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E3: Taking a peek at the games

The E3 video games conference in Los Angeles is in full swing now, and the major console makers and software developers have rolled out the celebrities, teased about cutting edge technologies and pleased hardcore fans with news about Mario and Halo, etc. Now it’s about convincing consumers and retailers that the games on display are going to be must-haves this year.

So we thought you’d like to see what everyone here sees. Here are a few of the games being played on the show floor, each showing off amazing graphics and realism.

God of War III, by Sony, due in 2010:

UFC 2009 Undisputed, by THQ Inc, debuted in May

Red Faction: Guerilla, by THQ Inc, was just released this week.

What do analysts want from E3? How about a PS3 price-cut…

This week marks the kick off the video game industry’s biggest event – Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, which opens on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Usually this is where the best new consoles and multi-level games make their debuts with all the attendant excitement and drama.

But this year the beaten-up economy might have more of a starring role as we note in our preview here.  As the economy splutters along, video game sales are doing okay; they’re up 13 percent in the fiscal year to $28.7 billion, according to Hudson Square Research. However, to keep that going in the year ahead analysts suggest that price cuts on some of game consoles might be in order. Actually that would be just one game console: Sony’s Playstation 3, currently priced around $400. As Billy Pidgeon, analyst at Game Changer Research said:

The thing that would really boost the industry in this traditionally slow period would be a Sony price cut, That would really help right now.

The Who rocks out for the “Rock Band” generation

thewho.JPGHarmonix threw the hottest and most exclusive party of the E3 conference on Wednesday night at L.A.’s Orpheum Theater. The “Rock Band Bash” concert celebrated Harmonix’s upcoming “Rock Band 2″ game and featured a private concert by one of the band’s included in the game’s updated tracklist — The Who. 

When we went to pick up our tickets at the MTV Games E3 showroom late Wednesday afternoon, a line of hopeful concertgoers snaked around the entrance. But their dreams were dashed moments later as their names weren’t on on the exclusive “invite-only” guest list that included “24″ star Kiefer Sutherland and AC/DC drummer Chris Slade.

It was clear we had one of the most coveted tickets in town.

Concertgoers had a chance to try out the new “Rock Band 2″ game before showtime.  About twenty minutes before the concert started, there was a mad sprint to grab the perfect seat. But the Orpheum wasn’t packed by any means, which made it almost like a private concert with the Who. 

“Resident Evil 5″ ups the action — and the violence

It’s the third day of E3. The press conferences are finished and we are finally getting to spend some quality time with some of the most buzzed about games of the coming year.

Video games reporter Kemp Powers stopped by the Capcom booth and shot and slashed his way through one of the most impressive games of the show, “Resident Evil 5.” (Video below)

The follow-up to the 2005 hit “Resident Evil 4″ on the Nintendo GameCube, Sony Playstation 2 and Wii, this new game is the first offering in the survival horror series for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3. It’s due for a worldwide release on March 13, 2009.

Skaters, time to ride … the Wii

Electronic Arts is taking its popular “Skate” game to another level with the introduction of “Skate It” made exclusively for Nintendo’s Wii and DS.

“Skate It” follows a similar storyline as its predecessor, but it gets players off the couch and onto their Wii Fit Balance Boards. A player’s body weight on the balance board controls their turns and jumps on the skateboard.e3-july-15-038.JPG

If you’re a skateboarder or snowboarder, don’t be too confident. The game’s not as easy as it looks as our reporter Jennifer Martinez (not pictured)  found out when she got off to a rocky (and embarrassing) start to the game.

“Rock Revolution” longs for hit

rr1.JPG As the creator of video game hits “Dance Dance Revolution”  and “Karaoke Revolution,” Konami has proved its chops in music video games. But now the Japanese game developer is moving into “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” territory with rock music game “Rock Revolution.”

Reporter Jennifer Martinez tried out Konami’s E3 demo room to test the game and found crisp and colorful graphics — which were nearly identical to those of the two older rivals.

As in “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band”, “Rock Revolution” players follow color-coded notes streaming on a television screen to play a rock song and earn points if the song is played correctly.

Let’s Hear It for the Girls!

imagine-screenshots.jpgOur video games reporter Kemp Powers went to today’s Ubisoft press conference, which featured the usual array of gun play and sword fighting fans expected from the French video game publisher.

The company, however, saved some of its most enthusiastic chest-bumping for an update on its “Games for Girls” brand strategy.

Tony Key, Ubisoft’s senior vice president of sales and marketing laid out the impressive data; in the first three months of 2008, sales in the division aimed at “tween,” or pre-teen, girls grew 63 percent. Six of the top ten third party titles on the Nintendo DS are games targeted to the tween set.

Wii can jam too!

It was Nintendo’s turn to play a little music. Following on the heels of popular music genre games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, Nintendo showed off Wii Music at its E3 press conference.  Here’s a quick video — shot by our video games reporter Kemp Powers — of Nintendo executives, including legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto , playing the Mario theme song. (Hint: Miyamoto is the short Japanese man.)

The reception for the game was mixed.  The game does let you simulate more than 60 different instruments and it does seem easy to use. However, no one keeps score and you can’t play out of tune because the game picks-up motions to play the melody. The complaint seems to be that it is too basic and simple. (To be fair, many people said that about the Wii when it came out.)

One of my colleagues may have said it best. Guitar Hero and Rock Band makes you feel like a rock star. This game makes you look like you are in a high school marching band.

Finally, a little more on Spore

spore.jpgElectronic Arts provided a glimpse at “Spore,” a much-hyped game where players begin with their own basic microbe and customize their creature to weather environmental conditions and population changes on Earth. Reuters video game reporter Jennifer Martinez gives us the story from the news conference. 

During the  company’s E3 press conference, EA showed a brief trailer of the game and set a release date, Sept. 7, for the latest title from legendary game creator Will Wright, known for creating “SimCity” and “The Sims.”

EA has invested $80 million, according to one analyst, into making ”Spore,” which was inspired by Wright’s love of science and his favorite toy as a child, a chemistry set.

“I get by with a little help from my friends…”

xbox-360-e3.jpgMicrosoft’s showcase of highly anticipated games for the Xbox 360 was mostly sequels of popular franchises, but all featured a new common element: cooperation.  Reuters games reporter Kemp Powers explains.

Cooperative play, in which several players work together to finish a single-player mission instead of blasting each other, seems to be the mode du jour these days.

It has already been announced that the next installment in the “Call of Duty” franchise, “Call of Duty: World at War,” will include a cooperative mode (the last game did not). “Halo 3,” the last installment of Microsoft’s flagship franchise, for the first time included the ability for up to four players to play the entire game cooperatively over Xbox Live.