Smart phone connectivity is a way better industry fad than motion controls.
Easily the neatest rising trend in the game industry right now is the connectivity we can have with our games when we’re not playing them. Thanks to smart phone connectivity, we can bid on auction house items in WoW and keep our galactic readiness in Mass Effect 3 at a reasonable level without even booting up a PC or console. There’s even an app for an interactive map of Skyrim out there.
And so early in the event that keeps our YouTube and Google Reader tabs constantly open we have already have seen how Nintendo and Microsoft are making sure we don’t ever escape from our little gaming worlds. Some expected features like being able to access the messaging features on a console using one’s smart phone have been shown off, but what about that interactive map of Westeros within arms reach when you’re watching Game of Thrones? The potential here, provided it actually gets used, is staggering. Wouldn’t it be great if you were playing The Witcher 2 on your Xbox 360 since you never could run the beloved series on your PC and your phone politely filled you in when you encountered a reference to the previous game? That is of course if you told your phone that when you started playing. Otherwise it might keep the game’s online wiki handy for you in case you’d like quick access to a reference guide of the crafting system. I recently attempted to get into Marvel’s supposedly awesome The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, but was turned off by the plethora of Marvel villain reveals I probably would have recognized if I read more comics right in the first episode. I might have been more inclined to keep watching if a reference guide of the Marvel rogue’s gallery was intelligently displayed by my phone.
A pessimist might argue that we all were this excited about motion controls yet we never did really get to use the Wiimote like a lightsaber or perform airbending moves with the Kinect, but we aren’t talking about conquering the uncanny valley of video game input here. We’re talking about a little app that can see where you are in a game or movie and responds with context-sensitive content. It is not unlike Angry Birds; a simple, but fantastic concept no one had thought of or at least put to great use yet. Motion controls and “Better with Kinect” functionality often felt gimmicky and thrown in as part of a feature checklist. I still imagine the story behind Mass Effect 3’s Kinect features was, “Fine, we threw in some voice commands so you can put that purple bar on the box. Now please let us get this damned ending finished!” And yet this is the type of feature I want to see in everything. I don’t care if it’s as complex as my fairy in the newest Zelda giving me hints through my phone or as simple as replacing the background of my iPad with an Animus-like display when I’m playing Assassin’s Creed III. I want Thanos’ Wikipedia entry to immediately appear on my phone when I watch The Avengers so I can fill in any uninitiated friends watching the film with me.
This is the kind of gimmick I can get behind. With everyone trying to out sequel each other at E3 this year, this is a nice little tidbit to take away from it.