As a first-time visitor to the E3 conference in Los Angeles, I expected to see lots of geeky millennials and fan boys in search of the next big video game experience. I was not disappointed. Upon entering the hall, I was immediately confronted by a character that looked like the love child of Boba Fett and one of the Sand People from Tatouine. He turned out to be a HellGhast Sniper from the Killzone Series for Sony PlayStation. Sony fired a marketing salvo at Microsoft during the conference, announcing that the PlayStation 4 will be priced at $399, undercutting Xbox by $100.
Staged by the Entertainment Software Association, the annual E3 Expo draws tens of thousands of professionals, who come to see new interactive technologies and products (a.k.a., games) for computers, video game consoles, handheld systems, mobile, and the Internet. The operative word in the descriptor is professionals. Despite all the crazy characters, super high-def promo videos, and endless rows of game consoles, E3 is in fact an industry event, where key players invest big bucks to hawk their wares and excite their fans.
Disney is a key example, drawing in huge crowds (more than one-hour wait times) and creating big buzz around its Infinity games, which enable players to mix and match their favorite characters from movies like Cars, The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more.
The Sony PlayStation team brought in an actual car to promote its Gran Turismo 6 driving simulator. To celebrate the release of World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition, Microsoft and Wargaming parked a full-sized Sherman tank at the convention entrance, and hired WWII re-enactors to man it.
There were plenty of luminaries onsite, including indie rock band The Shins (I missed them), who played at the Microsoft booth and fantasy film director Guillermo del Toro, who stopped by the Qualcomm booth to introduce his new sci-fi epic Pacific Rim from Legendary Entertainment and Warner Brothers, slatedfor July 12 release.
Whether you come for the technology or just the fun factor, E3 is clearly the center of the gaming universe. After one day there myself, I couldn’t help but grin after reading Mashable’s 10 Signs You’ve Landed at E3 by Chelsea Stark. The list ranges from excessive booth babes (#1) to the need for earplugs (#7). But looking beyond the spectacle, this unique event offers up a pretty cool snapshot of the state of modern gaming. It’s where bleeding-edge tech meets awesome storytelling. And it’s kind of magical.