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E3 2010

This E3 2010 report was written by Brent Allen Thale on June 20, 2010. Please do not use these pictures for any commercial purpose or post them on any web site without written consent from Brent Allen Thale, the copyright holder.

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Sunny Los Angeles, California hosted the Electronic Entertainment Expo June 15-17, 2010 for another celebration of all things video games! Each year E3 focuses the attention of the world on gaming, generating untold numbers of news articles, TV spots, blog posts, tweets, and other forms of buzz, allowing publishers to present their wares to the global gaming public! A good-sized crowd got the public portion of the show off to a strong start!

Several major hardware announcements drove this year's show: Microsoft's innovative "Kinect" motion-capture device (formerly Project Natal), Sony's "Move" motion-sensing controller, and the Nintendo 3DS, a handheld gaming device that produces a 3D visual effect without the need for 3D glasses! All of these made a good splash, but my very unscientific analysis (based on the increased temperature of Nintendo's West Hall booth from the warm-blooded masses jammed in) is that the Nintendo 3DS drew the most interest.

Electronic Arts continues to hold the prime pavilion-size booth spot right at the front of the big South Hall, so it's impossible to miss as the crowds swell through the front doors. EA focused less on flash this year and more on hands-on gameplay and closed-door demo sessions, which is good I guess, but I found it very difficult to tell an interesting story photographically about the EA area. It was dark, crowded, and with lots of action, but with few obvious photo opportunities. Anyway, they had a huge slate of strong games including Dead Space 2, Madden 2011, EA Sports Active, Bulletstorm, MMA fighting, Sims console, FIFA, Crysis 2, Medal of Honor, Harry Potter, Star Wars: The Old Republic... in terms of numbers of quality games I would say EA led the show.

Other companies focused more on spectacle to attract people to their booths and get exposure for their products. I give the award for best spectacle to the Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling booth, which featured costumed fighters, ring girls, and I'm told even gladiator midgets! I imagine it's quite difficult for presenting companies to decide how much they want to dedicate their booth to attention-grabbing shows like this, which are great for gawkers and photographers, or just focusing their resources on preparing key press and channel partners for upcoming game releases.

G4TV, the video game channel owned by Comcast, had their usual big presence at the show, broadcasting many hours of live coverage mixed with recorded interviews and trailers from upcoming games. I did get to see Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn, the hosts of Attack of the Show, but the massive throngs of people rushing their area at the slightest hint of an Olivia photo-op pretty much shut me out of getting a top-quality Olivia shot. Last year, G4TV had a cadre of booth babes as an homage to the sexier era of E3's past, but this year they toned that down a bit and instead featured a Gamer Girl contest in which attractive girls who are also really good gamers competed to win a featured spot on the show. I actually spoke to Bonnie Burton, the winner of the contest, who was quite nice and very photogenic. A couple of the booth babes from last year's schoolgirl team also hung out and appeared in TV segments, three cheers for them for being good sports and looking great for the camera!

The Walt Disney company had a big booth promoting their upcoming Tron and Epic Mickey games. Warren Spector, who I knew from my Origin days many years ago, is now head of development there and seems to be positioning Epic Mickey, which I believe is a Wii exclusive, to be a breakout Christmas hit. It definitely got a lot of buzz on the floor.

Nintendo's big news was the 3DS handheld, but they also had new software on display including a new Zelda adventure and new sports games for the Wii, which kept their area absolutely packed. Based on booth crowding, I have to give the overall show winner award to Nintendo.

Celebrities often show up at E3 for brief appearances while they promote games or sometimes just for the love of the show. I personally saw Virgin CEO and man-about-town Sir Richard Branson promoting his new Virgin Games operation, and I also saw Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from Austin Powers), checking out the Koei-Tecmo booth.

Many companies feature attractive models in their booths to draw people in and to provide photo-ops. Every year the rules seem to get stricter and stricter about this sort of thing, I suppose in the future full-body biohazard suits will be required attire to prevent the slightest hint of sexuality from sneaking through, but even so there were many pretty girls at the show ready with a smile and a pose to be photographed. The models were nicer about picture taking than I had any right to expect them to be, and I salute their graciousness and emotional control.

This year I was trying out some state-of-the-art photo equipment, the Nikon D3s camera with 24-70 2.8 lens, and two SB-900 flashes, one on a pole with a small softbox and the other in an Orbis ring flash attachment. It was quite heavy and I could not consistently get the two flashes to balance well, so I ended up using one flash at a time instead of both at once, which worked pretty well, giving me some different lighting looks without breaking my back! I was surprised to see at least two other photographers using similar ring flash attachments, I'm not the only one who takes his E3 photos seriously!

My award for lamest cop-out of all time goes to Activision, who had no public presence at the show, but did have an invite-only press conference at Staples Center next door, some closed-door meetings, and a few billboards in the neighborhood. A company as large, influential, and wealthy as Activision should not be allowed to "piggyback" the show, benefiting from the worldwide press converging for E3, but contributing nothing themselves, even though they have major games coming out soon like StarCraft II that would have been perfect crowd-attracting material. I don't know what their motivation was for stiffing the public, but this smacks of a continuing disturbing legacy of greed at that company.

The award for worst booth design goes to Bethesda Softworks, who had a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex sculpture whose head could be seen from the show floor, but required a special press invite to actually see the whole thing! Boo.

The award for best easily-accessible fun booth goes to Dead Rising for their wacky zombie stunts, featuring caged undead grabbing passersby and occasional attempts by the Zombie Preservation Society to end zombie discrimination!

The missed opportunity award goes to Square Enix who somehow inherited the Lara Croft franchise and had a new Tomb Raider game on display, but they had no living, breathing Lara Croft model for photo ops! Come on guys, every gamers' convention in the country has a dozen girls cosplaying Lara, how hard could it be to hire a model to spice up your booth?

My award for best models, "booth babes", if you will, goes to the All Points Bulletin punk girls for being very gracious and excellent posers. I asked them for their best gangsta and sexy looks, and they did great. Also an energy drink which I believe is called "Nos", had a gang of very attractive ladies handing out free samples, and I give them mention here for their enthusiastic photo modeling.

It would be a nice addition to E3 for Apple, who has not historically had much of a gaming presence, to present at the show, since their iPhone/iPad/iPod platforms have become powerful forces in handheld gaming practically overnight. Not sure if they do not perceive themselves as a gaming company or if they are above all this, but I think Apple's presence was more than called for this year, hopefully we'll see them soon.

Overall I enjoyed E3 2010 and there were many exciting games and gaming-related products on display. The new motion control systems from Sony and Microsoft have a lot of potential to expand the gaming market and the Nintendo 3DS should keep the handheld market energized next year. However, the troubling absence of an industry leader like Activision makes me wonder if the disagreements over the direction of E3 that destroyed the show three years ago have not been resolved. The ESA trade organization needs to get everyone on the same page here to make their appropriate contribution to the show so it can continue to grow and eclipse even the giant E3's of old. Looking forward to next year!


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