The 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) bedazzles the eyes with more video games being displayed than a dozen toy stores could muster together. If a video game company wants to gather attention — or even just “keep up with the Joneses” — they have to be here at the Los Angeles Convention Center in California.
But lost amidst the madness of blaring sound and projected video and numerous high-resolution displays is the fact that E3 is NOT only about games. There’s a lot of hardware being shown that doesn’t come in big booths running massive sound tracks. To find this hardware — mostly for video games but also for the home theater that gaming consoles now occupy — you have to look at the nooks and crannies of the exhibition halls. And peruse like Sherlock Holmes the darkened corners and hidden meeting rooms. Which we did. So put on your pair of comfortable walking shoes and join us as we reveal the products that will get the attention of gamers: be they hard core or casual.
The two halls designated for the Expo are large enough to hold dozens of video game company booths — even with the addition of the small cities that are the Nintendo and Sony and Microsoft booths. But snooping finds a series of free-standing rooms wedged in amidst the madness; small to the eye maybe, but big on the tech being shown.
As is the case with HORI, whose Fighting Edge Joystick is too huge and heavy to budge as you pummel multiple buttons and grip the heavy joystick. Sure it’s excellent for playing “fighter” games where combination moves require memory executed with fast reflexes — but the addition of touch button control and the blue LED “running lights” along both edges of the base makes it oh-so-much-more. What’s the good of “owning” the game if you can’t look cool while doing it?
Moving between crowded aisles brings us to CTA Digital. So sure they make stuff for kids, but who wouldn’t want to spend time in the Spongebob Squarepants inflatable sports car for iPad — a blow-up racing car that holds a real iPad on the steering wheel?Or how about just a few cllicks away for real racing seats from PlaySeat America– the Dale Earnhart Jr. editions are pretty outrageous any way you look at it, for example, the Diet Mountain Dew Edition , Want to go simpler? Then the Playseat Rookie [for Wii] will give those younger set Mario Kart aficionados a change from their parental protection mode.
But back at CTA, tablet users — in this case iPad owners — can have a Bluetooth keyboard for an iPad that includes a handset means you can do your skyping or Facetime-ing without everybody listening in. Me, I’d like to try out the gooseneck clamp stand for iPad/tablets, because as simple as the clamping system is, it’s a great way to be able to “float” an iPad over a desk without taking up any surface space.
Doing a hard right takes us past Innex where we’re stopped quick by GameGadget. Sized much like the bottom half of a Nintendo DSi, this emulator/”Cloud” based LCD screen gaming portable downloads and plays all kinds of games– licensed ones from the eras when gaming was King. Think of it as the iPod of game emulators. We even heard tell that there’s a tablet sized edition. That would make for one big emulator.
But see, there’s another series of small booths hidden around the corner — this time near an improvised food court that could double as a casino for how much you lose by buying anything there. I come up on VEFXi. Now I know these guys — they make a 2D to 3D converter called the 3D-Bee: Trainer. Or they did — the names have been changed as new models have been added. I see “Platinum” replacing the Trainer and a model designed exclusively for glasses-free 3D. But my attention is on the Diamond model that is being used with an Xbox 360 playing Halo. So I put on 3D glasses and look at the 3D HDTV. But since Halo and the Xbox is 2D only — if Diamond wasn’t there, 3D wouldn’t be either. Somehow the little box actually creates the depth impression that 3D needs — and HALO looks tons better when the play-field loses its 2D flatness. I see that the Platinum is less costly than Diamond, because it has less depth control, but putting either into your home theater system means that pretty much all your films and shows and games are now going to look many times better – because they’re in 3D.
To rest my eyes, I go around the corner to ViviTouch. The tech here is strictly audio, and it’s impressive. You know how you get that reactive feeling on a game controller that’s just really a motor bouncing around on you? Well these guys make a film that does the same thing, only better. Their iPod touch case ties in with games as you play and you “feel” the reaction of, say, dice rolling around with distinct sounds. Headphones were also demonstrated using this film — models are coming out from brand names in the Fall — and because there’s no motors involved, your ears don’t get any fatigue. But better than that is how gaming sounds as you smash into a wall or blast a tanker with a bazooka from close range. It’s not just some “bass,” but a physical pounding that really makes things immersive.
But since some guy just spilled red wine on my pants leg (and my knapsack), I need something violent to calm me down. Which is where Hyperkin comes in, since their Comrad Gaming helmet is battle ready and conducts the stereo audio you’re hearing from the game through bone induction. ‘Course there’s a mike connected to it too, so I can scream out to kill all those who drink red wine.
So now I’m ready to take the gaming with me and fight my way out of E3. For that I’ll use GAEMS G155 portable HD monitor case. You not only get a hardened case that holds a PS3, Xbox or Wii, but has a 720p resolution HD monitor built into the lid. Of course it uses AC — imagine what the batteries would be like? But because it was made by gamers for gamers, it’s designed to rest comfortably (and without generating heat) on your lap if need be. But I’ll wait and put it on a table in the press room later to impress the jokers who think they’re as good as me.
Passing by AverMedia on my way, I see that their Game Capture HD is ready to go: run the video through it from the game console and you’ve a PC-free means for recording gameplay in digital HD, with no latency loss or other issues. It also does still photos and since it comes sans 2.5 HD drive, you can buy whichever sized model you feel like. Maybe I can record blowing the head off some guy drinking at a bar in a RPG — gee, I better get over this already before heading back into the “real world.”
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.