Videogamers to duel in E3 arena

2008-07-14 12:01

San Francisco - Blockbuster sequels, slick technology and duels between the big three console makers are expected in Los Angeles next week as videogame industry players reveal their newest creations.

The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, referred to as E3, is an invitation-only event at which makers of videogame hardware and software mingle, make deals and vie to trump each other's innovations.

Nintendo will be defending Wii's crown as the world's most popular videogame console and has remained secretive about what it will unveil when E3 officially gets under way Tuesday.

Microsoft has announcee a cut in the price of its Xbox 360 consoles as part of an ongoing battle with Sony's PlayStation 3 for second place in the market.

Sony is likely to stand firm on pricing but try to wow gamers with new titles and improved features such as online movie downloads and game play.

"One of the big trends is each platform trying to establish itself," said Jeremy Dunham, editorial manager of videogame news website IGN.com.

"Wii is top in terms of sales. Microsoft is Number One with hardcore gamers and Sony is trying to prove it has good games."

Dunham expects a close battle between Xbox 360 and PlayStation games at E3.

Eagerly-awaited new instalments to Gears of War, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Call of Duty, Resistance: Fall of Man, and Rock Band will be previewed.

'Polished titles'

"I think you are going to see a lot of polished titles," said Joseph Olin, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.

"You will see refinement on anything considered a breakthrough, like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Music has been popular with teens since before we were teens. There are legs there."

Enticing new titles include Star Wars: The Force Unleashed from the LucasArts game studio of filmmaker George Lucas and Prince of Persia by French game-making star Ubisoft.

World leading game firm Electronic Arts will premier a host of offerings, including an innovative Spore computer game and Mirror's Edge, an action title in which couriers evade a totalitarian regime in a dystopian future.

Game makers will continue to veer from traditional push-button control in a trend start by motion-sensing controllers made popular by Wii.

Ubisoft, which has worked closely with Nintendo on Wii games from the console's inception, will be showing off an entirely voice-commanded computer battle game.

Ubisoft's End War based on the military espionage novels of author Tom Clancy is "creating a lot of buzz," Dunham said.

"Barking orders at you TV really has something powerful about it," Ubisoft North America president Laurent Detoc told AFP while providing a chance to try the new game.

"Accessibility has driven the market. With End War you just talk to the game. It is so universal, anyone could use it."

Ubisoft will be among game makers courting a growing gaming demographic: young girls.

'Underserved market'

It is estimated that about half of the people younger than 15 years old that own Nintendo DS handheld game devices are girls.

"It is an underserved market," Dutoc said of young girl players. "We think we are onto something."

New games at E3 will take advantage of beefed-up processing power resulting from advances in computer chips.

As opposed to games in which characters follow pre-assigned paths, developers are creating "open world" games such as Far Cry that let characters roam.

"The industry as a whole is trying to find new and unique ways to tell a story," Dunham said.

"E3 has always been about surprises. I definitely think there will be some."

The US videogame market is expected to be in the range of $14bn to $17bn this year, with global sales of game software and hardware tallying tripling that.

"The only numbers that rival that are the number of times I've been fragged playing Call of Duty ," Olin joked.

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