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E3 Notebook: Let the Games Begin

Editor's Note: Senior writer Troy Wolverton is in Los Angeles to attend the Electronic Entertainment Exposition -- better known as E3 -- which is the video-game industry's giant annual gathering. He's filing occasional dispatches on the sights and sounds of the show.

LOS ANGELES -- After all the excitement of last year's event -- when Sony (SNE), Microsoft (MSFT) and Nintendo each gave gamers a peek at their next-generation machines -- you had to expect a letdown this year.

I should have sensed trouble when Kaz Hirai, president of Sony's PlayStation division in the U.S., waited nearly two hours into the company's Monday night presentation to give the details that everyone wanted to know -- when the PlayStation 3 will be launched, how much it will cost and how many Sony will ship. Let me tell you, two hours has rarely passed so slowly in my life.

It wasn't just that Hirai waited until the end to get to the point of the press event. It was that everything in between wasn't terribly compelling. Most of the game footage Sony showed was from demos at best. Few of the games generated much excitement. And the company had little to show off in the way of certain blockbuster titles.

Instead of real, playable games, the company mainly showed a succession of videos of footage from various games, each one seeming more mind-numbingly violent than the next. Hey, I'm all for blowing stuff up from time to time -- in the game world, of course -- but when something like 80% of the games being shown involve some kind of extreme violence and mayhem, it gets a little monotonous.

To be fair, the company did show off a couple of innovations that seemed to stir the gathered crowd a bit. One was the promise of being able to link the company's PlayStation Portable to the PlayStation 3 to supplement games on the new console as a second display for it.

For instance, the company showed how gamers could use the PSP with its upcoming Formula One racing game as a side mirror to see what's going on behind them while the action in front unfolds on their main television screens.

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