Editor’s note: Veteran videogames journalist John Gaudiosi covered E3 this week for Local Tech Wire.
By JOHN GAUDIOSI, special to LTW
LOS ANGELES – Over 45,600 professionals from the $60 billion global videogame business attended , according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). That’s up 10% from 2009.
In addition, the show boasted more companies displaying games and providing gaming peripherals and services, including a variety of 3D TV companies like Sony, DarkWorks, Casio and TriVio 3D. Richard Branson also returned to gaming with Virgin Gaming, a new service that will allow players to safely earn money playing in organized game tournaments.
With hundreds of companies showcasing over a thousand games, the following are some of the best games heading to a console near year over the coming year.
had a great show with a pair of games that will be guaranteed blockbusters come 2011. was a major draw at Microsoft’s booth and its four-player cooperative does open up the gameplay and adds even more replay value to the title.
In addition to that April 2011 release, Epic Games’ vice president Mark Rein was showing Gears of War 2 running in stereoscopic 3D on DarkWorks technology behind closed doors. DarkWorks’ technology enables any Unreal Engine 3 game to become 3D without needing a 3D TV thanks to its proprietary glasses. The technology was first shown by DarkWorks at the 3D Gaming Summit in Los Angeles in April.
Bulletstorm is a stand-out shooter
Beyond the free burger truck parked in front of the LA Convention Center every day and the lavish party that Electronic Arts hosted for the game, stood out from the crowd of shooters with its ultra-violent, pulpy content.
More importantly, the game established Epic as more than a two-game independent development studio (Gears of War and Unreal Tournament). Epic’s investment in Polish developer People Can Fly should launch Bulletstorm as a new franchise for the company when it ships at the end of February next year.
The ubiquitous Unreal Engine 3 technology was featured in a pair of other top games at E3. Electronic Arts’ Los Angeles team has been building its Medal of Honor franchise on Unreal for years. The new Afghanistan-set reboot, which ships this October, stood toe-to-toe with Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops in the graphics and gameplay department. Speaking of Black Ops, developer Treyarch is set to deliver another global blockbuster this October with the Cold War-set action game. Like Medal of Honor, this new Call of Duty has graduated from World War II and moved into a more modern era – although Black Ops is still historically set within a different warring age.
THQ-owned Kaos Studios’ HomeFront was everywhere in downtown Los Angeles. The 2011 release, which is set in 2027 and features a North Korean-occupied United States, was built on Unreal. THQ secured the parking lot across the street from Staples Center with North Korean guards (right out of a level in the first-person shooter game) and offered free parking to anyone who entered. The game is shaping up to be a major new franchise for THQ with a SyFy movie in the works and other entertainment offerings in development.
The 3D showdowns
Sony had a very strong showing thanks to its 3D gaming technology and stand-out titles like Guerilla Games’ Killzone 3D, Motorstorm: Apocalypse, The Sly Collection, and Twisted Metal (which also has a new 3D movie in the works). Outside of 3D, Sony’s PlayStation Move was more impressive than Microsoft’s Kinect from a gameplay and game support standing. And its lineup of 2D PS3 games like Infamous 2, LittleBigPlanet 2 and Heroes on the Move (a new platform adventure starring a collection of heroes like Jak, Sly and Ratchet from previous Sony games), was the best of the big three.
Nintendo knows the mainstream market and it should retain its lead in the motion sensor space because its technology comes packed in the console box. Getting consumers to invest another $150 as rumored in Kinect will be a tough sell. Traditionally, external add-ons like the EyeToy have only captured about 15 percent of a console’s install base. Plus, Nintendo’s Wii line-up with crossover hits like Activision’s GoldenEye, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and the latest Legend of Zelda will keep current fans happy while enticing new gamers to make the motion-sensor plunge.
Nintendo 3DS dazzles
The most impressive technology at E3 2010 was the Nintendo 3DS. This autostereoscopic handheld had an impressive array of games and movie trailers. The games is where this technology really shines, especially with demos of the new Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid games. While Nintendo did not release a price or release date, the company has kept its portable hardware priced for the mainstream over the years. The face that autostereo technology is now on Japanese cell phones shows that it can be mass-produced affordably. That should catapult this new portable, which is backwards-compatible with current games, to strong sales around the globe.
Microsoft’s first-party support has always relied on a few hits. Head-to-head, Sony has always had more original games. But Microsoft’s big franchises sell big numbers. At E3 2010, Microsoft focused on Gears of War 3, Halo: Reach and Fable III. All three of these franchises look like global hits with fresh new gameplay takes. But Microsoft’s devotion to Kinect failed to deliver much more than games in the form of tech demos at its booth. The jury’s still out on that technology, which looks cool, but from a gameplay perspective remains a big question mark for extended play.
The ESA is bringing the world of games to LA earlier in 2001. E3 2011 will take place June 5-7 at the LA Convention Center. But until then, there’s plenty to play.
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