E3 2004 – The Preshow

May 12, 2004

If yesterday was any indication of things to come, then this E3 could be the most explosive Expo to date. Sony showed off the PSP and dropped hints about the CPU to be used in the PS3 as well as dropping the price on the PS2 to match the $149 price point of the Xbox. Nintendo showed off the DS in all its glory as well as making gamers mouths water by showing footage of a new realistic Zelda game. The screens and footage have been described as “Ocarina of Time on steroids”. Nintendo also showed off this years game lineup and it had many gamers singing praises for the Gamecube and its powerhouse lineup. Did I mention we would be seeing Halo 2 on November 9th? It won’t be alone as there will be a Halo 2 Limited Edition game as well.

First of all, I heard more than one person say yesterday that you can go ahead and stop now as Nintendo was won this years show. What could they have done that has made so many gamers do a complete about face in regards to the console giant after such a short press conference? Quite a bit actually. Many people were skeptical when the concept of the DS was first announced but after hearing how Nintendo plans to make use of the 2 screen portable unit everyone seems to have embraced the new idea. The DS will ship with built in wifi, Bluetooth, and a 2nd screen sporting touch screen capabilities. All that for an estimated $150. Not a bad deal? Toss in the fact that the DS has a lineup of game that screams “Third party support”, the one thing that seems to have kept the Gamecube from being as accepted as it should be.

A full list of DS features is as follows:

  • Short-range wireless enabling up to 16 players to go head-to head at distances up to 100 feet.
  • Wi-Fi for times when no other DS users are within 100 feet.
  • 2 media bays, one for DS software, which Fils-Aime said could be as large as “one gigabit of data and beyond,” and one for GBA games enabling backward compatibility.
  • Built-in microphone for voice control.
  • Each screen is programmable in either 2 or 3-d, and they can be used together to show one very large character or scene.

To top that off, Nintendo announced a slew of games for the new handheld along with a huge list of developers interested in the DS. Nintendo said we could expect new versions of Metroid, Starfox, Zelda, and Resident Evil for the GC, and Donkey Kong Country 2, Zelda, F-Zero, Mario Pinball, Mario Golf: Advance Tour, and Mario Party for GBA. Developers interested in creating games for the DS includes Atari, Activision, Capcom EA, Konami, Koei, Sega, Square Enix, and THQ.

To end their press conference Nintendo showed a video of the next Legend of Zelda game for the GC. The game was nothing less than stunning and left many wondering if this realistic game was to be the sequel to the Wind Waker or a new LoZ title altogether. Needless to say, the game looks fantastic.

Another big event was Sony showing off their new handheld, the PSP. The PSP sports a very impressive 4.3 inch 16:9 TFT LCD screen. The crisp graphics and display of the PSP will no doubt be a hook for many gamers. One advantage the PSP has is that it is equipped to play video as well as audio discs. Sony didn’t have any games to show off, but they played the trailers for the upcoming movies Spiderman 2 and FFVII: Advent Children. The PSP sports all the controls of the original Playstation controller including the shoulder triggers. It will also sport a wide array of connectivity options including USB 2.0 for PC and PS2 connections, 802.11b for wireless gaming, and Memory Stick Pro for downloading new software and data. The PSP also sports a pair of IR connections. The PSP will sport a custom 333MHz cpu, 32MB of main memory, and 4MB of embedded DRAM. Its lithium-ion battery will last 2.5 hours when using video and 10 hours for audio only. The 1.8GB UMD discs the PSP will use should be rugged enough for on the go gaming. Sony also has a slew of PSP peripherals planned for this next year from an external battery pack to a carrying case and stand.

In addition to the PSP, Sony gave a glimpse of the CPU they plan on using in their next generation PS3. The Cell chip will be used in a high end workstation to be released later this year and will be used for complex rendering, physics, modeling, behavior, rendering, and analysis. Upon release, the chip will be marketed to gaming and special effects companies. IBM is producing the actual chip as well working on the OS to run on the chip. Two major strong points for the Cell chip are its parallel processing and its floating point capabilities which should result in “massive data bandwidth”.

I already mentioned yesterday in a news post that the official release date for Halo 2 had been set as November 9th. I think that will be a very good day for the Xbox in terms of sales. Microsoft also announced there would be a Limited Edition version of the game that sports a metal case and a 2nd DVD full of features from the Making of Halo 2 to art galleries and commentaries, definitely a must own for all Halo fans.

In addition to the new hardware, there are a slew of new games being announced this year. Some of the more notable titles are Metal Gear Acid to be released for the PSP and GTA: San Andreas. More on the games as details about them are released.

I will be passing along details from our E3 correspondent, Sniperseye, as he gets them to me. He should also have a lot of fantastic pictures for us. Stay tuned for more information from gaming’s biggest Expo, E3.