectacle for industry vets and newbies alike. This year, however, it looks as if iOS gamers are being courted just as much, if not more, as their console-loving brethren..