E3 Recap: 5 Key Takeaways From This Year’s Show

The most significant development in gaming over the last few years has been the rise of the casual gamer. As eMarketer indicates, it is a category largely defined by the some 147 million US mobile gamers who look to Candy Crush and Fruit Ninja to pass the time. E3 is not about them.

Reserved for the core gamer, E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo is an event where gaming providers both large and small come to Los Angeles to showcase new technologies and products for computers, video game consoles, handheld systems, mobile and social. While the conference is chock full of announcements of new titles from gaming developers, this post will focus on the platforms and behaviors which are changing the way we experience media and gaming. Here are five developments that marketers and media companies should be aware of.

Xbox Snap Encourages Multitasking 

Much has been made of second screen experiences which have largely been marketing’s failed attempt to engage the some 60% of people who look at a secondary device during ad breaks according to our Second Screen POV. What we’re seeing currently is a trend towards multitasking on the first screen.  YouTube’s mobile UI and more recently Xbox’s continued support of Snap mode are great examples.

Xbox’s Snap function lets users run multiple applications simultaneously, like snapping the Parties app to chat with friends while you’re still playing a game. Voice controls are at the center of this functionality as users can request another application with their voice while still using the controller for gameplay. At this year’s E3, Microsoft announced Snap mode for Achievements which tracks in-game accomplishments while you play. Think of it like a real-time scoreboard with the ability to track and share progress without leaving the game. More interesting is the help function which will scan the web for articles and videos that will offer tips to reach your goals. This is the beginning of media and gaming intersecting as we marry traditional web content and gameplay within a single view.

Amiibo Breathes Life Into NFC?

NFC has tremendous potential to seamlessly connect physical and digital worlds with a simple tap. But with hardware compatibility issues and a lack of consumer adoption, will it go the way of the QR Code? Nintendo thinks not as it is rolling out NFC functionality that connects plastic figures with gameplay to change the way you interact with Nintendo characters and games. Dubbed Amiibo, the platform will debut on select games on the Wii U as players can tap the figures to the Wii U gamepad to bring them to life in the game. In the Super Smash Bros example, you can tap any figure to watch it battle within the game, alongside you or with you simply watching from the sidelines. The characters are all unique and customizable and their gaming history is collected and stored.

Playstation TV Creates A Mobile Living Room

Just when you thought you had a handle on all the over-the-top platforms, Playstation announces the North America release of Playstation TV. The $99 device will stream PS Vita and select PS 3 games to your TV in addition to supporting media services like Hulu and Netflix. More importantly, it enables remote play for current PS4 owners who can stream games to additional TVs without the need to move their main console. This is a serious improvement in mobility and with YouTube coming to the Playstation platform this fall, expect continued growth for Sony’s video game consoles.

Eye Tracking For Gaming Is Just The Start

SteelSeries is showing off its new Sentry Eye Tracker, a device designed to track where a gamer looks while playing. This primary function can offer insights when training for gaming tournaments, but it is promising in a much wider range of fields.  Tobii, a Swedish company that supplies the tracking technology for the Sentry, sees its technology being used to assist people with disabilities, conduct academic research, and track attention for market research.  It is likely we will soon see PCs coming to market with this sort of technology baked in, so it stands to reason that we will be seeing more and more applications of eye tracking in the next few years.

Twitch And The Rise Of Spectator Gaming

Did you know that video network Twitch has 45 million monthly active users who tune in to watch live streams of people gaming? In fact, there are currently 85,000 tuning into League of Legends right now. Most of these streams are as much about the gameplay as they are about the gamer who simultaneously broadcasts a view of themselves via their webcam. This phenomenon is so prevalent that Google is rumored to be in talks to acquire them for $1 billion.

What Twitch teaches us is the importance of live experiences. In today’s on demand world there is still a desire, likely more than ever to be “in the moment.” There needs to be that sense that if you blink, you’ll miss out which is exactly what Twitch provides to the gaming audience. And Twitch isn’t the exception. In fact, major events are also experiencing growth like the Oscars which has achieved the highest household ratings in nine years. Expect gaming to continue this trend and support more social functionality.