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E3 2003: A Reflection
by Phillip Duff
Monday, July 7 2003
One staff member's candid opinion on the recent E3 show and the general state of the industry.
E3, the Mecca for video game enthusiasts. Within the crowded halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center, among the booming sound and flashing lights, lies kiosks upon kiosks of new games. However, despite all that was happening on the exposition floor, I could not help finding this year's show a bit dissapointing overall. These feelings began to reveal themselves directly after the XBox preshow. Usually after the presentation, the press is to be offered goodies such as a backpack and press material. This year, though, this was not to be. This says a lot about the state of the video game economy and a part of the reason the show was not as great as the previous year. Similar cut backs could be seen on the show floor: last year, it almost felt as if you could not turn a corner without seeing a booth babe. But this years show had a significant lack of eye candy.
In terms of the actual games (the real purpose of the show), there was not very much that would blow one away. Most of what was shown were sequels or games displayed from previous years. It was very appropriate that Doug Lowenstein, president of IDSA (Interactive Digital Software Association), spoke about finding innovation during the keynote preceding the show. This is especially true for Nintendo; they mostly displayed games with their popular characters and franchises. Games that were potentially innovative such as Capcom's Viewtiful Joe or Killer 7, were barely, if at all, shown. Sony showed some promise in this regard. On the floor were various kiosks displaying their new USB camera for the PS2 named Eye Toy. Unfortunately, it was not used to its potential; it was used to play simple minigames such as bouncing a soccer ball on your head or clearing the screen with your hands. Given time in the hands of developers, this tool may prove to be interesting. Other than this, there was not much to write home about; it was as if all I saw was the number 2: Jak 2, Ratchet and Clank 2, Final Fantasy X2, etc. Out of the Big Three, Microsoft appeared to have their act together. Both at the preshow and on the show floor, they displayed many new and unique titles such as the fantasy action game Kameo.
Adding to the dissapointment was the absence of games expected to be playable or at least shown. Halo 2 falls into this category. While the demo shown was awesome, it would have been nice if Bungie had created a small level to play. Another missing game was Fable (formerly Project Ego). Last year, it was one of the games hyped during the preshow. This year, though, it was no where to be found. Finally, there was an absence of a new real Mario game. We know it is in development but it was not even mentioned.
The bane of the video game industry are rehashes of previous games. This was certainly true in the early 1980s and it is still true today. Without new and innovative titles, we will be faced with another video game depression. If this show is any indication, we may be on this path. This is not to say that there should be no sequels, though: Where would RPGs be without the influence of the Final Fantasy franchise? What must be done is to make sequels in moderation so that the game is truly a sequel instead of Game Title 1.5.
--- Phillip Duff