Staff Reporter 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
I was able to take a look at some of the games in development for the 360. Microsoft, for instance, showed off a video that featured a number of upcoming games that highlighted some of the Xbox 360's features. Among the game clips aired were Quake 4, developed by Id and published by Activision ( ATVI), and Dead or Alive 4 from Tecmo. I also had in in-depth look at Gears of War, which will be an Xbox 360-only title developed by Epic Games. The game, a third-person shooter, uses Epic's Unreal Engine technology, which is behind such titles as the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series from Ubisoft. Gears of War doesn't appear to break much new ground in terms of game play; you follow a series of missions that typically involves getting into firefights with denizens of evil. But the game did show off the high-definition resolution of the Xbox 360. And one cool feature: Players can interact with inanimate objects in the environment, shooting out windows or even using a bazooka-like weapon to blow through walls.
One of the interesting things about the video-game industry is that having a game available "at launch" means different things to different people. Sometimes, companies truly mean that the games will be available on the same day that a particular console goes on sale. Other times, companies use the more slippery "launch window." EA, for instance, is saying that many of its Xbox 360 games will be available within the device's "launch window," which their developers defined as within about six weeks after the Xbox 360's actual launch date.
Gaming: A Spectator Sport?Among other Microsoft-touted features: The Xbox 360 will allow users to watch online games in a "spectator mode." The idea is that just like sports fans who tune in to watch televised football and basketball games, gamers will want to watch other gamers compete, Microsoft says. The feature will allow active gamers to study the techniques and tricks fellow enthusiasts employ to get through various games. Meanwhile, casual gamers will be able to watch tournaments featuring the best players on the network. It remains to be seen how much of a draw this will be. Most of the gamers at the conference seemed much more interested in taking their turn playing games than watching others do the same.
One thing each console maker is stressing this time around is backward compatibility; each of the new consoles from Microsoft,
Grand Theft Auto on the LamI met with Paul Eibeler, CEO of Take-Two Interactive ( TTWO). Eibeler talked about the moves the company is making to diversify beyond its flagship Grand Theft Auto franchise and how the company is approaching the next generation of consoles. Some excerpts:
The next-generation consoles may be revolutionary, but the games demonstrated for them at E3 were generally evolutionary, at best. Indeed, as some industry watchers noted in conversations with me, all the publishers seemed to be in a rush to copy ideas or do new iterations of their own, earlier games. Except for The Godfather game, the Xbox 360 games from EA, for instance, were all new iterations of venerable titles such as Need for Speed, Madden NFL Football and FIFA soccer. On the showroom floor, Take-Two demonstrated its latest version of Top Spin tennis game for the Xbox 360.
My final executive meeting of the day was with Atari ( ATAR) CEO James Caparro, whose chief job is to reverse the fortunes of the struggling publisher. Among the highlights of our conversation: