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E3 Wrap Up: Microsoft SmartGlass, Nintendo's GamePad, Sony's Wonderbooks

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By , dealnews Senior Feature Writer

As expected, this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was filled with lots of surprises and shake ups. Stealing the show was Microsoft with its new multiplatform SmartGlass app (set to debut this fall), which will allow Xbox 360 owners to use their tablet or smartphone in conjunction with their Xbox 360 — essentially giving your console dual-screen capabilities. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's precisely what Nintendo was looking to do with its GamePad controller for the next-generation Wii U console.

So is this new app enough to make the Nintendo Wii U green with envy or is SmartGlass just an attempt from Microsoft to steal Nintendo's thunder? We take a glance at both technologies and other E3 highlights to find out.

Two Screens Are Better Than One

If there's anything E3 taught us this year, it's that gaming on one screen is so 2011. Both Nintendo and Microsoft are pushing technologies that will bring gaming out of your HDTV and into the growing world of tablets. For Nintendo, this technology is embedded in its GamePad controller, a tablet-like device that sports a 6" screen, full gaming controls, and an NFC reader/writer all of which will allow gamers to interact with Nintendo games on two screens rather than one.

Taking a page from Nintendo's GamePad, Microsoft announced its SmartGlass app. The cross-platform app will let Xbox 360 owners use their Android-, Windows 8-, or iOS-based smartphone or tablet in conjunction with their Xbox 360. For instance, the app (which will be a free download) will let you use your tablet as a map when playing games like Halo 4, or as an interactive playbook for sports games like Madden NFL.

In addition to games, the SmartGlass app will also work with TV shows and movies, feeding your mobile device highlights, episode info, and trivia that compliments the content you're watching. As if that weren't already enough, SmartGlass will also boast Airplay-style features like the ability to watch a movie on your mobile device when you're on the go and then transfer that movie to your TV via your Xbox once you're home.

As Engadget notes, "SmartGlass gives developers the potential to turn smartphones and tablets into a controller for the Xbox 360." And the best part is, unlike the Nintendo Wii U which requires the purchase of a new console and possibly a new GamePad controller, chances are most Xbox 360 owners already own a tablet or a smartphone. Is this technology enough to make the Wii U DOA? Only time will tell.

Details About the Wii U Are Still a Mystery

The verdict is still out on Nintendo's E3 press conference. While the company announced 23 games for its new Wii U console, there was little information about the console itself. Sure, we now know that the Wii U will be able to stream content from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and YouTube, but hardware-wise, the Wii U's innards remain a mystery.

"The Wii U remains the same bundle of promises and expectations as last year," noted CNET. Even the GamePad controller remains shrouded in mystery. Will it come bundled with the Wii U console, or will gamers have to pay extra for the new controller? Unfortunately, Nintendo didn't answer any of those questions, which may continue to fuel our readers' lackluster interest in the console. Nintendo did, however, say that the Wii U will support up to two GamePads (it was believed it would only support one).

Rather than talk hardware, Nintendo focused on Wii U games, and NintendoLand appears to be the premiere launch. It's a collection of mini games designed to show off the potential of the Wii U and GamePad controller, much like Wii Sports was made to introduce players to the Wiimote. Other launch titles include Pikmin 3, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Luigi's Ghost Mansion. If plump Nintendo characters aren't enough to attract hardcore gamers, Nintendo also announced adult titles like Assassin's Creed III, Mass Effect 3, and ZombiU (a zombie-filled shooter set in London).

The console's release date is still slated as "holiday 2012." But as Engadget notes, with no proper guidance or details, it'll be hard to predict how popular the console will be this holiday season. In the end, this year's E3 just left more looming questions over the Wii U.

Sony's Focuses on Exclusives, Announces Interactive Wonderbooks

E3 was all about new games for Sony's PS3. Exclusives such as The Last of Us (a post-apocalyptic survival game), God of War Ascension (a prequel to previous God of War entries), and Beyond Two Souls (a game from the makers of Heavy Rain starring Academy Award-nominated actress Ellen Page) were the main highlights of Sony's press conference.

In addition to new titles, Sony also announced the Wonderbook, a new peripheral that will use Sony's Eye Toy camera and PlayStation Move controller to deliver what Sony's calling an interactive reading experience. The first Wonderbook, Book of Spells, comes from Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. Players will sit in front of the Eye Toy camera along with their Wonderbook and then use the Move controller to interact with the story, all via augmented reality. So in essence, you become the main star of the story.

If Sony's Wonderbook didn't win gamers over, the company also announced 12 instant games for PS3 Plus members. A nice perk to close the company's E3 conference.

Big Holiday Season for Gamers

Microsoft's SmartGlass technology is a huge threat to the Wii U. Not because it'll prevent Nintendo fans from buying a Wii U, but because it might make on-the-fence gamers second-guess their Wii U purchase and opt for the market-dominant Xbox. However, there's also a high probability that Nintendo's GamePad and Wii U combination might deliver a better dual-screen gaming experience than Microsoft's SmartGlass.

Unfortunately, with both technologies slated to debut this fall, it's still too early to tell who will come out on top. Regardless, this holiday season promises to be an exciting period for gamers and casual gamers alike.



An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez.

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