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Video Games: E3 Wrap-Up

Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 16, 2007 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer, Mike Musgrove, who also writes the @play column, was online Monday, July 16 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss last week's E3 summit, the annual trade show for the video game industry.

For coverage from this year's E3, read Post I.T.

A transcript follows.

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Mike Musgrove: Hi all -- I just got back from the E3 video game industry trade show, which took place in Santa Monica last week.

Sooo... let's talk video games!

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Washington, D.C.: Did you get a chance to use WiiFit or the Zapper? Are they as easy to use in person as they look? Do you know when these items will become available and at what price?

Mike Musgrove: I liked the Wii Blaster -- a two handed "gun" style controller for the Wii-- it felt right in my hands. My colleague/chum Daniel Greenberg said he thought it was a little laggy, but I didn't notice that. I believe they said its a $20 piece of hardware-- and it is due out this year, though Nintendo did not specify a release date.

My gut reaction to the Wii Fit pad was "this is kinda cool." By comparison, the first time I played the Wii, my reaction was more like "I gotta play more of this, this rocks." I imagine the pad will help the Wii maintain its traction in the market, though I dunno if it will be as much as a sensation as the original Wii Sports games.

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Boston, Mass.: What were your favorite games, and did you have any surprises at the show?

Mike Musgrove: My favorite surprise at the show may have been a PC game called SimCity Societies. As opposed to the SimCity games where you decide where to put the police stations or whatever, this game is more focused on cultural stuff. The game lets you build a theocracy or a police state or whatever, for example. Nothing revolutionary, but looks pretty fun, I'd say.

That one sticks out in my mind because it was a nice surprise and a game I hadn't heard of before. The EA guy said they hadn't been hyping it up much before now because they're aiming for the mainstream market, and casual/mainstream gamers typically don't get excited for games that are years away...

The other games I liked at the show were, for the most part, games I was already looking forward to anyway.

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Seattle, Wash.: Having watched the G4 live coverage, it is my impression that casual gaming is coming to the mainstream, but is being resisted by hard-core gamers unused to the fact that they are at most 25 percent of the market. Was this borne out by what you saw at E3, or did you sense another burgeoning trend?

Mike Musgrove: I think that's a great point, absolutely. I think the casual gamer is definitely a person the game companies are spending a lot of time trying to figure out.

Microsoft's "Scene It" trivia game, which comes with a user friendly controller/buzzer is one piece of evidence along those lines, and there were many others.

I didn't watch the G4 coverage and dunno if this is generally being met with any hostility on the part of the "hardcore," tho. I didn't pick up on that at the show.

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AU Park: Mike, I hope you had a great time at E3. I am shopping for a gaming system, and almost certainly a blu-ray player within the next three months. Naturally, I'm intrigued by the PS3; seems like getting a free blu-ray player with the purchase of a (expensive) gaming system.

On the other hand, the Wii looks like more fun and a better fit if I want to get my wife to play along, which I do. Is there any chance that the motion controllers being developed for the PS3 will deliver the same 'active' game play as the Wii? Is there any reason why a PS3 wouldn't be a perfectly fine Blu-Ray player? Thanks...

Mike Musgrove: Sony didn't really make much noise about its "sixaxis" controller, so I'd have to say it doesn't feel like Sony is making a big push in that direction.

I checked out a bowling game for the PS3 that uses that console's motion-detecting technology to let players swing their arms to "throw" the ball in the game. The game looked nice and had a funky aesthetic-- but it was just not nearly as pick-up-and-play intuitive as the Wii Sports version.

And as a Blu-Ray player, I'd say the PS3 is perfectly fine, yup.

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Arlington: Is it absolutely true that the PS2 will be phased out completely soon to pave the way for more PS3 sales? I don't want to fork over the $600 for the PS3, but if Sony isn't putting out any more energy into the PS2 games, I may have to, I guess. What's the word?

Mike Musgrove: I wouldn't think the PS3 has enough momentum yet for Sony to be able to pull a move like that. There are a lot of PS2s out there in the world, and Sony likes talking about that fact.

Activision has plans to develop for the PS2 that stretch in 2008, so that's at least one big publisher with more PS2 content in the works.

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McLean, Va.: Is Little Big Planet worth $500-600? I don't see any other PS3 exclusives that particularly interest me, but Little Big Planet looks incredible.

Mike Musgrove: Well... I was going to say I don't think any game is worth $500 or $600. But, then again, I bought a new computer a few years back partly in order to play Half-Life 2.

But no, I haven't seen anything that makes me think I'd wanna spend $500 on a PS3 yet, though Little Big Planet does look like a nice breath of fresh air. I think that game isn't due out till next year (somebody correct me if I'm wrong), so maybe you should hold on and see if there's another price cut...

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Alexandria: Sony has got to lose points for this clearance sale switcheroo on their "price drop" for the PS3, right? Are the lower priced units even going to be around for the holiday rush?

Mike Musgrove: here's one take on the Sony PS3 price drop that I've gotten a few instances of today...

