Revitalized E3 offers look into the future of gaming

By Andrew Swan

The future of E3 — the Electronic Entertainment Expo — came into question three years ago. In 2006, many of the companies traditionally associated with the trade show petitioned the organizing body, the Entertainment Software Association, to cut back the size and scope of the three day event. E3 consequently became open only to industry professionals and gaming journalists and the public was denied access to the once whimsical display of yearly gaming advances.

Three years later, the doors reopened to the public and E3 was considered a resounding success with 41,000 attendees.

Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo each had formidable keynote press conferences, announcing what they have in store for the next couple years of video gaming.

One of the big talking points of this year’s E3 was Microsoft’s announcement of Project Natal. Natal is essentially a sensor bar connected to an Xbox 360 then placed either above or below a television. It allows the player to become the controller through its ability to recognize full body movement, voice modulation, facial expression and hand gestures. Microsoft has promised Natal will revolutionize video gaming.

While Nintendo has championed the motion sensitive aspect of gaming during this console generation, Microsoft has made it quite clear they want in on a slice of Nintendo’s pie. The implications of Natal for video gaming have yet to be seen, as the applications of this ambitious hardware are currently up in the air. It remains, however, one of the biggest pieces of news out of e3 for any gamer.

“Slow and steady wins the race” seems to be Sony’s mantra these days. Although Sony has not sold as much hardware as anyone else in this console generation, their fascinating new electronic hardware model was a big contribution to this year’s E3.

In fall 2009, Sony plans to release a new handheld gaming platform called PSP Go, a platform that takes the concept of the PlayStation Portable and shrinks it considerably while maintaining the same power.

The Go takes a unique step in a new direction: there will not be any CDs or DVDs, no Universal Media Discs — the previous PSP game format — and no cartridges. Instead, all game content is going to be available digitally using the PlayStation Network. Many industry insiders agree digital distribution is a key for video gaming’s future and if Sony maintains their pace, they could come out on top this year due to their full-bodied entertainment experience.

Sony also debuted a new piece of hardware that closely follows the lovable Wii Remote. Sony clearly wants a piece of Nintendo’s pie as well, displaying a multi-sensor controller for use with the PS3.

Nintendo needed to have a big E3 this year simply because they are losing out on hardcore gamers with their lack of new, unique and sophisticated software for the Wii. While they have a firm grasp on the casual gaming market, they are forsaking diehard Nintendo stalwarts.

Nintendo announced the Vitality Sensor, a handy device which plugs into a WiiMote and attaches to a player’s finger, monitoring their heart rate. Used in conjunction with Wii Fit, the Sensor allows players to reach and maintain a target heart rate. Seems Nintendo wants gamers to get more active.

But wait — Nintendo did have two giant Wii software announcements. At the end of their keynote press conference, they announced a new Metroid game made in collaboration with Team Ninja, the developers behind the popular Ninja Gaiden series. Second, in a roundtable discussion with Shigeru Miyamoto, the guru of video games, a new Legend of Zelda title for the Wii was announced for 2010.

Nintendo, it seems, hasn’t forgotten their old diehards after all.

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