E3 2011: Wii U and Razer Switchblade on Display, OnLive Coming to Tablets

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Judging from the lines at E3, the Wii U will be the big story coming out of Los Angeles. Attendees rushed to form a line at the Nintendo display once the show floor opened at noon, and by quarter past when I swung by, there was already a multi-hour wait to check out the Wii U tablet controller announced earlier in the day.

Wii UI managed to sneak into the booth for a closer look at the controller, which features a 6.2-inch touchscreen coupled with both gamepad and tablet elements. And after some very brief hands-on time, I can say that it’s both light and thick, as well as definitely built for two-handed operation. I’ll brave the lines once the crowd thins out a bit and have a full first-look of the new Wii U controller.

OnLive Comes to Tablets
The other big day one news was that OnLive, creators of the cloud gaming system, have announced the OnLive Player App for the iPad and Android tablets and smartphones.

The OnLive Player App will enable users to play “virtually all OnLive games” on an iPad or Android device, according to a release. The games can be played with either touch or an OnLive wireless controller. In addition, OnLive claims the app can turn the tablet into a touch or motion controller for OnLive games on an HDTV.  The app also supports voice-chat during multiplayer. It will be available this autumn and is also coming to the iPhone.

OnLiveOnLive is a cloud-based gaming system that allows users to play high-end PC games without the need for a high-end gaming rig. OnLive games are rendered and stored remotely on servers and delivered to players HDTVs and computers over the internet. 

We’ll be sure to check out OnLive for tablets tomorrow, so expect a full hands-on. OnLive also announced “a 10 gigabit cloud-based full featured browser” for the iPad and Android devices. OnLive claims it brings “ultra-fast 10 gigabit/second Web connections” and full Flash, even for the iPad. I saw a quick demo of the browser, which enabled Netflix movie streaming from the Netflix website in the browser on the iPad and not in the Netflix app. This could be the Netflix answer for all those Android tablets that lack any form of streaming video support.

Razer Switchblade
As luck would have it, the one device I wanted to check out but missed at CES was at E3: the Razer Switchblade. The Switchblade is a seven-inch gaming notebook with a unique take on the typical dual-touchscreen setup.

The bottom LCD has a 45-key, transparent, physical keyboard overlay, which can be mapped to any keyboard configuration that suits a particular game. For example, it can include quick keys to menu items or in game actions, complete with corresponding icon. As such, the bottom LCD essentially has 45 touchpoints.

Razer SwitchbladeRazer reps were careful to label the Switchblade a concept device at CES, and at E3, they claimed it was a bit closer to the market, though still not guaranteed to ever hit the consumer space. There is still work to be done with the battery and heat, reps claimed. But if it does, Razer hopes to keep the price less than $500.

Razer kept the Switchblade behind glass and was silent on the specs, only reconfirming a partnership with Intel and noting that many might find the actually specs and components “surprising.” 

Razer reps also claimed the company’s aim is to get the Switchblade to run 99% of PC games, excluding heavyweights like the Crysis series. The games would have to be digital downloads, and Razer has not announced partnerships with any digital download services such as Steam. However, reps claimed that once the Razer is confirmed for the market, gaming partners may quickly jump on board.

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