There's an odd sort of Kremlinology that surrounds the annual Electronic Entertainment Exposition, with one of the main topics of conversation among showgoers, industry watchers, and video game enthusiasts being the E3 show itself. Each year's show is compared and contrasted to previous editions, and hands are wrung over whether E3 has too many attendees, too few attendees, or should be earlier or later in the year. The bombastic displays built by companies such as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are analyzed for any hint of a corporate downturn, and the number of scantily clad "booth babes" is a litmus test for the overall financial health of the industry.
If the hallway buzz is any indication, this year's show was well-received, with most people we talked to pleased to see E3 return to its traditional large-scale format after two years of a stripped-down version held in a series of drab meeting rooms and hotel suites. With roughly 40,000 attendees, this is still a smaller show than the peak years, where it topped 60,000, so the public spaces of the Los Angeles Convention Center feel less claustrophobic than in the past.
This was a surprisingly heavy year for hardware announcements at E3, and much attention was focused on upcoming products such as the Natal motion-sensing camera from Microsoft, Nintendo's Wii Motion Plus add-on, and Sony's still-unnamed motion controller system, along with the revamped portable PSP Go. All were demonstrated at the show, to varying degrees of success--but the point that aging game consoles need some hardware upgrades to keep audiences interested and push new software sales was well-made.
We came away impressed with the same list of upcoming game titles we went into the show looking forward to, including Batman: Arkham Asylum, Heavy Rain, and Mafia II; we also found some titles that unexpectedly caught our eye and made an excellent impression in-person--such as Splinter Cell: Conviction, Borderlands, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. One unwelcome trend (and we suspect retailers feel the same way) was that many potentially big holiday hits have been moved to early 2010 release dates, including God of War III and the aforementioned Heavy Rain and Mafia II.
The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group that runs the E3 show, has just announced details for the 2010 event, and we expect we'll see many of the same games still in development next year, June 15-17, back here at the Los Angeles Convention Center. For all CNET's E3 coverage, head over to E3.CNET.com.
As a final thought, the two images below (both shot within the last 24 hours) perfectly represent the dichotomy of the E3 experience for me over the past 11 years.
Interested in my take on E3 2009? Here's a handy list of live from the show coverage:
E3 2009: Mafia II
E3 2009: Miyamoto speaks behind closed doors
E3 2009: Heavy Rain
E3 2009: The Beatles: Rock Band
E3 2009: God of War III
E3 2009: Batman: Arkham Asylum
E3 2009: No shortage of hardware hype
E3 2009: Playing Rock Band with McLovin and rocking DJ Hero with Jay-Z
E3's Wackiest Moments
Three strikes for Electronic Entertainment Expo?