Talking tech since 2003

As I write this piece, I have CNBC on the TV, and I occasionally look up and pay attention whenever an interesting report comes on. I typically have another device in my lap whenever the tube is on, whether its my laptop, iPhone or iPad, and I’m not the only person who does this. You’ve probably heard a lot about the “second screen,” right? That is the second device you’re using as you consume content on your TV.

smartglass-appShows have been trying to create experiences that take advantage of this second screen smartphone and tablet use. So have video game developers and console makers. Nintendo’s DS, 2DS and 3DS portables all include two displays, and the Wii U controller is practically a tablet with joysticks and buttons. But it was Microsoft’s SmartGlass initiative that I was really excited about. Using your Windows, iOS or Android device, Microsoft said, you could expand your Xbox gaming experience to the second screen and view game stats, maps, inventories, playbooks and more.

Engadget’s Brian Heater went so far as to say, “Nintendo was just beat at its own game.” A lot of people were thinking along those lines. And that was undoubtedly Microsoft’s aim. But so far, SmartGlass game support has been underwhelming.

Since being announced at E3 in June 2012 and released in October 2012, SmartGlass support has shown up in just nine Xbox 360 titles, and none of the implementations have been all that mind-blowing. Smartglass is actually supported by more Xbox 360 apps than games, and personally, I’ve launched SmartGlass more often for its keyboard utility than I have for gaming purposes. And now that the 360 generation is starting to wind down, the odds of more games adding support are low.

Say what you will about the Wii U’s reception thus far, but you have to admit that Nintendo pushed the envelope a little bit with its touchscreen gamepad. I viewed SmartGlass as a way for Microsoft to offer some of the same gaming experiences on its system by letting gamers use their smartphones and tablets. Imagine playing a trivia game on your Xbox using your smartphone, or ZombieU-esque titles with one player using a SmartGlass display. And, of course, SmartGlass could provide that second screen experience for games like Halo and Madden.

But for that to happen, SmartGlass support needs to make its way into more games. The Xbox One launched on November 22, and SmartGlass is already supported by six of that platform’s titles. That is a pretty good start. Hopefully we’ll see the majority of the Xbox One’s games take advantage of our second screens and bring us some new and innovative gaming experiences.

If our tablets and smartphones are already sitting in front of us, why not use them?

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