The Electronic Entertainment Expo may be back on the upswing after two years of downsizing, but that doesn't mean the gaming industry's once showy spectacle known as E3 is returning to its heyday of a few years ago.
Some 70,000 people flocked to the Los Angeles Convention Center to see the latest in video games back in 2005. While only 40,000 are expected next week, that's still far more than the 5,000-person guest list of recent years.
Also back are the splashy booths, where more than 200 exhibitors will attempt to build buzz for games. Among the most anticipated that are likely to be on display: a new "Rock Band" featuring The Beatles; a Tony Hawk game that utilizes a skateboard-shaped controller; the psychological thriller "Alan Wake" and the first follow-ups to such popular games as "Mass Effect," "Army of Two," "Assassin's Creed," "Modern Warfare," "Red Steel" and "BioShock."
While the economic slump has not bashed the gaming industry as badly as other industries, many of this year's E3 exhibitors are being cautious about what titles they trot out. Many publishers are opting to showcase streamlined slates instead of gobs of games.
"We look at E3 as the premiere global industry show that allows us to show off our wares," said Sean Ratcliffe, vice president of marketing for Sega. "It's incredibly important for us to get our messages across. I think that's why our approach of having a greater focus on just eight titles is a better way to make sure we're cutting through the clutter."
Sega will highlight games such as the Wii first-person shooter "The Conduit," sci-fi shoot-'em-up "Aliens vs. Predator" as well as unveil a new racing game starring Sonic the Hedgehog.
Other publishers — including Electronic Arts and 2K Games — are also taking a refined approach.
"We're focusing on the most immediate games now, and we're going to tease some things for later," said John Riccitiello, chief executive officer for Electronic Arts. "We just can't show everything we have lined up. You'll see 10 titles (at our press conference) on Monday and 35 titles if you visit our booth, but it's by no means our full slate."
In addition to the sci-fi sequel "Mass Effect 2" and cooperative shooter sequel "Army of Two: The 40th Day," EA will showcase such games as a Wii edition of the "Dead Space" franchise, the next "Madden NFL" entry, the fantasy role-playing game "Dragon Age: Origins" and an action-adventure game starring funnyman Jack Black titled "Brutal Legend."
"We're taking a few titles and making them very, very big," said Greg Gobbi, vice president of product development for 2K Games.
This year's flashiest showings will no doubt come from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, who may debut a new PlayStation Portable that relies entirely on downloads. Rumors have also circulated that Sony and Microsoft will unveil their own motion-control technologies that could rival the Wii.