/// At This Year’s E3, Smaller Companies Get a Chance to Stand Out

June 10, 2013  |  All Things Digital

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo — or E3 — will undoubtedly deliver all of the hallmarks of a big gaming conference: Flashing lights, thumping music, over-the-top presentations, hordes of fanboys and clusters of scantily dressed women hawking video game software titles. But some of the more interesting products and developments of the show this year might come from companies that can’t afford huge booths. This year, the big players are surrounded (though not especially threatened) by smaller gaming companies that cater to a broadening definition of “gamer.” On the hardware side, the “big three” console makers have already unveiled or released their next-generation consoles: Sony’s PlayStation 4 , Microsoft’s Xbox One and Nintendo’s Wii U, which was released last November. So lesser-known hardware makers, some of whom have come this far on the backs of ground-up crowdfunding campaigns, will hope to grab a sliver of the spotlight. Two fledgling hardware companies that will be at E3 and have garnered attention in recent months are Ouya and Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift virtual-reality gaming headset. (For an in-depth Q&A with Oculus, check out this story from last week.) Ouya, led by gaming industry vet Julie Urhman, first came into existence last summer as a Kickstarter project . The company ultimately raised more than $8.5 million dollars to fund its production of a $99 palm-sized video console that runs Google’s open Android operating system. Also on the radar this week is London-based PlayJam , which has spent the past 12 years building gaming platforms for smart TVs. At E3, the company will be be demoing its $80 GameStick, a thumb-drive-like device launching next month that plugs directly into the TV and connects wirelessly to a retro handheld controller. Yet another Android-based device, called the Unu, will be shown off at E3 with the hopes of appealing to both the gamer and the media consumer. Unu looks and feels like a tablet — and can be used as one — but plugs into a TV-connected dock to run the same Google Play games and media apps on the TV as it does on the tablet. A “media edition” of the Unu will ship this summer for $199, while a “gamer” version, which includes a game controller, will sell for $249. “Nintendo did very well capturing the whole family segment with the Wii,” said Nick Repenning, vice president of business development for Unu’s maker Snakebyte , of the company’s positioning, “but Wii U hasn’t picked up where Wii left off, and that’s where we get in. We’re tailoring to the same consumer. But where a game for the Wii is $40 or more, our games are between $1 and $10.” Repenning’s comment gets to the crux of what is so disruptive about these smaller, scrappy companies homing in on E3: Price. For both developers and consumers, making and playing games is potentially more affordable when there are more avenues available than just the walled gardens of Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo

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At This Year’s E3, Smaller Companies Get a Chance to Stand Out

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