The third and final day of this year’s E3 conference in Los Angeles saw a surprising announcement from Nintendo, a new game from Disney, an important promise broken by Alienware and first impressions on Sony’s VR headset Project Morpheus.
Nintendo has announced today that their Wii U console will not be supporting gameplay streaming to any website, in particular, to the most popular website, Twitch.tv. The reason? They don’t think it’s fun.
Over the past few years, streaming live video of a player’s gameplay session to the internet has become increasingly popular worldwide, particularly in the eSports movement. Over 71 million gamers worldwide watched eSports competitions online last year, including the staggering 32 million people who tuned in to watch the grand final of popular competitive game League of Legends, while a further 18,000 attended the event live.
Twitch.tv also released their own report in January 2014, stating that they receive over 45 million unique visitors to their website each month who watch over 12 billion minutes of streamed and recorded gameplay sessions.
However, this data seems lost on Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime (pictured below), who insists that gameplay streaming isn’t really what people want from a console.
“We don’t think streaming 30 minutes of gameplay by itself is a lot of fun,” he said, before musing, “just purely streaming gameplay; what we have to think through is, ‘So what’s fun about that?’.
“From a consumer standpoint what’s fun about it?”
Considering the incredible viewerbase that websites like Twitch.tv boast, the decision to exclude support for gameplay streaming is a puzzling one. Many Nintendo games are based around competition (such as the Mario Party, Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers franchises which are already played competitively) and at this point in the consoles life cycle, with the Wii U selling poorly in most markets, Nintendo cannot afford to alienate any potential players.
Integration of gameplay streaming features has been demonstrated to increase hype and purchases surrounding a console. Sony sold out of optional cameras for the PlayStation 4 worldwide after including Twitch.tv streaming, as many people now wanted to record their own reactions while playing. As it stands, over 15 per cent of PlayStation 4 consoles now have a camera attached: an incredible market saturation for an optional attachment that’s main feature isn’t even related to playing a game .
Meanwhile, global media giant Disney took the opportunity on the last day to announce an update to their Skylanders-esque game, Disney Infinity, showcasing footage from Disney Infinity 2.0.
Much like Skylanders (or Nintendo’s Amiibo, which was announced yesterday) players can purchase figurines of different Disney and Pixar characters which, when placed on a special pad, are transported into the game world.
As well as featuring new worlds and updated graphics, Infinity 2.0 also demonstrated the fruits of Disney’s new partnership with Marvel Studios (owners of superheroes Iron Man, Spider-Man and Captain America, among other) by showing off several new superhero figurines, game characters and worlds.
With Marvel’s ever-popular superhero franchises being added to an already large list of well-established and loved Disney/Pixar characters, consumer demand for Disney Infinity 2.0 figurines as both game-related items and collectibles is something that Australian retailers should keep a close eye on.
Elsewhere at E3, gaming computer manufacturer Alienware has backed out of a deal with online game retailer and developer Valve regarding their use of Valve’s still-in-production operating system, SteamOS.
At the 2014 International CES, Valve unveiled partnerships with several large computer manufacturers to produce a series of ‘Steam Machines’, small gaming computers designed to directly a TV with games sold on Steam’s market leading game retail platform. This represented a direct competitor to home console gaming. Each Steam Machine was to feature complete hardware combustibility, much like any PC, and a specially designed operating system made by Valve, called SteamOS.
However, with the release of SteamOS pushed back until 2015, Alienware has forged ahead with announcing the release of its own version of a Steam Machine, the Alienware Alpha, without the promised operating system. Instead, Alienware is using a custom version of Windows 8.1 that was designed in-house, which then links directly to Valve’s gaming and shopping software Steam.
There has been no comment from Valve regarding Alienware’s broken promise or the Alpha’s tentative end of year release window.
While still in early stages, Sony’s virtual reality (VR) headset, Project Morpheus, turned heads on the show floor this year with it’s sleek design and ease of controls. Unlike Oculus VR’s entry Oculus Rift, which is designed to be used while sitting down at a computer, Morpheus is designed with using a PlayStation 4 in mind. As the PS4 has many different ways to play, from using the traditional controller to motion capture, Project Morpheus can be used in more ways and positions than the Oculus Rift, leading to greater player immersion.
Project Morpheus also received high praise for its comfort and sleek industrial design. However, no release date is yet announced. Oculus VR, which was bought by Facebook earlier this year for a tidy US $2 billion, plans to release a consumer version of its Rift later this year. Founder Palmer Luckey has stated that it will be the headsets them at cost. While Project Morpheus is currently receiving praise, by release it may be too late to stop Oculus VR from dominating the market.