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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Q&A: The future of gaming
People trying out games at E3
Gamers are able to try out the latest innovations at E3
The Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3, is the world's largest trade show for the computer games industry.

The three-day event is taking place in Los Angeles, a chance for companies to tout their forthcoming hardware and software.

The BBC News website technology editor Alfred Hermida is at the conference and answered some of your questions on the future of gaming.

Q: I'd like to know about the online services the new consoles offer.
Stephen Murray

Sony seems to be following the lead of Microsoft with its online service. So for example, you will be able to buy and download tracks for its Singstar karaoke game, much like you can download music videos on Xbox Live. It is hard to judge which online network is better until both Sony and Nintendo launch their new consoles.

Q: Is anyone going to make any 'mature' games that don't require murdering people on the street or have over-inflated girls in skimpy outfits?
Sian, Kent, UK

Walking around the showfloor at E3, you would get the impression that only men in their twenties play games. And most of the games here tend to involve shooting, racing or sports.

Microsoft and Sony have got some titles for others, but Nintendo is making a big deal about putting "fun" back into gaming. Its Wii console with its motion-sensing controller means you don't have to remember dozens of button combinations and can instead concentrate on having a good time.

Viva Pinata game
Viva Pinata is designed to widen the appeal of the Xbox 360

Q: One of the things I've picked up from some pre-E3 announcements is "episodic" games such as Sin Episodes, where new episodes will be available for online purchase. Is this the way of the future?
Neil, Cheshire

Microsoft has been very keen on promoting the idea of offering new content via its Xbox Live service. Rockstar, which makes Grand Theft Auto, is going to provide it with episodic content when GTA4 comes out next year.

The attraction for game makers is that they can make more money over a period of time from a game, instead of just relying on sales of the original title. As internet connections get faster and more gamers go online, I would expect to see a lot more episodic games appearing.

Q: I cant wait to get my hands on my Wii. I would just like to know why people are discounting it already.
Eric, London

Nintendo realises that it needs to convince sceptics that its new controller will work. That is why it has some 27 games on the showfloor for people to try out. I spent some time on the stand, watching people getting to grips with the new remote. Most people seemed to be enjoying themselves. So if Nintendo can persuade people to try out the Wii console, it could be onto a winner.

Nintendo tennis demo
Nintendo executives played virtual tennis

Q: Do you think game designers have run out of ideas? Are we just going to have the same games with better graphics?
Paulie Paul, East Sussex

This is a big issue. Critics would say that Microsoft and Sony are simply putting a new coat of high-definition paint on the same old games. And many game makers rely on tried and tested genres, like war games, as these can be guaranteed to sell. The irony is that when an innovative game like I Love Katamari comes out, it doesn't sell as well. With the cost of many games for next generation sky-rocketing, game makers will be more reluctant to take chances.

Q: I know this is 'rip-off' Britain, but when are games going to come down to a realistic price level?
Bob, UK

The problem is that games are getting more and more expensive to make. A top title for a next generation console can cost more than 10m to make. So a game has to sell thousands and thousands of copies to make any money. The fact is that aside from blockbuster games like Need For Speed or Halo, few games sell enough copies to recoup costs. And with next generation games, the price is just going to go up, rather than down.

Q: Why is this a battle that has to be won? I own a PS2, an Xbox and an Xbox360. Vive la difffernce I say.
Carl Pheasant, London

Whether we like it or not, there is intense rivalry between Sony and Microsoft, and to some extent Nintendo. In some ways, the Xbox 360 and the PS3 are aimed at the same type of gamer, with similar kind of games. Some gamers will have more than one console, but many will just buy one. As console makers get a royalty every time a game is sold, it is in their interests to have as many machines out there as possible.

Screenshot of Gears of War
Gears of War is one of the key new titles for the Xbox 360
Q: No one seems to realise that Microsoft did the whole tilt sensor thing about eight years ago! Why is everyone saying this is a new thing that will revolutionise gaming?
Dani, London

I was talking to a senior Microsoft executive on Wednesday and he made exactly the same point. However I would say that technology has advanced since then. Nintendo's Wii controller seems to work pretty well with its games. But the jury is still out on Sony tilt controller as so far only one flying game makes use of it.

Q: How much will the Wii be in UK when it comes out later this year?
Dmytrii, London

Nintendo hasn't set a price for the Wii but most people expect it to be cheaper than either the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. It doesn't use as many expensive parts as the other two systems. At the moment, there is a lot of speculation about the price, with some analysts predicting it could be around $200. In the UK, it could be around 150. But, I stress, no on knows for certain how much it will cost.

Q: From what I've seen of the new consoles, I can't help feeling I've seen it all before. Are there any unique games coming out?
Fate, Southend

It always takes game makers a year or two to work out how to get the best out of new consoles. After all, some of the best games for the PlayStation 2 came out four or five years after the console's release. Out of the games for the next generation of machines, there are a few that look promising.

EA Montreal is working on a two-person co-operative shooter called Army of Two which is due out in 2007. Heavenly Sword by Ninja Theory also looks impressive and is playable for the first time at E3. This should be out around the time of the PS3 launch. And for the PC, EA is working on a evolution/civilisation Sims type game called Spore which is coming along nicely. So there are some new ideas out there, but they tend to be drowned out by the predominance of sci-fi or war games.

Q: Is the PS3 really backwards compatible? Are there any real games for the Wii, other than yet another Mario or Zelda game?
AD, Newcastle-upon Tyne

Sony says you will be able to play your PS2 and PSone games on the PS3. As regards the Wii, Nintendo has almost 30 playable games at E3. There is a wide variety, from sports titles to new Mario and Zelda games, as well as a new first-person shooter from Ubisoft called Red Steel. GameCube games will be playable on the Wii and Nintendo is planning to offer its older games as downloads. Nintendo is trying to appeal for as wide an age group as possible, not just children.

Alfred.Hermida-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk


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