Tabletop gaming's future is digital as Microsoft shows more of Surface

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The Independent Tech

While the generous size of Apple's iPad can be credited with boosting interest in traditional board games, Microsoft's touchscreen table has considerably more screen real estate to work with. To prove it, the technology giant is showing off a new version of The Settlers of Catan.

The table, known as Surface, is usually pitched to hotels, restaurants, casinos and wealthy businesses as an eye-catching way to wow clients, but the introduction of a popular board game such as Catan has the potential to pique more mainstream interest.

An empire-building game for three or four players first brought out in 1995, Catan's combination of accessibility and depth meant that it soon spread beyond its native Germany and became a worldwide success.

Not only well-known among board game aficionados, but has also gained favor among video gamers thanks to downloadable versions on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 home consoles, and latterly on mobile phones.

Scrabble, Monopoly, Ludo and Mahjong have all made their way to the portable iPad's 9.7inch display, as well as modern contenders such as Small World and Blokus. The Surface's relatively vast 30 inches means that digital board games such as these could soon be in the coffee table, rather than just on it.

The latest video from the Microsoft Surface team shows how Vectorform's latest innovations give players a choice between rolling digital dice and tactile traditional counterparts, as well as several nifty methods for keeping cards secret from other players.

Though Surface is beyond the means of most consumers - current models can be ordered for $12,500, as compared to the most pared-down iPad's $500 - Vectorform will be taking it to one of the USA's foremost gaming conventions, PAX Prime, September 3-5 in Seattle. Before that, it will be on display at Indianapolis' Gen Con until August 8.

Crowd-pleasing demonstrations and the ensuing video uploads may encourage Sony to reveal more about their competing touch-sensitive AtracTable, which caused a flurry of excitement after an announcement in May but remained absent throughout June when it was expected to make an official debut.

Microsoft Surface's new video can be seen on their YouTube channel, Youtube.com/mssurface.

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