E3 2009 Preview: Keep Those Hype-Plugs Handy

I'm slightly less upbeat than Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter when he writes in his E3 2009 preview that the video game trade show should be "full of news and useful information for video game fans." But I take his point. This show's brimming with intrigue in ways the last few clearly weren't. There's Sony's hypothetical UMD-less PlayStation Portable, a possible new motion-control part for the Xbox 360, hope for new Zelda or Mario games from Nintendo, talk of a "Will-killing" PS3 motion-control part, all kinds of speculation about new online services, and the usual rumors about a price cut for Sony's stubbornly expensive PlayStation 3.

Somewhere in there we'll also lay eyes and presumably hands on games like Guitar Hero 5, Madden NFL 10, Dragon Age: Origins, BioShock 2, Assassin's Creed 2, and Splinter Cell: Conviction. Big games, each with lofty expectations to live up to. There'll be talk about Modern Warfare 2 and DJ Hero, Dante's Inferno and Borderland and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. Somewhere across the event horizon of the show's press conferences lie several surprise announcements either of new games we've not yet thought of, or about games we're already anticipating.

Of course when you boil the boisterous marketing away, it's still a bit like loading up on a case or three of Red Bull and doing the ritualistic "Presents!" dance around your Christmas tree. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

All I'm hoping is that this year's E3 isn't another circus-sized tent revival for the Church of Ludophiles. Less sound and furious fury, more awe-inspiring ideas and insights.

There's plenty of think about, right? A UMD-less PSP raises serious and important questions about the future of storefront retail. A motion-control part for the Xbox 360 has the potential to stymie Nintendo and nullify the latter's kinetic advantage. A return to form with something like Zelda or Mario (or better yet, something actually new and visionary) could reestablish Nintendo as an enthusiast force with teeth and offset Microsoft's motion-control part. And if Sony brings the PS3's price in line with reality, reality may return the favor by finally raising sales of the system to par with its competition.

Stay tuned. While the show officially starts cooking next Monday, we'll probably see pre-show ballyhoo already this weekend.

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