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The Leading Publishers of E3

By Louis Bedigian GameZone.com

Up until recently, if there was one thing you could count on at E3, it was that EA and Activision would try to outdo each other with the biggest, brightest and loudest booths money can buy. But while that might be cool for gamers watching from home – and those lucky enough to get into the show as something other than a journalist, developer, or PR specialist (the most exhausted group of people you’ll find) – decibel levels do not factor into the winners and losers of E3.

Really, what it comes down to is how well the publisher communicated its message to journalists and the general gaming public. When the show is over, are we excited for the games we just saw? If we played them, do we want to play more? Those are the questions E3 exhibitors must ask themselves.

Who will rock our world this time around? For some clues, let’s take a look at the previous showstoppers.

Sony Best E3 Showings: 1995, 1997, 1998 2000, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009

Sony may have had some issues this generation, but it has a long list of E3 showings to be proud of. Most of them can be attributed to the PSone and PS2’s unbeatable third-party support. Since PS3 doesn’t have that kind of publisher loyalty, Sony began to realize that it needed to follow in the footsteps of Nintendo and develop several must-have games in-house – or find great developers who can do it for them. Hence the creation of Resistance, Uncharted, LittleBigPlanet, Killzone, Infamous, Echochrome, and The Last Guardian. These games are the beginning of Sony’s dedication to making – and owning the rights to – several great games.

What We’ve Learned: Sony will continue to expand its first-party releases. Considering that the PS Move is just around the corner, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to wait long for the next major announcement(s). Sony could use its press conference to focus on Killzone 3 and LittleBigPlanet 2. But in addition to those, history tells us that there will be a lot of new games designed specifically for PS Move – and maybe, just maybe, a few third-party surprises.

Nintendo Best E3 Showings: 1996, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009

The Nintendo DS shocked the world. It wasn’t a shock like the one Microsoft created with Natal, but it was still quite stunning, and deserves all the credit for boosting the success of touch screens. In June, Nintendo has the opportunity to surprise us once more. If 3DS’ technology is good enough, it could inspire a future iPhone. (Hmmm, the iPhone 3D/4G. I like it!)

What We’ve Learned: During the N64 era, Nintendo formed a strategy where every game must be delayed, thus stretching the major releases across the system’s entire lifespan. Consequently, the system failed. Ever since then, Nintendo has strived to release all the great first-party games up front (often within the first 24 months of a system’s release), and then taper off. In other words, the “we’ve got a lot of games but we’re not going to show them to you” attitude of E3 ’08 is over; now that Nintendo is back into handheld launch mode, expect E3 2010 to be the beginning of a steady stream of 3DS game announcements.

Microsoft Best E3 Showings: 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

Hands down, Natal is the biggest (and possibly the most important) thing Microsoft’s video-game division has ever done. In fact, it’s so big that people often forget about the impressive Xbox showing in 2002, or the plethora of great 360 games in 2006. Granted, Microsoft hasn’t been flawless; the original Xbox’s buggy debut in 2001 was overshadowed by GameCube. The tide turned later that fall when the consoles were released. But at the time of E3 2001, Microsoft appeared to be a number-three player – not a number-one contender.

What We’ve Learned: Microsoft isn’t infallible; the publisher has made serious E3 errors in the past and is bound to do so again in the future. But while Nintendo tends to shine brightest when it launches new consoles, Microsoft gets better with time. As we’re all aware, that time is now. This year’s show could be doubly successful for the Windows maker: first because it will showcase a more robust (and nearly complete) Natal. Second, because we’ll know exactly which games are coming to Natal, along with all the other hotly anticipated (non-Natal) sequels heading to Xbox 360.

Capcom Best E3 Showings: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008

There’s a connection between those dates – almost all of them involve a new Resident Evil. Capcom may have a long list of killer games (such Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom), but its survival/horror star always reigns supreme.

What We’ve Learned: In addition to its prized franchise, Capcom has also impressed E3 visitors by unveiling new Resident Evil spin-offs. This year, the latest spin-off (Dead Rising) is getting a sequel. That alone will be intriguing, but that’s old news. Could another spin-off – or another major sequel – be waiting in the wings?

EA Best E3 Showings: 2003, 2004, 2007

As a developer of perennial sports games, EA’s trade show strategy is somewhat predictable: new Madden, new NBA Live, and so on. Even the Need for Speed series has been bitten by the annual release bug. This is good news for fans of those series, but for gamers wanting big and boisterous announcements, EA needs a little bit more.

Enter Rock Band, a game that took the world (and most E3 attendees) by storm in 2007.

What We’ve Learned: As long as EA can retain its title as sports game leader, it’s unlikely that the publisher will make any drastic changes to its release lineup, or its E3 strategy. But when EA has something major to announce – something that doesn’t fit inside the Madden mold – expect to be blown away.

Konami Best E3 Showings: 1997, 2000, 2001, 2006

Is it strange that one of Konami’s best years (2006) was led by a trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4? It shouldn’t be: Hideo Kojima is the king of E3 hype. He knows how to take something as simple as a non-interactive teaser and turn it into an Internet sensation.

What We’ve Learned: To be as fearful as we are excited for Konami’s big E3 trailer. If the next one belongs to the Raiden spin-off (and it most likely will whether the game is playable or not), brace yourself for an unbearable level of anticipation.

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Louis Bedigian
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