E3 is in full swing, and we all had hopes and predictions on this event, like we do every year. We predicted a Playstation 4…that didn’t happen. We had a few expectations on what Nintendo would do, and we will write about it here or discuss on the next Shot O’ Games Podcast. The one that really caught me by surprise is Xbox SmartGlass. I didn’t see this one coming, and honestly, I’m surprised not many people are talking about this. It shows a lot of Microsoft’s total vision for the 360.Why do I think it’s a big deal? Because it is trying to make the 360 the console that technically “does it all”. It is still mostly up in the air, but let me go over what SmartGlass does. It allows you to have two screens for media consumption and game control. They will also be bringing Internet Explorer(hold your torches and pitchforks folks!) to the 360 this fall, and SmartGlass will be able to give you options like pinch to zoom and others to control it. Microsoft states that we will be able to use our Smartphones and Tablets for this purpose, including ones that use the iOS and Android OS.
Imagine watching a movie on your Tablet while you’re travelling, stopping at some point, getting home, and then continuing it on your TV? Yes, I know Netflix does this, but what if it’s your content? This is where it becomes interesting to me. Microsoft showed examples of interactive shows, like a Game of Thrones where the user sees a map of the action on his Tablet. Interactive TV shows are the future, and Microsoft has a chance to be at the forefront since in theory we don’t need any more new equipment, just our Xbox 360 and Smartphone or Tablet. Quite brilliant here.
What about games though? Like the example above shows, you could call your plays in Madden without your opponent seeing it, for instance. You can see an overhead map in any given game on your screen. Perhaps an inventory screen? A mini-game? This isn’t anything new by the way. Remember the Dreamcast VMU? Using the Game Boy Advance as a controller on the GameCube? Same concept, just on fancier technology, which, like I stated earlier, we all hopefully already own. Am I excited to use my Acer Iconia A500 Tablet with my Xbox 360? Hell yeah I am! I already have a case that props it up on my desk, how awesome would it be to play the next great RPG on my TV, with my Tablet sitting to the side showing me a map? Or inventory screen? Or stats for a fighting game? Even using it as a screen for when you press the guide button. The possibilities are there.
Like I’ve stressed earlier, this should all be possible using technology we already own, and that is the most exciting part. This can turn into a potential tech support nightmare for Microsoft, given how many different configurations of Android devices there are. Still, assuming they play their cards right and this works well, this makes the 360 the one console that does it all. Nintendo has been harping about their Wii U controllers, which have a built-in touchscreen. The system is also slightly more powerful than a 360, but you would have to invest into getting a new Wii U. We can keep our 360, with its already established user base, and have SmartGlass controllers. We already have Kinect, so the motion control support is also there. So in a way, the 360 will do everything the other consoles do. This makes the wait for a next generation more bearable, since we still have a bunch of AAA games coming out. Well played Microsoft, I think you took a great path here. It’s a risky one, so I hope you can make it work. If you do, I will be one of the first in line to try it out.