Friday, June 5, 2009

Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009 ends

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, finished its three-day run today in Los Angeles.
The 2009 show was a return to the spectacle of previous years, with oversized exhibits filling the Los Angeles Convention Center, complete with a sensory overload of video and music.

Best of Show: Microsoft

Microsoft held its big media briefing on Monday, the day before E3 officially opened. It wowed reporters, bloggers and analysts with an impressive lineup of video game software and hardware announcements.
The event was a star-studded affair with appearances by the surviving members of the Beatles – Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – to promote the music video game “The Beatles: Rock Band.”
“The game is good. The graphics are very good. And we look great,” Starr said. “The Beatles: Rock Band,” from Harmonix, MTV Games and Electronic Arts, is due out Sept. 9.
The widows of John Lennon and George Harrison – Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison – also appeared on stage to support the game’s debut.
Microsoft’s E3 press conference featured 10 exclusive new video games for its Xbox 360 console, including “Forza Motorsport 3,” “Alan Wake,” “Halo 3: ODST,” “Halo: Reach,” “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction” and “Left 4 Dead 2.”
But it was Microsoft’s introduction of “Project Natal” for controller-free gaming that generated the most buzz at the show. However, Microsoft did not announce a launch date for the system, which allows players to operate games with gestures, body movements and voice commands. It will work with existing Xbox 360 consoles.
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg came on stage to praise the innovative new gaming interface.

Second thoughts on Project Natal

As impressive as Microsoft’s demo of Project Natal was, I couldn’t help but wonder if gamers would find it lacking.
The live demos of players kicking virtual balls and painting a digital canvas were fine. But the canned videos showing players driving by pretending to hold a steering wheel or changing a tire by pretending to hold an impact wrench to remove and tighten lug nuts, looked weird.
If I’m playing a driving game, I’m going to want to grip a steering wheel. If I’m playing a shooting game, I’m going to want to hold a gun.
PCWorld writer Matt Peckham took a similar stance in a blog post. He talked about the need for a tactile response when playing video games, from rumble feedback to “button mashing.”

Big trends at the show

Some big trends at the show were motion-sensing controllers, sequels to hit franchises and games for girls (see earlier blog post).
In addition to Microsoft’s Project Natal, other new game controller schemes included Nintendo’s Wii Motion Plus for more precise control of on-screen action.
Sony introduced the PlayStation Motion Controller, a wand-like controller that can be used as a sword, flashlight, tennis racket, or shooter.
Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk demonstrated the skateboard controller for Activision’s “Tony Hawk: Ride” at the Microsoft press event. The board has full motion-sensing technology, so players can physically control the action by performing various movements and gestures on the board that directly translate into tricks in the game.
Sequels to popular game franchises were everywhere at the show. They included Sony’s “God of War III,” Activision’s “Modern Warfare 2,” and Microsoft’s “Halo: Reach.”

Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney at Microsoft press conference to launch “The Beatles: Rock Band.”
Screen grab of Microsoft "Project Natal" video

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