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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 May, 2005, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
E3 expo marks new dawn for games
Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website, in Los Angeles

Microsoft's Xbox 360
A "new dawn" for video gaming has started, say experts
The E3 games expo in Los Angeles has wrapped up with fans tantalised by the prospect of new consoles from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

The machines herald a new chapter in the history of video games.

They created an air of excitement at the event, which drew record crowds.

Some 70,000 people attended the three-day show, according to the organisers.

"This year at E3 marks the beginning of the console war for the next-generation set top box," said Ankarino Lara, editorial director of the games websites, Gamespot.

Unfortunately for GameCube owners, that Zelda game might be the last big standout that we see until the new system comes out
Ankarino Lara, Gamespot

"Each one of these manufacturers wants to be the only machine you have attached to your TV."

The stakes are high. Analysts predict the console market could be worth $11.3bn (6.1bn) in five years' time.

Pick a console

The next-generation consoles promise high-definition cinematic images in real time and the computing power to deliver sophisticated and complex gameplay.

Microsoft is going to be the early frontrunner, as it plans to release its Xbox 360 across the world in November.

As part of an aggressive drive to dominate the next round of consoles, the software giant plans to have up to 40 games for the machine by the end of the year.

Sony PlayStation 3
Sony's PlayStation 3 is dubbed a "supercomputer for entertainment"
Those willing to wait were able to try out for themselves some of these titles at Microsoft's massive stand.

Sony's PlayStation 3 will come a few months later, in the spring of 2006, though details of where it will be available are not known.

While there were no playable games, Sony did blind everyone with talk of teraflops, gigaflops and floating point performance.

And later in the year will come Nintendo's Revolution.

In contrast to the technical specification provided by Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo kept most details about its console under wraps.

It was also the only one not to show any demos or trailers of next-generation games.

Instead, Nintendo surprised by many by revealing a sleek new version of its best-selling handheld GameBoy, called GameBoy Micro.

Games galore

While the new consoles grabbed the headlines, there were also enough games on show for current machines to keep thumbs busy until the next-generation machines arrive.

GameCube fans were thrilled by the prospect of a new Legend of Zelda game, Twilight Princess.

For many, it was one of the top titles of the show, borne out by the long queue at the Nintendo stand to see the game.

Screenshot of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is due out at the end of the year
"Unfortunately for GameCube owners, that Zelda game might be the last big standout that we see until the new system comes out," Mr Ankarino told the BBC News website.

And there were signs that game makers have learnt how to get the best out of the PlayStation 2, a machine that is five years old.

Among these was the first-person shooter Black, shown behind closed doors, and due out early next year.

Another first-person shooter, Far Cry: Instincts Time for the Xbox, also showed promise.

Hand action

But it was not all about home consoles. Across the convention centre, people hunched over small devices, trying out the latest games for Sony's PSP or Nintendo's DS.

The PSP only launched recently in the US and will not reach European shores until September.

Nintendo's GameCube Micro
The biggest surprises came in small packages
By then, fans of the Grand Theft Auto franchise will be able to play a version of the game, called Stories from Liberty City, on the PSP.

By contrast, the title garnering most attention for the DS was Nintendogs.

The cute virtual puppy simulator has proved a big hit for Nintendo in Japan, selling 400,000 copies in a month.

And in the originality stakes, there was little to beat another DS game, Electroplankton.

More a music creation tool than a game, players create sounds by interacting with tiny sea creatures which swirl to form animations.

It seems strange that in a week dominated by big announcements, the big surprises came in the smallest packages.

Watch clips of the the high definition visuals on offer

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