Gaming drives a lot of innovation

Here at CES it seems to me two very powerful themes are technology as a *social and lifestyle experience* and technology as a *mobile experience*.     At the MMORPG gaming session it was noted that games in many ways were the first online social experience  and continue to be a powerful and dominant social force in the online world.   Dr. Lars Buttler of Trion (formerly with Electronic Arts) was very optimistic about the future of gaming, and along with others felt that current distinctions between console and PC would break down but the social nature of gaming would increase, including ways to move between multiple games.  Buttler also suggested that the European market has been underestimated in gaming.

Other key items discussed were the secondary markets, where real money is exchanged for game items, and micropayments which many on the panel felt would become a much larger part of the gaming experience.   MMORPGs like MapleStory rely on micropayments rather than subscription fees, and this appears to be a key strategic item for MMORPG makers.

Yesterday I spent time with some of the gaming innovators.   The most impressive things I saw:

Motion-enhanced driving cars created by D-Box.   These simulated the driving experience in an arcade fashion with a high powered HP gaming PC plus an elaborate car simulator and 1-3 monitors.    Very cool, but at something like $14,000 depending on configurations it’ll be out of range for many.   D-box won an innovation award for this.

A similar “virtual transport” product that also won the innovation award is the flight simulator, Dreamflyer, which at about $2800 seemed conspicuously cheaper than D-Box, which I think is partly due to D-Box’s real motion in the carriage vs Dreamflyers virtual motion on screen, though I’m not clear on the details of either product yet.   

Alienware debuted a prototype gaming / immersion monitor that won’t be available until middle of the year, but it was a simply awesome looking monitor which stretched *around* the viewers head in an arc of (i’m guessing) about 60 degrees and about 60 inches wide by 16 inches tall.   It’s like having 3 high resolution  screens stiched together in an arc.   Very impressive, and looked like a killer environment for hardcore gamers though the immersion glasses some are showing off here are more likely to get widespread use due to much lower cost.   More on the glasses later as I think that is a really provocative technology that is finally going to see some widespread adoption.