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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Inside the world's largest game arcade
By Darren Waters
BBC News Online in Los Angeles

When PT Barnum invited people to roll up, roll up for the greatest show on earth he did not bargain on the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

Display for Sims game at E3
E3: Loud, brash and very, very big
Celebrating its tenth year, the E3 show is part circus, part Las Vegas and part trade show.

More than 60,000 trade delegates, retailers and journalists descend on the Los Angeles Convention Centre, an enormous Pentagon-sized building in the downtown area of the city.

The business aims of the expo are to showcase the finest wares of the $20 billion videogame industry for the coming 12 months.

Inside the convention centre is the largest video game arcade in the world - thousands of square feet of giant plasma screens and games consoles accompanied by pumping rock and dance soundtracks on an infinite loop.

It is a fleeting vision of the dystopian world glimpsed in movies such as Blade Runner.

Rush to play

And in this future world, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have the largest stands - sprawling videogame villages which are constantly inhabited from the moment the convention doors open to the moment they close.

Killzone poster (Photo Jon Jordan)
Future war: Sony puts its weight behind Killzone shooter
One the biggest attractions on the Sony stand is the first-person shooter Killzone, a futuristic war game, inspired by a host of iconic war films.

Other high-profile titles include The Getaway: Black Monday and Metal Gear Solid 3.

At Nintendo's stand, Metroid Prime 2 attracts a rush of players, while journalists and trade delegates alike queue to play with the firm's new handheld console, the DS.

Microsoft's stand is an enclosed space, showcasing its recent tie-up with Electronic Arts for online titles and new titles such as Forza Motorsport.

The company's biggest games asset is no-where to be seen. Halo 2 is due for release in November but the game cannot be played, or even seen, on the show floor.

Touch of glamour

It is one of the more curious aspects of E3 - that there are many shows within the show.

Playboy bunnies at E3 (Photo Jon Jordan)
And there is always something to cater for the teen male gamer
Halo 2 can be played by appointment only, shown to a select group of reporters and delegates.

High profile title Half-Life 2 is equally elusive - a video demonstration only is available behind yet more closed doors.

One of the perennial attractions of E3 is the host of models brought in to promote many of the video games.

Periodic whoops from attendees can be heard as they clamour to be thrown a t-shirt by one of the showgirls or have their photographs taken alongside them.

It is a clear sign that the audience for games, despite endeavours to broaden the market, remains focused on young teen males.

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