WAVE Report

E3 2005
By John Latta, WAVE 0523 6/10/05

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 21st century.

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 games.

Wave Comment

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 Finest Personal 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 are in the game. We only saw a single sheet flyer and pricing could not be found.

Australian Simulation Control Systems was showing the “Dream 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 chair – $999.

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.

WAVE Comment

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.