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Thursday, May 04, 2006

The E3 Preview

Left: In Crysis it is 2019 and the United States and
North Korea are at it again. Center: In Madden
NFL 07 Shaun Alexander runs down the field.
Right: In Battlefield 2142,the world is at war
as a new ice age dawns.

A Limited New Lineup From Electronic Arts, the Video Game Giant
Electronic Arts

Published: May 4, 2006

When Electronic Arts, the world's No. 1 video-game publisher, announces its lineup today for next week's gargantuan E3 game convention in Los Angeles, you could be forgiven for thinking that football stadiums and quasi-modern war zones are the only places gamers know how to have fun.

Then again, gamers planning to attend the show could be forgiven for questioning whether they will need more than one hand to count the number of games for Sony's eagerly awaited PlayStation 3 that they will actually be able to play on the floor.

Next week's convention, formally known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is the most important event each year in the video-game industry because it begins the drumbeat of hype that publishers and makers of game systems try to build in advance of the all-important holiday season, when the industry does the lion's share of its annual business.

This year many of the biggest questions revolve around the prospects for PlayStation 3, expected to hit store shelves this fall. Before the machine is introduced, Sony needs top third-party publishers like Electronic Arts to demonstrate to fans, retailers and journalists that they can deliver a wide range of innovative games for the new console.

But judging by the limited roster planned by E.A., there may still be a lot of work to do in that vein even after the expo. In an interview yesterday, Frank Gibeau, an executive vice president and general manager for Electronic Arts' North American publishing operations, admitted as much.

"We want to have a strong lineup in the fall, and that is more important to us than having playable demos across the board of all our titles at E3," he said. "In terms of really building the buzz for the PlayStation 3, I think it's really going to be a late-summer, early-fall proposition from a timing standpoint."

"We're feeling very confident that we have a very strong lineup," he added. "We're excited about our strength and breadth across all technologies and we're excited about learning more about what Sony has planned."

Surprisingly, E.A. plans to make only one PlayStation 3 title — the inevitable Madden football sequel — available for the public to try at the show. (It appears that other major game makers — including Ubisoft, the top European publisher — will have no publicly playable PS3 games at the convention.)

Electronic Arts will be showing off a new Nascar game for Sony's hand-held PlayStation Portable and the company will demonstrate rough elements of coming basketball, golf and soccer games "behind closed doors" to groups of journalists and analysts. But except for Madden, the only other sports game that E.A. plans to reveal publicly is NCAA Football 07 for Microsoft's new Xbox 360 and for the older PlayStation 2, PSP and Xbox systems.

Outside the sports arena, the new property that E.A. is hoping to build the most buzz around is Army of Two, the game that its executives have cryptically referred to for months as the "Montreal Project," after the boutique internal studio that the company is trying to build in Canada.

Based on private paramilitary contractors like Blackwater that have come to public attention in war zones like Iraq, Army of Two is meant to set a new standard in artificial intelligence by making the player's machine-controlled buddy behave more intelligently than in past games. The game is also meant to focus on two-soldier cooperative play over the Internet. E.A. will be showing Army of Two, which is expected next year for PS3 and Xbox 360, only in private sessions.

Instead of shooting fictional Iraqis as a Marine (Battlefield 2, Full Spectrum Warrior) you can shoot them as a mercenary. Progress

posted by Steve @ 12:18:00 AM

12:18:00 AM

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