This Week in Tablets: E3 2013 offers a stunning glimpse at the future of tablet gaming

June 15, 2013
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I was lucky enough to spend the past four days in Los Angeles attending E3 2013, where I saw a trend that made it clear to me that in the entertainment category, tablets are just beginning to realize their full potential. 

Short for Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3 is an industry-only showcase for the future of the video game industry. This year, from attendees to game developers to the games themselves, tablets were everywhere. Literally.

Not surprisingly, developers are making a number of games for all three major platforms—iOS, Windows, and Android. This is to be expected—tablets are a bona fide gaming standalone gaming platform these days.

What I was not expecting however, is how deeply the major video game publishers are integrating tablet experiences into their highest-profile game franchises for the next generation of systems like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

For gamers, this is a real quantum leap. I saw numerous examples where video game developers are using tablets as far more than simple, passive second-screen adjuncts. It's early days, but these games illustrated the power and potential of allowing gamers to be in constant contact with their favorite games wherever they are.

In Ubisoft’s upcoming game The Division, players can use a tablet to control a drone in the sky to keep an eye on and protect their friends as they make their way through the game’s post-apocalyptic world. While your friends are banging away on their Xbox One controllers, you can be sitting anywhere, participating in the same experience via your tablet.

In Microsoft’s first-party game Project Spark, you can use a tablet to build a complete game universe from scratch on your Xbox One directly from your device. You can shape the world, insert characters, design AI, and attach this AI to objects and characters—without having to be sitting in front of your gaming console.

And in Activision’s Call of Duty: Ghosts, you can use your tablet to support your friends’ online efforts from anywhere.

This is a titanic seachange for the video game industry, and the implications are ground-breaking. Previously, big-screen console game experiences required to you to be sitting at your Xbox or PlayStation in order to participate. The notion that you can use your tablet to play the same game your friends are playing on their Xbox Ones or PlayStation 4s is unprecedented—and offers a wealth of possibilities.

It will be interesting to watch how, in coming years, game developers more fully exploit this concept. From a pure marketing perspective, it's also a good thing. The more opportunities consumers have to touch the worlds that companies like Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft build, the more money these game publishers will make in the long term.

And from the gamer's perspective, the more immersive and all-encompassing an experience, the better, right? 

This week’s winner: Apple

Despite a fairly conservative showing at WWDC this past Monday in terms of mobile hardware, Apple drummed up a considerable wave of ground support for the upcoming release of iOS7 later this summer or fall.

Apple’s new mobile OS is a big deal—big enough that Apple focused much of its showcase on it versus new hardware. The computing world expressed genuine enthusiasm for the refresh.

There’s something to be said for pure UI/UX design, even if it does feel a little reactionary. The beauty of the new mobile world we live in is that we’ll all basically get a brand new iPad or iPhone when Apple releases its new OS.

This week’s loser: iPad 2 owners

There’s just one caveat to the release of iOS7 for iPad owners: If you have a second-generation iPad or earlier, or an iPhone 3GS, you won’t get most of the OS update. You’ll only get the Siri and iTunes updates.


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