I made a quick jaunt out to CES last week to check out the recent expansion into games and catch up with a few colleagues. Let’s start with the obvious: CES isn’t screwing around. They’ve got so much crap there I felt like the dudes in Pawn Stars hunting for buried treasure amonst the 9000 iPhone case companies showing at the convention center. It’s easy to get turned around, and I think an entreprising start-up could make a mint as guides. I think I spent a fair amount of time in some arcane corner dedicated to stereo housing out of Shenzen.
Lessons Learned: (1) Wear comfortable shoes, because CES is a gauntlet and red warrior just shot the food; (2) Teaching people to lose money at craps is not the way to cement a lasting friendship; and (3) Never wait in the cab line, just walk out to the street and throw yourself in front of the first one you see.
How I Spent My Time: I value conferences less for their content and more for the fact that they aggregate a bunch of people I want to talk to in one place. Typically I spend most of my time hopping around between meetings, parties and the conference floor. Meetings make things happen, parties open up possibilities and the floor gives you a sense for what’s out there. Most of the panels are more of an exercise is self-adulation than informative, since people are rarely willing to risk sensitive information in a publicized speech. Occasionally you get some gems (the GDC Rant panel comes to mind).
From the Social/Mobile Perspective: CES really isn’t targeted at us. The deals one expects to close at CES are of a different magnitude and nature than the ones social/mobile start-ups are really after. I’m just not gonna source 200k USB cables for my retail chain. This isn’t to say there aren’t conversations worth having at the conference; many of the platforms and hardware manufacturers are there and having a relationship with them can certainly serve the long-term interests of a gaming start-up.
Since CES isn’t really a “gaming” conference, I wasn’t surprised to see a relatively thin pool of companies to speak with. There’s no shame in walking around for a peek, and I certainly filled the time with conversations and meetings, but I’m not sure you need more than a day or two there to get the job done. GDC is in no danger of being dethroned as the top conference to go to.
My Favorite Part: The lights at the Audi booth. Not kidding. I’m sure they had cars there too (the A7 looked snazzy), but the layered rectangle lights were getting me all ooo’d and ahh’d.
More seriously, I was impressed by some of the Ultra Books I was seeing. I’m not quite sure where they fit into the market, but the tech looked solid and I can see it being a part of the broader laptop ecosystem. I do not think they’ll be a separate game constituency, but they are pretty slick.
I’ve also been eyeing some of the tablets with some interest. I’d would be interesting to see that market fill out some. The Kindle Fire is a promising start.
Thing I Had The Most Fun Messing Around With: The Sphero. It’s a thoroughly unnecessary improvement on the remote control race car, and I love it all the more for that fact. It’s a bit tricky to control, but whatever, it’s the Porsche of Peripherals. If I can show up some kid down the hall with a Slinky, then I’m prepared to drop the dough required to acquire one. Sphero, there is no substitute. Here’s a review w/ demo:
JM: I skipped wading into the CES-pool again this year. I used to go when I ran GDC, and had a particularly bad experience trudging through slush to get to Nintendo’s trailer phalanx. It reminded me of playing rugby as a boy in the slush, in shorts, at a British private school. I haven’t been back to CES since. In spite of the allure of the porn show that takes place next door. But I’m a huge A/V geek, complete with a monolithic Kuro you can pry from my cold dead hand, and a 7.1 setup I embedded in my honeycombed loft walls myself. So I’m not ruling the show out entirely. If it can become more relevant, I’ll be back.
Also, dude, where’s my Sphero? I can think of a few uses for that thing.