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Friday, Feb 3, 2023
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Valley Companies Join In As E3 Brings Back Glitz

The E3 video and computer gaming trade show has come and gone for another year having regained some of the spectacle and carnival-like atmosphere of past shows. After two years as a scaled back, invite-only show, E3 returned to its pre-2007 incarnation albeit one still maintaining a cover as a business event and reflecting perhaps the current stagnant economy. The game company booths were big but less ostentatious and over the top; the game audio less deafening; and the booth babes less scantily clad. When video game hardware and software reaches annual sales of $22 billion, there is no reason anymore to argue that playing these games is a frivolous pursuit. It certainly isn’t frivolous to THQ Inc., Ignition Entertainment and the gaming divisions of Warner Bros. Entertainment and The Walt Disney Co. that staked out major space at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 2 to 4. Or to Insomniac Games from Burbank who had a small section at the Sony exhibit to preview the latest installment in its “Ratchet & Clank” franchise. Insomniac designers were on hand to keep watch on visitors and how they played the game. It was an impromptu test repeated throughout the convention center during the three-days that game buyers, designers, industry professionals, journalists, and game enthusiasts attended the show. The ongoing recession has impacted the gaming industry just as it has other industry sectors. THQ and Electronic Arts have laid off workers and closed studios. March sales were not too encouraging either. According to market research firm The NDP Group, sales fell to $1.43 billion, or 17 percent lower than March 2008. That figure, however, was not indicative of the strength of the industry, said Joseph Olin, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, a professional organization for the gaming industry based in Calabasas. THQ previewed new games at E3 show. The variety of games previewing at E3 among the best since the trade show began, Olin said. “God Bless Nintendo,” Olin said of the maker of the Wii and DS gaming systems “In the same way that Hasbro and Parker Bros. would get people to play board games, Nintendo has created this wonderful platform. The challenge is to get people to take it out and play it more.” That job is up to the developers making the games and the publishers distributing them. Warner Bros. Interactive has a Wii version of its new “Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest” game. Ignition Entertainment, in Glendale, has a Wii version of “Muramasa: The Demon Blade,” a 2D animation single-player fighting game with a look inspired by Japanese wood carvings. “This is a great sit-on-your-couch and play a great story game,” said Minh Tran, an associate brand manager for Ignition showing demonstrations of the game. Video games have progressed lightyears from the simple joystick of the Atari 2600. The Wii console has two controllers, which in “Aragorn’s Quest” can be waved to mimic the sword and shield of the game’s name character. Game play, however, must appeal not only to the core gamers but to the more casual player who don’t necessarily want to play for hours. To meet that need games have shorter level and the rewards players receive are more frequent, Olin said. Movies vs. games A recent NPD Group report found that of 11,000 consumers responding to a survey more had played a video game in the previous six months (63 percent) than had gone to the movies (53 percent). That’s an interesting number considering that many games now have the look and feel of a big-budget Hollywood film or are based on story lines and characters of those films. Video (and computer) games are now a must-have component to broadening the appeal of films and keeping the plots and characters fresh in consumers’ minds. The games also allow designers to expand on the fiction worlds from the films. Warner Bros. did just that with its “Watchmen” games, the second of which was previewed at E3. Conceived at the same time as the film and with input from the film’s director Zack Snyder, “The End is Nigh” has the look and feel (and bloodletting) of the source material. The large entertainment conglomerates now have a better understanding that making a video game is much different than making movies. Both Warner Bros. and Disney have assembled teams of seasoned pros designing their games, Olin said. Digitized Beatles Among the best sounding games if not the best sounding game – at E3 was “The Beatles: Rock Band” on display at the MTV Games/Harmonix exhibit where people were turned away if they didn’t make an appointment to see a demo. When released in September in conjunction with a remastered Beatles catalogue on CD, players can play along with the long-haired Liverpudlians on 45 songs spanning their entire career. On screen the CGI Fab Four appear in concert settings for the early material and in “dreamscapes” for the later songs. The demos were given in a small walled-off theater with a stage set up in imitation of the famous Abbey Road recording studios. MTV Games staffers took to the stage for three songs, all presented in glorious digital sound. “It’s great to make The Beatles cultural importance relevant again,” Olin said. And you know that can’t be bad. Staff Reporter Mark Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or by e-mail at mmadler@sfvbj.com . After several tries, he finally started getting the hang of using the Wii controllers.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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