Five highlights from the SXSW Gaming Expo

AUSTIN—The South by Southwest Gaming Expo features an exciting blend of game developers, new hardware and accessories for mobile gaming, live game demos, and people dressed up as their favorite gaming characters. So it’s not difficult to spend some time there, as we did this weekend, without spotting some interesting stuff.

Wii Street U makes Google Street View more interactive.

Nintendo sponsored the Expo, and its booth featured a bunch of recent releases for the Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS. One of the coolest products to get some attention was the Wii Street U for the Wii U. Powered by Google Maps, this tool lets you use your Wii U to tap into Google’s Street View map feature in an interactive way. Search for a location, and then turn the Wii U in different directions to look at the street view from different angles.

Hawken: Genesis

Hawken: Genesis may have been released in December, but the Hawken team had stations set up for participants to play the PC game. We liked the monetization strategy in Hawken: The game is free to play, and in-game purchases are solely cosmetic. That means you can pay to beef up your character’s look or perhaps change the background of the levels, but there are no purchases to give you a true power advantage. Everyone has an even playing field.

We really liked Open Pool, an open-source program that lets you build a light show to display on your pool table. You build a design, program it to pair with an overhead projection system, then project that build onto the pool table. The demo we saw featured a school of fish swimming around the table, with ripples and waves forming where each of the billiard balls was placed. When the balls moved across the table, the fish would scatter. It was a really neat, innovative project that combined light effects with motion detection.

Tumblewords combines Scrabble strategy with classic word search gameplay.

Minicore Studios showed off a word game for iOS called Tumblewords. Think of it as a combination of Scrabble, TextTwist, and Words with Friends. It’s pretty fun, and has a really lovely interface. Plus, different artists have created themes for the game, each of which is really beautifully designed. The app is $1 in the App Store.

Another mobile game called Draw a Stickman Epic caught our eye as well—you draw a stickman doodle, and then move that character through the game. Draw flames to burn down obstacles in your path and collect puzzle pieces along the way. The game isn’t new, but recently received an update with new levels and an armor pencil for extra protection.

Draw a Stickman: Epic lets you bring your doodles to life.

Overall, the SXSW Gaming Expo gave us a quick preview on what we can expect to see at larger gaming expos later this year, like E3 and the Game Developer’s Conference.

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