This year at E3, I had the opportunity to take a look at what many of the major peripheral companies have been up to since PAX East. Obviously, there were quite a few new products to test out, and while most of the new lineups were simply upgraded standard products there were a few that stood out above the rest. The major brands that I had appointments with this year included: Logitech, SteelSeries, and Astro Gaming, but I also stopped by to check out the rather impressive Virtuix Omni. Let’s take a look at what each had to offer.
Normally, when I head over to the Logitech meeting I expect to see a new headset, mouse or keyboard because that’s pretty much what they’re known for. They make great budget and mid-line gaming products, but have also been dabbling into higher quality products the last few years like the G910 Orion Spark and G502 Proteus Core. This year I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they’re offering two brand new products: The G29 and G920 racing wheels. Both products feature realistic force feedback, solid steel ball bearings in the wheel, and stainless steel shifters/pedals. The only major difference between the two products is that the G29 is exclusively for PS3 and PS4 while the G920 is for Xbox One and PC. If the wheel and paddle shifters don’t provide enough of an authentic experience then a six-speed manual gear stick can also be added onto the design. Both of these products will be available this July for $399.99.
Although racing games are normally not my friend, I felt at home while using the G29. This is the first racing wheel I’ve used that actually made it feel like I was driving a car. Now it didn’t instantly make me any better of a racer, but I could actually feel every skid, bump and impact due to the realistic force feedback. I can definitely see how players who are already great at racing games could use this to improve their skills, and according to Chris Pate, Logitech senior product manager, many top racers already prefer a wheel over the gamepad. The price point is definitely a little high for casual users, but it’s definitely in line with what dedicated gamers are willing to spend on a quality product.
Although I didn’t get the chance to test out the Virtuix Omni personally, it is one of the devices that stood out the most to me at E3 2015. Full-motion tracking is something that’s been played around with for the last few years, but it hasn’t been readily accessible to the public. The Virtuix Omni steps up typical movement simulators and allows for full 360-degree walking, or running, and it detects backwards movement, strafing and jumping. Combined with a full-VR headset, this creates the first 100% immersive experience. Those who did get a chance to test out the device really seemed to enjoy it and the screens around the booth accurately depicted what the players on the machines were doing.
The Virtuix Omni is estimated to start shipping in Q4 of 2015 with a hefty $699.00 price tag, which doesn’t include a VR headset. This means that after everything is all said and done, the entire experience is going to range closer to a grand. This is definitely the machine for a premium spender who really wants the most immersive experience possible, or maybe for someone who wants to get a little bit of exercise while gaming.
This year, SteelSeries really brought their A game by introducing 3 new console headsets and a new android controller. The Stratus XL is a new gaming controller compatible with all Windows PCs and Android devices, which connects wirelessly via Bluetooth. The controller has a very solid design to it and feels similar to an Xbox One controller, albeit with different joystick placement. Currently, there are few quality wireless controllers on the market for PC, without having to deal with annoying modifications, and the Stratus XL is both comfortable and responsive. While I normally prefer gaming with a keyboard and mouse, there are times when I would like to hookup a controller and just relax. Unfortunately, this normally means having to deal with poor third-party designs or another wire with the Xbox 360 controller. The Stratus XL seems to eliminate both of these issues by delivering a superior, wireless configuration. It will be available this July for $59.99.
“When SteelSeries introduced the first Stratus Controller we believed that the gaming ecosystem was on the cusp of changing and that gaming was becoming less restrictive to players who wanted to game on their mobile devices. Two years later we see this evolution happening across multiple platforms and devices,” said Ehtisham Rabbani, SteelSeries CEO. “The new controller creates an easy-to-use experience and allows that multiscreen experience to really happen.”
While SteelSeries has been known for producing high-quality PC gaming headsets for quite some time, they’re finally bringing that same quality to the console market. Three different tiers of console headsets are now available for both Xbox One and PS4. The Siberia X100/P100 are the entry level headsets that deliver comfort and reliable audio through a 3.5mm connection. These are your typical, no frills headsets with a lower quality design and sound quality when compared with the other two models, but the price point is also significantly lower. Next in line are the Siberia X300 and P300, which are probably the most comfortable headsets in the new line. The self-adjusting headband keeps the headset light while providing a snug fit, which eliminates the irritation normally associated with long gaming sessions. Finally, the X800 and P800 are the new premium headsets for the console audiophile. They feature professional-quality Dolby 7.1 surround sound with equalizers, ChatMix, and LiveMix to perfectly tune each gaming session.
Even though Astro Gaming didn’t bring anything entirely new this year, they have made things easier for legacy A40 and A50 users. Now the MixAmp M80 for Xbox One and AG1 Chat Cable for Xbox One are being sold as standalone products, which means owners of the PC versions of these headsets can now obtain console functionality for significantly less money. Astro Gaming did tease that new products will be announced at PAX Prime 2015.
All in all it was a good year for accessories to compliment your gaming experience. We can’t wait to see what else will be announced later in the year with Gamescom and PAX Prime still to come.Related: E3, E3 2015, Hands On, Peripheral