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Notes from E3

The Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went last week, and there were, surprisingly, few surprises. This was, for my money, the most subdued show in the past few years, which is surprising since there seemed to be far more people…
May 23, 2005

The Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went last week, and there were, surprisingly, few surprises. This was, for my money, the most subdued show in the past few years, which is surprising since there seemed to be far more people at this show than ever before.

The bad news, though, was the first day of the Expo – on Wednesday – the power went out, making long lines the norm and shutting down a large portion of the show.

Here are some observations and thoughts:

1) This year, maybe more than any other, was dominated by big-named stars and huge franchise licenses. The fear that developers have been expressing over the past few years is that, with the influx of Hollywood’s marketing might, the development process would be tossed aside and bottom lines and franchise games would take center stage. This fear appears to be a reality.

2) Nokia’s foray into the integrated market – cell phone, game machine, music player – was met with almost no fanfare. I stopped by their booth several times, and without exception, workers there seemed to outnumber actual participants. Not a good sign, particularly considering the disaster of the N-Gage and its NSeries.

3) Sony’s PSP, the mobile device du jour, had an impressive booth that attracted scores of people. This integrated system, which is getting serious traction from Hollywood and television networks, is, in my opinion, the future of mobile devices. And Nyko’s hard-shell cover (like a nice pen box) should help keep the delicate device intact. However…

4) Two people, the Denver Post’s David Thomas and the young man sitting next to me on the plane ride home, have almost convinced me that Nintendo’s brand name and their game selection could keep Nintendo at the top of the mobile game heap, despite the limitations in multimedia capabilities.

4b) And, while I’ve long held the opinion that Nintendo proper is in trouble, Thomas pointed out to me that Nintendo’s first-party game development allows the company to rake in huge profits on software sales (the lifeblood of the industry). Making his point: The Legend of Zelda was voted Game of the Show.

5) NCSoft, the Korean gaming company behind Lineage, had a strong showing. Their online-only gaming approach is likely the future of the industry. The only disappointment, Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa, which has been revamped, now looks more like a Halo-shooter than a language-based puzzle game.

6) Joytech showed off a cool LCD monitor that attaches to the Playstation 2, which is great for playing games on the move or watching DVDs.

7) Sony’s EyeToy, the camera peripheral that caught fire a few years ago, is getting an upgrade (including EyeToy: Chat), which is welcome news for those who really do want to get in the game. The coolest addition, EyeToy: Kinetic, a 12-week aerobic workout game.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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