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Second Screen Experiences On Tablets Will Only Be Worth It When You're Interacting With Other Live Players

Posted on Tuesday, November 12 @ 13:30:00 Eastern by


As if developing across up to potentially seven platforms wasn't enough for the industry's top studios in this day and age, some of them even want to tie their games to your iPad or Android tablet. What you do with those "second-screens" (because first-screens are the ones you're playing their billion-dollar game on at home) depends on the developer.

Rockstar Games gave players a portable Chop that could learn tricks to perform in Grand Theft Auto V on Xbox 360 and PS3 and have also released an interactive strategy guide app for their massive open-world game. If only it could mark your map for you!

I'm not a fan of this method. I want to have an impact on my friend's game world and when the hell am I ever gonna make Chop do tricks? What's more, Rockstar's app didn't work at launch because of the volume of people overloading their Social Club servers. Laaaaame.

I recently got hands-on with Need For Speed: Rivals (which, I realize I've been talking about a lot this week) and that game's Overwatch mode on mobile allows you to buff and debuff racers or cops connected in the game's All Drive mode. You can refill the tools cops use to bring racers to justice or you can give someone a full tank of Nitrous just as soon as they've blown through an entire tank in a "Perfect Boost". I call this double nitrous and it is as glorious if not more glorious than the famed double rainbow.

Obviously, I'm getting silly but Need For Speed's second screen experience smartly plays to both sides of every gamer and offers a meaningful interaction between the console player and the iPad player you'd normally determine a non-gamer just as soon as they pick up the tablet.

Second-screen players can, as I said in our full hands-on preview of Need For Speed: Rivals, "troll entire lobbies of people racing their hearts out or help people excel at the chase," meaning you could play guardian angel or devilish trickster. Tablet players will also want to maximize the effect they have because you need to drive in-game to build up meter for Overwatch.

And Watch Dogs will of course have a second-screen experience when it arrives next year, but from what I saw I can't be sure of where it'll land between Need For Speed and Grand Theft Auto. At PAX Prime, we saw an iPad player chase the console player's Aiden Pearce with cop cars, police choppers, and more. The iPad player challenged the console player and the console player accepted, but the ensuing chaos, while hilarious for a closed-door demo, didn't seem all that fun for the console player.

It was like getting thrown into a five-star wanted level chase in Grand Theft Auto V, but instead of an even remotely predictable AI directing waves of police officers at you, it was an unpredictable and ruthless human player.

We'll see how second-screen experiences do over the next few years, but one thing is for sure based on what we've seen from big publishers like EA, Ubisoft, and others.... You're gonna see a lot of companion apps in the years to come.
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