Forget next-gen consoles — if Valve has their way, 2014 will be the year of the Steam Machine. And with 14 companies cranking out the boxes, it's not as easy as buying, say, a PS3. Which is why we've got our eyes on the Alienware Steam Machine ($TBA). Crafted by one of the most trusted names in PC gaming, this sleek black box will be powered by an Intel CPU and Nvidia GPU, and will (of course) run SteamOS, giving you access to tons of games running natively, and thousands more available via in-home streaming. It's like a HTPC, evolved.
Games on the iPhone are great, and they only seem to get better — but controlling a game by tilting, shaking, and occasionally poking at a glass screen leaves something to be desired. With the Moga Ace Power Controller ($100), you get all the controls you're used to with console gaming, without sacrificing the convenience and portability of your phone. The controller expands to cradle your phone, and collapse back down to a small size to fit in your pocket or bag. It features dual analog sticks, a directional button, four action buttons, as well as left and right bumpers and triggers. Best yet, the controller also doubles as an extra battery pack, letting you keep a charge while you play. Compatible with all fifth generation iPhones and iPod touches.
While we've watched as game systems have evolved exponentially over the years, not much monumental has happened to controllers since the invention of the joystick — that is, until the Steam Controller ($TBA). After announcing plans to build an operating system and console based on their popular PC-based gaming platform Steam, the guys at Valve set out to build an input device that would bring the control of a keyboard and mouse into the living room. Based around two circular trackpads that replace the familiar joysticks, it features advanced haptic feedback and a built-in touchscreen that let you play games formerly reserved only for desktop machines.
The PlayStation Vita TV ($100) packs an incredible amount of entertainment potential into a truly tiny console, capable of playing games, video, music, and much more. This little device is a miniaturized internet-connected console, built to natively play PS Vita games on your HD TV, instead of that small handheld. It offers easy access to Sony's subscription music and video services, as well as a growing handful of third-party apps like Hulu. Perhaps the most exciting feature, it will act as a bridge for the yet-to-be-released Playstation 4, letting you play PS4 games in another room even while the console is in use. So far sale plans have been announced in Japan for November — but you should expect it in America shortly thereafter. [via]
Ditch that boring coffee table in your living room and replace it with one of the Surface Tension Arcade Tables ($3,000-$6,000). These arcade and entertainment systems come installed inside hand-built tables, with wood veneer available in a number of finishes, and a discreet, darkened glass cover. They come with built-in arcade-style controllers, and come packed with classic arcade games. Choose a higher-end model if you want yours to also come with a Windows 7 Home-powered PC, Sonos Connect, and the ability to connect to your HDTV.
Unlike its biggest competitor, the Sony Playstation 4 ($400) isn't a one-room-entertainment system. Sure, it has all the things we expect from a next-generation console: a blazing-fast processor, lots of memory, and killer graphics (thanks to an 8-core x86 chip and 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM). And it has all the video services you'd expect, though it won't connect to your cable, or respond to gestures and voice commands. But it does have something, in addition to the cheaper price point, that Playstation fans and maybe some converts will love. Sony places none of the restrictions on used games that its competitor enforces, and it doesn't require you to be online to play. We like that a lot.
We've been waiting for this generation's offering of consoles, and Microsoft's Xbox One ($TBA) doesn't disappoint. The first gaming system to sit between your cable or satellite box and your TV, the new Xbox makes watching sports as easy as saying "Turn on ESPN." With TV integration, voice-control, multitasking, a rebuilt UI, Skype, fantasy trackers and more, you can do it all while you watch or play. Boasting eight times the graphic performance of its predecessor, it has an eight-core x86 processor that makes lag times and loading a distant memory. New features include a redesigned liquid black shell with clean, horizontal lines, a 1080p kinect, and a totally-rebuilt controller — no more bulky battery packs and clumsy directional pads. Couple that with a host of new games including Call of Duty: Ghosts, Fifa 14 and Madden NFL 25, and all you need is a couch.
You might not be able to buy your way onto a F1 racing team, but thanks to this Formula 1 Full Size Racing Simulator ($140,000), you can come close. This full-size replica houses a custom racing simulator, complete with three 23-inch screens, a 5.1 surround sound system, and a custom computer powered by an Intel Core i7 processor. The details continue with a full set of pedals, an F1-type quick-release steering wheel with force feedback, your choice of a silver, red, or black paint job, magnesium alloy wheels, and Pirelli F1 show tires. Of course, it's going to be a challenge getting this thing to fit in any normal home, so luckily the price includes having an engineer fly out to your house to make sure it gets installed properly. Or you could just buy a used Ferrari and some track time — totally up to you. [Scouted by Ed]
If you're serious about chess, you might as well play with a serious set. And this World Chess Championship Set (£300; roughly $450) is certainly that. Designed by Daniel Weil of Pentagram, this board is currently in service at the 2013 World Chess Championships in London, and as such is approved by the World Chess Federation (FIDE). It features a 3.75" King, and comes boxed for presentation, with each piece individually hand packed, and a 50cm Rosewood and Maple board featuring the World Chess Hexagon. [via]
Clean up your entertainment center by retiring your current collection of classic gaming machines for the Retron 5 Console ($100). This crazy box will offer support for the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Famicom, and Game Boy Advance — and thus likely the original Game Boy and Game Boy color as well. It will offer two controller ports for each system, although we're not 100% sure you'll need them given that it ships with a universal Bluetooth controller, and also outputs upscaled video and improved audio at 720p over HDMI. With any luck, it'll be hitting virtual shelves in July.
These will take a little getting used to. Created in collaboration with design agency Stranger & Stranger, the Ultimate Deck ($25-$65) is a one-of-a-kind deck of playing cards that is the "most expensive deck ever produced," according to its makers. In total, the deck features 54 unique designs — one for each card — as well as a unique back design and a tuck-case boasting embossed elements and foil accents. Available as a standard deck or as an uncut sheet for display; the latter includes a matching deck, as well.
Whether you know the financial markets inside and out or are just starting to learn, you should enjoy playing a few rounds of Daytrader ($32 and up). This brand-new board game by Samir Lyons sees you getting a job and trading in the companies you work for to accumulate enough wealth to retire, and then hopefully returning home before the volatile market wipes out part of your savings. Thankfully, a clever, lighthearted design from Ital/c keeps things from getting too cynical, even if the odds are against you ever being able to try your strategies in real life.