The recent 2014 Consumer Electronics Show revealed many new and exciting things for gamers this year! Three highlights for the gaming crowd were the Valve-sponsored Steam Machines, the virtual-reality headset called the Oculus Rift, while console owners finally got a look at Sony’s PlayStation Now video game streaming service. With PC gaming’s move into the living room, virtual reality becoming an actual reality, and the console making streaming gaming accessible, having the speakers to match these gaming experiences is more crucial than ever.
Valve has announced 13 partners with which they plan to produce Steam Machines, gaming computers that bring PC gaming into the living room. These specifically use Valve’s own software Steam. All of Steam Machines will be backed by Valve’s own Steam Controller (a couch-friendly replacement for the traditional mouse and keyboard) and SteamOS (Valve’s in Linux based operating system built around Steam), both aimed to bring PC gaming off the desk and into the den. For those of you unfamiliar with Steam, think of iTunes for games: you can buy games online, download them to your computer, and play them from your library without ever needing a physical disc.
Also, Valve has recently changed many of Steam’s features to coincide with the shift to a more social gaming experience. They’ve allowed for library sharing, in which users can share the games they own with their friends on Steam, and they’ve added family-friendly options such as parental controls to prohibit games above a certain rating to be playable or to appear on the Steam store at all. PC gaming is becoming more accessible and into a more social experience in the forefront of a home. Better gaming on a Steam Machine is something to look forward to, but make sure it’s paired with better sound for the complete experience.
The Oculus Rift is a HMD (head-mounted display) that promises a new virtual-reality gaming experience. Strapped onto the head, it has separate screens for both eyes, which together should provide a 1080p resolution. The Rift tracks head and positional movements, providing a first-person view of the games being played. The version aimed at consumers also features a motion tracking system that alleviates motion sickness.
The PlayStation Now initiative brings game streaming to PS4 and PS3, as well as tablets, smartphones, and TV’s. Now, instead of just streaming movies and music, owners can stream entire games from Sony’s selection to their consoles. While it may seem unremarkable, game streaming has been long desired yet inefficient compared to streaming media. Simply put, the flow of data only has to enter your computer to stream movies or music. With gaming, the stream has to include data in and out of your computer and do so fast enough to not have noticeable lag from the input from the player and the response in-game. Having a concrete plan for game stream is exciting and daunting. Without the need to buy a disc or download data, and with most of the heavy lifting done by hardware completed on Sony’s in-house servers, the games available for play exploded in number since these are the major inhibitors of how many games a player can have available at their fingertips.
Additionally, both consoles and PCs have seen an increase in the views for live-streamed games. Services like Twitch.tvallow gamers to stream their games live to viewers, letting you share with your friends or learn from the best. PlayStation 4 already has this feature built in, while Xbox has already announced plans to implement it into their console services. Through streaming, gaming has found a way to be connected through Facebook and other sites, making personal gaming memories into experiences and videos that can be shared, liked, and commented on. In addition, streaming professional games has become more popular than ever. For competitive and casual gamers alike, watching the live games and multi-million dollar tournaments is an exciting affair. The talented players they are watching make big, bold plays to win.
With new consoles bringing a fresh gaming experience to the home and with powerful Steam Machines following them into the living room, there has never been a better time to get the sound experience needed to fully enjoy these games. Don’t let new games get ruined by old sound; immersive yourself, enjoy yourself, and play on.