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Houston, Tex.: I would like to give kudos to Sony for dropping the PS3 to $499. For those who say it's the same as when the 20g launched for the same price need only look at all the features that were not included in the 20g model. The card reader, 60g HDD. etc. I did watch the E3 coverage and have to agree with the folks at g4 that Sony did have the best showing. the games that are coming out look great! Thanks again to Sony for finally admitting that there price was too high. I think the reported Amazon sales should be all the proof needed. Frank

Mike Musgrove: Here's the other take I'm seeing.

In response to the previous comment, I'd say it would be pretty surprising if Sony doesn't keep the less expensive PS3 out there, because the game publishers I talked to were happy abut the new price point. I mean, they weren't doing cartwheels or anything -- but they were happy to see Sony taking a move to increase PS3 sales.

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Washington, D.C.: What did you think of the Simpsons game?

Mike Musgrove: I liked it.

Um (I'm struggling to come up with more insight here...)

Both the console and DS versions left a positive impression on me.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey there, Mike. What's the latest buzz on BioWare's "Mass Effect", for the Xbox 360?

Mike Musgrove: This is a lame answer, so apologies in advance. I gotta say Mass Effect looks like pretty generic sci-fi stuff to my eyes. But the developer, BioWare, has a pretty stellar record. (And yeah, you probably already knew that if you're asking this question.)

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xbox moving away from shooters?: Mike, looking at the upcoming Xbox releases, I'm happy to see that there are quite a few titles that don't fit the traditional "shooter" mold. I've been having second thoughts ever since I ditched my PS2 for a 360 because I enjoy the roleplaying and adventure titles that Sony does so well, but it looks like the 360 will have plenty to keep me happy. Is this a trend--and what do they have coming further down the line? I'm very excited that Resident Evil is going to be on Xbox!

Mike Musgrove: The games you already know about as a fan are pretty much the only games Microsoft was talking about. Microsoft pulled a sorta interesting move at its press event this year by only talking about games that are due this year. Could be more evidence that the company is trying to grab the attention of the more casual gamer this year.

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E3 land: What would you change about E3 if you were running the show?

Mike Musgrove: Is this somebody with the ESA (the trade group that throws the show)??

This year's scaled-down E3 had its advantages, but the logistics of getting from hotel to hotel meant that it was a little less efficient for me this year as a place to go and think about (and play) video games for 72 or so hours in a row.

Was a little difficult to give games undivided attention partly as a result.

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Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Mike, I attended and liked this year's format, including the smaller venues. I thought it was easier to get game playing time and to actually talk to people without screaming. What did you think? Did you have the same experience?

Mike Musgrove: I agree with you about the volume.

The bigger, louder version of the show always left me with ringing ears. The volume of sound in EA's booth always made my head explode when I walked into the South Hall in previous years... "It's in the game!"

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Herndon, Va.: Mike, the HD trailer for PGR4 gave me chills. Please tell me it looked and played just as well in person!

Mike Musgrove: It looks pretty slick. I like the weather effects in the game. The "fog" effect looks great in this one.

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Arlington, Va.: Guitar Hero III or Rock Band - did you see / preview either or both? Which will prevail, and will you have to get a 2nd mortgage to buy all the controllers for the latter?

Mike Musgrove: I played GH3 and there are a few interesting twists in the two-player battle mode where you can mess with your opponent by throwing him or her into "expert" or "lefty flip" mode.

Not sure what that has to do with the 'I wanna be a rock star' fantasy of the game, but it was fun.

Some rat hopped in front of me as I was about to try the Rock Band drums, to my shame.

I dunno which will prevail. Guitar controller-wise, they are very similar.

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Washington, D.C.: Seems like sequels are king again this year. Speaking of which, did EA mention anything about Sim City 5?

Mike Musgrove: Sequels are often king at E3, but I didn't hear anything about Sim City 5.

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Lawrence, Kan.: Will there be no Wii Premium?

Mike Musgrove: What would a Wii premium be?

One that plays DVDs?

But no, Nintendo didn't say anything along those lines. The original configuration is still selling briskly, after all.

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LA, CA: We enjoyed your coverage of the new improved E3. I'm a die hard Sony fan and I'm about to finally buy the PS3, but I have one big concern. The only thing on my friends 360 that I'm jealous of is Xbox live and all the great pick up and play games you can download. Is there any hope that Sony will deliver something as good?

Mike Musgrove: Sony had some cool "pick up and play" type games that it was showing off at the show. It wasn't a tidal wave or anything, but they did have some decent stuff, like a game called Pain and another called Everyday Shooter

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Alexandria, Va.: Any news on a possible price cut on the XBox 360 before the holiday shopping season?

Mike Musgrove: Microsoft didn't say anything along these lines, as it wouldn't be in their best interest to have people holding out for a price cut. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if there was one, though.

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Fairfield, Iowa: There has been a lot of talk about the death of Sony due to lack of exclusive titles for the PS3. Also, many still think $499 is too much for the PS3. Has Sony's E3 showing done much to uplift the perception that they are "losing" the "console wars?"

Mike Musgrove: I liked a lot of what I saw on the PS3, though I still think $500 is steep for a game console.

I like it that my Xbox 360 controllers are a little larger and have more heft... and have rumble. And I like Xbox Live...

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Mike Musgrove: Dag, there are a lot of good questions still sitting in my queue, but I need to hit the road.

Thanks for joining me, folks.

--mike

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