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Letter From E3
Game Gathering Is No Letdown to the Faithful

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  The makers of the popular video game BloodRayne 2g lured in gawkers with a woman dressed as the game's title character. (Fred Prouser - Reuters)


_____Photo Gallery_____
Scenes From the Electronic Entertainment Expo: Video game fans descended on Los Angeles this week to check out the latest in game titles and hardware.
_____Live Online_____
Monday, 2 p.m. ET: Staff writer Mike Musgrove will be online to talk about everything he saw at this year's E3 Expo.
_____Related Coverage_____
Video Gamers Get Older, Get Online - Survey (Reuters, May 13, 2004)
Game Firms Think Small (The Washington Post, May 12, 2004)
Welcome (Back?) to South Beach (The Washington Post, May 9, 2004)
Same Is Name of the Game (The Washington Post, May 8, 2004)
_____Filter_____
Xbox Masters the Electronic Arts (washingtonpost.com, May 11, 2004)
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By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2004; 8:35 AM

LOS ANGELES, May 12 -- After a couple of days of news announcements from game console makers Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, the doors opened at the annual E3 video game trade show this morning, giving gamers a first look at the latest titles under construction for this holiday season and beyond.

Each company's game console -- the Xbox, the PlayStation 2, the GameCube -- has already been on the market for awhile, so at first glance this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo feels somewhat familiar -- incremental releases of the same old game titles. There's nothing revolutionary -- it's all evolutionary.

In the new Mortal Kombat title, for example, players squaring off against each other in the cartoonish fighting game will be able to smash up more of the surrounding arena while they punch and slash at their opponents, breaking windows and throwing opponents through the roof. Other than that, it could have been the same title that came out last year.

"It controls a lot better than the last game," observed Oscar Santander, who works for Los Angeles-based 818 Electronics, a company that sells games online. "It's pretty good."

For many gamers, nothing's wrong at all with the same-old same-old. Square Enix, the company behind such bestsellers as Final Fantasy XI, was showing off a half-hour's worth of commercials for its latest batch of sequel titles. By late morning, the company was already out of tickets for the screenings and was directing fans to a long overflow line filled with people taking a slim bet that there would be a few empty seats leftover after the next batch of ticket holders sprinted into the theater.

It's all fun and games, but this is also a business. For folks in the game industry, the show -- packed to the roof with new games and game controllers -- is an opportunity to check out the competition.

"I've got a pretty long list of games to look at," said Jim Gooding, a programmer with Luxoflux, a game developer owned by Activision. Though Gooding appeared to the average 30-ish guy goofing off with a video game, he was actually busy comparing the his outfit's latest title, Shrek 2, to a Ratchet & Clank sequel coming out for the PlayStation 2 later this year.

There are a few noteworthy additions in the gaming hardware corner. Nintendo is showing off a new game controller -- a pair of bongo drums equipped with a microphone that plugs into the GameCube -- allowing players to bang on the drums and clap their hands as a way of controlling Donkey Kong, Nintendo's decades-old ape star. The object of the new game, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, is to kill your enemies and collect bananas.

What you think of this show as a gamer really seems to depend on whether you're a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full type.

Dan Hsu, editor Electronic Gaming Monthly, shrugged and offered his first take on this year's E3. "It's going to be a slow year," he said. "It's is kind of an in-between period, it's not the most exciting show."

But Dana Point, Calif. resident Sean Lane, Webmaster of Planet Mega Man, a site dedicated to his favorite video game franchise, was more impressed by the layout of the exhibition booths, not to mention the models some publishers hire to lure impressionable young men into their display areas. "It keeps improving every year, the games, the booth designs, the booth babes," he said. "It just keeps getting better in every possible way."


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