By John Latta, WAVE
Los Angeles, CA
May 19 - 21, 2005
In terms of coverage this seems to be the worst E3 yet.
The place was mobbed. At 9am, one hour before the show floor opened,
the lines were long. It was a mob scene getting in at 10am. Even into
the afternoon, some of the aisles were packed arm pit to arm pit. With
the launch of three consoles, the place was diluted with excitement but
with little to show. This crowd lives off of anticipation – be
it a console or a game. That was good enough to fill it with males looking
for the next testosterone rush. The event was made all the more difficult
when part of the West Hall was dark due to a power outage. Surprising,
the actual hall was open but the show management and press offices were
closed. To make matters worse, it went on about 2pm and then off again.
E3 Attendance is projected to be 70,000, up from 60,000 last year.
Douglas Lowenstein, President of the Electronic Software
Association made an articulate plea for how the industry should grow.
Some of his key points included.
The worldwide film industry stands at about $45 billion
and the worldwide video game industry checks in at around $28 billion.
Price Waterhouse Coopers reported last year that video
games will eclipse music as the second most popular form of entertainment
by 2008, with worldwide consumer spending on video games hitting $55
billion to $33 billion for recorded video.
There are six fundamental issues the video game industry
needs to address to become the dominant form of entertainment in the
1. – Broaden the game audience by making more
games with mass market appeal.
2. – Create more complete game experiences,
i.e., greater emotional impact, better stories, more interesting
and complex characters.
3. – Games should be more accessible and easier
to play. This can also mean games which are shorter and less expensive.
4. – Need new financing models for game development.
5. – Developing emerging platforms, specifically
online and mobile.
6. – Overcome cultural resistance and fear.
This latter point addressed gore and killing that is present in many
Douglas Lowenstein got to the core issues of how the industry
can continue to grow. This has broad implications in terms of the platform
and peripherals. This would include the following points to ponder:
There would be many more platforms for game delivery.
The range of content would be vastly larger than it
is today – one only has to look at movies to understand the wide
cultural appeal they have and the potential which games can have. Douglas
specifically cited the movie Passion of Christ as a blockbuster movie
which has no parallel in video games.
The ways in which individuals play could also change.
This directly impacts the peripherals and in fact what are accessories
today could become the game itself.
Both Sony and Microsoft are seeking the make the game console
the center of the home living room experience. If Douglas’s forecast
is telling, the living room is too confining for the potential of the
game industry. Thus, one must think of people, places, life and daily
interaction as the both the venue and platform for future games. As we
have seen at other venues including CHI and IST there is research already
to make this happen.
Innovation Vacuum in Game Interaction
The WAVE walked the exhibition halls multiple times. The place for looking
at the different forms of interaction was Kentia Hall underneath the
West Hall. We were disappointed with our findings:
Hot seat has a racing game seat which ranges
in pri ce from
$499 to $700.
Virtual GT has what they call the “World’s
Racing Simulator.” Slight problem it costs $21,000 but at E3
the special was $17,900.
a-Rage was showing an augmented reality game which is
worn on one’s back along with a HMD. The tag line is that you
in the game. We only saw a single sheet flyer and pricing
could not be found.
Australian Simulation Control Systems was showing
Machine” a 3 axis chair platform. This was in a closed booth
so that no one could see it other than g aining entry to the
booth - $1,200 - $1,900.
Playseats was showing a fold up racing seat - $299.
Qmotions had multiple forms of athletic interactions
that included golf, an exercise platform and baseball batting.
The baseball game is based on a sleeve that goes around the
bat - $79.79. The bike is actually a consumer clamp on to a
Fun Fitness bike and the price for the add-on is expected to
be less than $90. The golf game is $119.95.
PowerPlay was showing the 5.1 surround sound media
DDR Game had many forms of dance pads with prices ranging
from $6 to $33.
Electric-spin was showing its USB game controller for
the Golf Launchpad- $229.
Trimersion was touting its immersive HMD with support
for first person shooting games - $299 to $799.
e-real games has a light gun that will work with any
television - $50.
Adrenaline Machines was showing a racing platform/seat
with surround sound - $2,300 to $2,500.
eMagin has a 3D immersive visor which uses OLED. It
is the only company to have licensed active matrix OLED technology
from Kodak. The company does this on silicon not glass and
has its own fab. The price of the HMD is $899. It is claimed
that the lifetime is 13,000 to 15,000 hours.
Shenzhen Oriscape Electronics also has a HMD LCD screen
called Cyberman - $250.
Aerosoft was showing a train simulation with a train
engineer control panel.
In the same hall was a Classic Gaming Expo which
had many “antique” console
game platforms along with arcade games. This was continually busy with
individuals playing games on the arcade machines.
Hardly a game but more a visual object was the best toy of all: Batmobil/Tumbler
by Warner Brothers. It was shown, under guard, at the entrance of West
Hall. It is hard to tell if it even worked. None the less it was an impressive
object. To be seen in the forthcoming Batman movie.
As the WAVE walked Kentia Hall, we saw the classic gaming expo contrast
with the industry today, at least as reflected in the exhibitors on the
floor. The cause for pause left us with the following:
Has not the rate of innovation in game play substantially
diminished since the early days of the industry?
Yes, we have titles spawned by massive software development efforts
which rival movies in technical accomplishment. But as Douglas Lowenstein
argued, is not the funding model and conservatism to create one block
buster hit after another slowing innovation? If our sample in Kentia
Hall is any measure, we can only respond with a yes.