|The video game market is huge and growing. The world's biggest convention for the industry, held recently in Los Angeles, attracted 65,000 people who checked out the latest games and the newest devices to play them. |
It is known as the E3 Expo, the world's biggest exhibition of its kind. Four hundred software manufacturers and hardware makers, such as Sony and Nintendo, come to demonstrate their latest games and gadgets.
Dan Hewitt of the Entertainment Software Association says the show has huge exhibition halls filled with computers and gaming devices. "It's absolutely mind-blowing. We take up the entire Los Angeles Convention Center. We're the largest convention that comes to Los Angeles all year."
The expo is part trade fair and part carnival, and reflects the world of fantasy and action at the heart of many games. Some games are played alone. Others are interactive. Online poker is increasingly popular. Sony's new Playstation Portable features a high-contrast display.
James Smith is a game producer for Sony, based in London. "The graphics are very comparable to what you have on your computer, and the screen is really crystal clear, and it's gorgeous, so the games look really great. And it plays games that are very similar to the Playstation 2. But also, the Playstation Portable can play movies, and you can listen to music like an MP3 player. It's all these great things in one really cool little box.
U.S. revenues from video games last year passed $7-billion, just $2-billion short of domestic ticket sales for movies. Billions more are being made through the sale of gaming consoles, and handheld devices such as cell phones that play games. Much of the focus this year is on new hardware. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft announced details for game machines to be released later this year through next year.
Sony's Playstation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution will compete against Microsoft's Xbox 360. The devices boast features including wireless controllers, Internet capabilities, and high-definition streaming video.
Microsoft's David Hufford says gamers can use the new Xbox to view snapshots from digital cameras, to watch television shows or talk with friends in Internet video chat rooms. "Xbox 360 really starts with the hard-core gamers. We're going to feed hard-core gamers the great games that they've come to love. And all of those games are going to play better on X- Box. They're going to play better because they're in high definition."
The expo also features simple computer games of strategy and chance. Daniel Bernstein of the Washington State company Sandlot Games says his products, which include a whimsical game featuring Caribbean traders and marauding pirates, appeal to a wide range of players. "What we focus on is the casual online player, the folks that go to websites and are looking for gaming content. For example, the people that go to Yahoo.com go and search for games, they will find our games. They can download the game, and if they like it, they can purchase the game via an e-commerce transaction."
One industry analyst says new gaming systems and software will push up annual industry revenues to $15-billion in a few years. Some put the figure higher. The biggest industry players are the United States and Japan, but Daniel Bernstein works with game developers in Poland and Russia, and the industry is expanding in countries that include China, Korea and India.