Hardware announcements tend to get the lion's share of the spotlight at E3. This year will be remembered for Microsoft's Kinect, Sony's PlayStation Move and Nintendo's 3DS.
But in the long run, all of those devices are just tools; gadgets that are meant to spur game sales. The real stars of the show are the titles that publishers have on display.
The most common question asked among E3 show goers is "Seen anything good?”
It's a way of comparing notes, and making sure you haven't missed anything worthwhile. But at some point, a sizable percentage of the hundreds and hundreds of games on display blur together into something almost generic. By the end of the show, you hear people talking about "that space shooter” they saw, though they can't remember exactly which publisher was promoting the game.
That reaction is not unlike the one consumers will have during the holiday season. The sheer volume of titles can be overwhelming, making it hard for some games to find an audience.
Still, there will be plenty of titles for all sorts of players this year. The new motion capture devices from Microsoft and Sony are designed specifically to lure casual gamers away from Nintendo's Wii. "SOCOMM 4” and "Your Shape: Fitness Evolved” are among the dozens that will launch alongside the systems later this year.
Fans of action and shooter games will have plenty to choose from as well. Electronic Arts will roll out "Crysis 2” and "Medal of Honor” as Activision Blizzard introduces the latest installment in the "Call of Duty” franchise (this year's game is subtitled "Black Ops”). THQ, meanwhile, will launch "Homefront,” in which Americans must retake their country after a North Korean occupation—in early 2011.
Like strategy games? "Sid Meier's Civilization V” is due this fall, threatening to devour dozens of otherwise productive hours. And role-playing game aficionados will likely gravitate to "Fable III” from Microsoft and "Fallout: New Vegas” from Bethesda Softworks.
Even the sports genre is getting a shake-up this year, with new exercise games for those looking to get in shape while they play and true competition in certain genres. The iron grip EA's "Madden” franchise has had on the NFL license slipped a bit last week when "QuickHit,” a browser-based football game, secured permission to use NFL team names, logos and more.
Take Two Interactive Software, meanwhile, continues to steal share from EA's "NBA Elite” franchise (formerly called "NBA Live”), securing Michael Jordan for its "NBA2K11” game.
As E3 draws to a close, the race begins among many media outlets to declare a title "Best of Show" or "the winner." That's something of a fool's mission, though, since the polished demos at E3 don't necessarily reflect what the final product will be like.
What we've done instead is look at which games are worth keeping an eye on. Some may turn out to be critical hits. Others will be commercial smashes, regardless of what critics say. And some are dark horses that could go either way.