It's a safe bet to say that the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) wouldn’t be on most business calendars. However, while most company executives wouldn't spend too much time on the biggest video game conference, they probably should.
Why? Because the video game industry has consistently been at the forefront of harnessing the tech trends that are currently making waves in consumer and business sectors. The trends of social networking, augmented reality and device interconnectivity have been a crucial part of their thinking for sometime now. Given the cutthroat nature of the industry the innovation imperative for the companies is pretty high and here's how the likes of Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony are hardwiring the trends into their products.
The Wii U’s social ambitions
While Nintendo’s new console, the Wii U, turned heads at this year's E3 with its move to integrate a tablet screen into the controller, Nintendo was keener to shine the spotlight on its more social endeavours.
The company has effectively built its own interactive social network around its Wii U console. It’s called the Miiverse and it best to think of it as the ‘Twitter’ of the gaming world.
Miiverse is an interactive online chat room where the discussion revolves around the games people are playing. As Nintendo demoed during the conference, this system will be worked into most of the Wii U’s games, so you’ll be able to see and interact with people in real time during a game. The system even allows for video interactions over the net, and can be run from smart device as well as on the console.
To put this development in context, if a player is stuck on a part of the game, they can reach out to any other player over the internet and ask them for help. It’s an interesting twist on gaming, as in the past social interaction has been fairly rigid and more of an impediment than an assistance to the overall experience.
One of the biggest criticisms of Nintendo’s original Wii console was that it forced you to exchange a code with another play in real life in order communicate with them over the net. It was a rigid system that sent gaming critics into a meltdown over how backwards it was. It seems that Nintendo has not only taken this criticism on board, but has attempted to outdo Sony and Microsoft on the social gaming front as well.
Peering through Xbox’s Smartglass
We all know that Microsoft’s goal with Windows 8 is to bridge the divide between PC’s and tablets. Well, judging by recently announced Smartglass application, the trend of device interconnectivity is set to expand through all of their products.
Smartglass works in a similar manner to Apple TV in that it allows you to stream content from one device to a television. But it goes beyond just porting content from one device to another. With gaming, Smartglass turns a device into a controller - giving players a new way to interact with the game.
Perhaps the most unusual point about Microsoft’s Smartglass system is that it won’t just be available on Windows branded devices, it will also be available for Android and Apple’s iOS as well.
Sony looks to books for inspiration
Meanwhile, Sony appears to be following Google’s lead on the augmented reality front, unveiling their new ‘Wonderbook’ tool - a system that marries augmented reality with books.
It works by using the Playstation Eye camera and the Playstation Move controller to interact with certain books. The books are coded with seemingly meaningless shapes, however when they are put in-front of a Playstation Eye camera they literally come to live on a TV screen. Players can then use the remote to read through the pages of the book or interact with the animations that are appearing on the screen.
It’s a little unusual for Sony to unveil such a tool at E3, as the conference is really only watched by gamers, as this product would more than likely appeal to young families.
Keeping customers happy
Despite all of these innovations, gamers were generally disappointed with the technology showing at this year’s E3. Generally, a good E3 conference will wow even the most future forward video game junkie, but in this case none of the big three games companies offerings won over the gaming community.
Gamespot’s Australian-Pacific site manager Randolph Ramsey says that there was a “general sense of disappointment”, with most of it stemming from the fact that there were no amazing gaming announcements from the event. Ramsey says that gamers were banking on Microsoft and Sony to unveil their concepts for the next generation of gaming at this year’s E3, but alas the gaming giants played it safe this year and kept their cards to their chest. Without these big announcements the conference came across as just showing gamers more of the same.
Despite this, there are a couple of crucial lessons here for businesses. Firstly, the emphasis needs to be on integration and implementation of the trends into their workplace, before it's too late.
The second, and perhaps more important take-away is that in the current market it takes a lot more to wow consumers with technology. It would be fair to say that the innovations presented at this year’s E3 were impressive, but they still weren’t enough to satisfy the increasingly tech savvy gaming consumer. In an age where customer engagement is fast becoming a crucial element to success meeting the consumer's innovation expectations is now a serious game.
You can follow @HarrisonPolites on Twitter.