CES 2014 round-up: Steam Machines, PS Now, Nvidia & Razer owned the show

Friday, 10 January 2014 10:42 GMT By Matt Martin

This year it was easy to look past the dull TV announcements and novelty iPhone taser cases at CES. Because the games business stood front and center, says Matt Martin.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is usually a lightweight affair for the video games business, as tech, TV and novelty products make enough noise to drown out a smattering of PC updates and experimental laptops. But 2014 was a more refreshing year for those of us watching from the sidelines, where big announcements from Sony, Valve, Razer and Nvidia put games front and center of the technology and entertainment industry.

Sony took full advantage of the international stage at CES, shrugging off Microsoft’s announcement of three million Xbox Ones sold to declare a massive 4.2 million sales of the PlayStation 4 from launch to December 28. Add 9.7 million game sales, a jump in PS Plus subs of 90 per cent and impressive Twitch streaming figures, and it’s fair to say Sony, and 2014, is off to a flying start.

While the console battle continues between the two big boys, the real story is that combined next-gen sales of over 7 million units in less than two months is a win for the whole games industry, putting aside fears of apathy in the console market.

Sales numbers are nice to throw around, but the next best thing to new games is the announcement of a desirable service, one that lets players stream classic titles to their PS4 and Vita for a monthly fee. PlayStation Now, the Netflix-like service built on the foundations of Gaikai, helps amplify Sony’s “games, games, games” mantra.

Our man Dave Cook took on the doubters – yes, there will be bandwidth and teething issues, welcome to the world of online gaming – but it’s a vision of the future that’s worth getting behind. It’s easy to knock the idea of cloud gaming and there have been some spectacular fails in the past, but it’s slowly transforming the way we play and Sony is taking a confident yet cautious long-term approach.

Valve’s Steam Machines were the big deal for the PC faithful, a varied collection of kit all wearing the Steam badge with pride. While Gabe Newell introduced the new hardware, he left it up to his manufacturing partners to run with the concept and fill the press in. That left some of us confused, including myself. I felt disappointed and a little underwhelmed that the initiative at this point feels a little wooly, with no clear direction or leadership from Valve.

Our man on the CES floor Phil Owen spoke to two Steam Machine makers, Alienware and Origin, to get clued up on their different approaches to the hardware. But more importantly he got hands-on with that weird, funky-looking controller and wrote up his assessment. Is it a smart take on PC controls tailored for the living room or a square peg for a round hole?

Sony and Valve might have been the big gaming cheeses at CES, but Razer offered, as it always does, a different take on gaming. It’s a company that loves concepts, and its latest, Project Christine, is a PC that automatically syncs components. If it comes to fruition you’ll be able to customise and build your own gaming rig with only the most basic of tech knowledge. Call us lazy, but we’re all about making PC gaming simpler and more approachable. Someone should show this concept to Newell.

Nividia is perhaps one of the companies most comfortable at CES, and its announcement of the Tegra K1 didn’t go unnoticed by our own Brenna Hillier. She argued that it’s a dream for core gamers, and if they can hold back their prejudices and approach mobile with a more open mind, they might well see the potential of having a chip on a par with the PS3 or Xbox 360’s core in your pocket.

So CES was very much on the radar this week, with some real gems, genuine news and exciting developments kicking of the year in games.

Now, isn’t that lot a whole lot more interesting that curved TVs, Michael Bay’s meltdown and a case that turns your iPhone into a stun gun?