The Kami’s 2011 – The Tech Award for Technological Excellence

So, this time I want to celebrate some of the tech that has been making the rounds this year and what it means for us, as gamers and tech-heads, heading into 2012.

3. The 3DS

A fitting position, some would argue.

But then, others will argue the 3DS release was disappointing. The problem is, the actual data from users and sales suggests quite the opposite to the doom-saying critical reception the media have against Nintendo of late. Generally happens when you’re the market leader – suddenly everyone wants to predict your own downfall.

The 3DS did have its price dropped, of course, but most of us accepted the 3DS was too pricey anyway. Some of us don’t see much in the 3D aspect, and that is also fine. You don’t have to like EVERYTHING about a machine or company to actually respect and admire the balls it takes to put it out there.

Where the 3DS has succeeded, ironically for all the scaremongering, is in the games. Which is a very Nintendo thing – whereas the snotty-nosed highbrow critics drink their Baileys and guffaw at the relatively small amount of power compared to the PS Vita, the general consumer has started to buy into the 3DS and many of its games – Ocarina of Time 3D, Super Mario Land 3D, Mario Kart 7, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, a selection of fine ports like DOA Dimensions and Super Street Fighter 4 3D, Ridge Racer 3D (which has more love than the Vita version, which is taking a relative critical hammering) and 2012 brings Resident Evil Revelations, Hrvest Moon 3D, Kid Icarus, Luigi’s Mansion, Beyond the Labyrinth, Time Travelers, Project Zero/Fatal Frame, Zone of the Enders and many, many, many more games.

You have to admire relatively inexpensive tech backed up by solid games. Which is why the 3DS battle with the Vita is far too close to call – Sony can only dream of a 2012 line up like Nintendo has planned, but then, there are an awful lot of tech snobs out there who will buy a Vita over a 3DS because it’s “more powerful”.

Because that worked for Sony with the PS3, right?

2. OnLive

Rejoice, OnLive fans! For I am about to eat my own words! You may season liberally.

I, for one, am still relatively unconvinced about the idea of cloud technology, but OnLive is, from a relatively technical standpoint, a fantastic deal for what ostensibly is high-end tech for the masses, streaming the game from well-maintained servers to your screen, be it a tablet, your TV or your aging PC.

And the best part is for all the worry, OnLive is actually good. For those of us who thought it couldn’t work, shouldn’t work – I was wrong. I admit it.

Whether you rent or buy, OnLive is a new platform that for all the mocking and sniggering that it has been subjected to, is one that ostensibly won’t go away because there is a very large market for a very valid technological leap. It makes people happy, and if they can remain competitive on pricing in the long run, it may even begin to rob the mighty Steam of a few percent of market share.

Time will tell. But for now, OnLive is a very nice leap forward for gaming.

1. The Wii-U Controller

Seriously. Whatever happens with the Wii-U, the controller is what we all care about.

And it is what the entire industry will be watching, because Nintendo are masters of the controller – Sony and Microsoft owe much to Nintendo, in many ways, in their controllers. When Nintendo offer up a new way to interact with games – you sit up and take notes.

And here we have it. Essentially, a scaled up 3DS touchscreen.

But that would be doing Nintendo a disservice, because the ramifications are already sinking in about this kind of leap. Want to navigate a map? Usually, you would end up pausing a lot and then going through menu options to the map screen, and that just takes too long. With a touchscreen, a coupe of quick taps and boom. There is your map, up whilst you navigate your way to safety.

Inventory management on the fly. Zooming in on the action close-up. Menus condensed and streamlined to work on the touchpad, making the whole process smoother and faster. Imagine Final Fantasy on the Wii-U. Or any JRPG. Fantastic!

And the Wii-U launch lineup includes games that can make solid use of the quick and easy touchscreen. Pikmin 3 is long-awaited. And even Mass Effect 3, a game once heralded as a 360 exclusive, is getting ported to the Wii-U – where the controller, with all its built-in mics and touchscreen, will be integral to the experience whereas with the 360, the Kinect is an optional extra.

The Wii-U controller is striking in its implications. Pausing will really be for pausing – when so much can be done so quickly between your hands, there may be no going back from this. The genie really could have just escaped the bottle.

And compared to the Wii Remote, this really has practical implications for ALL genres. And that is what makes the Wii-U Controller exciting. The Wii Remote was about drawing new people in. The Wii-U controller is about evolving what we already have and doing more with it.

Nintendo are masters of that. And I am looking forward to seeing what happens next!

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