Game fans know that E3 is America's big, annual video game trade show, traditionally known for oversize displays and loud music and filled with anyone even vaguely affiliated with the interactive entertainment industry. Until this year, that is. Rebelling against the high costs of the LA-based show, the big game companies instead elected to put on a radically different show in 2007, losing the massive convention center booths and moving to a handful of hotels in Santa Monica, along with cutting attendance to less than 10 percent of last year's.
The great experiment dubbed the E3 Media & Business Summit is over, but the verdict is still out on the show's new format. Some would call it smaller and more intimate, while others said it was inconvenient and a scheduling nightmare. One clear theme was obvious--an emphasis on big games coming out for the 2007 holiday season, rather than games that may be years away from store shelves.
Personally, the "Best of Show" has largely been locked-in since last year's E3, where we saw the first glimpses of 2K's, a dystopian action/adventure set in an art deco underwater city. Nearing release at the end of August, the game continues to impress. Another favorite was , EA's answer to the franchise, compete with faux drums, guitars, and a karaoke-style mic. It may take up a lot of living room space, but house parties will never the same again.
Other high-profile games on display included Halo 3, sure to be a best seller when released in September. It looks better the longer you play it, with graphics packed with subtle details. But the game itself seems too similar to the two previous installments, as if the basic idea had run out of steam. Grand Theft Auto IV looks like more of a leap forward for that series, but there was too little of the game on display to make an accurate judgment.
Games for 2008 that made an impact on attendees include Fallout 3, a new entry in a cult favorite RPG series, and Resident Evil 5, seen only in a brief, but impressive, trailer. Those two will clearly be big at next year's E3 (if there is an E3 next year).
We asked a few fellow journalists what their favorite game of the show was. "Fallout 3 may be more than a year out, but it sure as hell doesn't look like it," said Russ Frushtick, senior games editor at UGO.com. Scott Steinberg, publisher of DigitalTrends.com, voted for Resident Evil 5, saying, "It looks fantastic and appears to deliver the cinematic intensity we've come to expect from the series." Evan Narcisse, senior associate editor at Time Out New York Kids, went more mainstream: "Rock Band actually lived up the hype. Being a front man for a crew of deadly rawk assassins scratched an itch I didn't even know I had."
Finally, if you're reliving all the E3 fun, you can retrace my week in Santa Monica through the links below.