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E3 serves two important roles in the game calendar. Firstly, of course, it's a product showcase - the one week in which all of the world's specialist games media is in one location, and the ideal timescale for product announcements for the year's Christmas sales period. E3 has, as a result, traditionally been the springboard for major launches, both hardware and software, with even formerly reticent Japanese firms gradually coming around to the idea of focusing their announcements on the show.
The second role, more of an emergent one, is E3's position as a windsock for the industry's trends and directions. Put so many product announcements together in one place, and you provide a wealth of data for pundits to work from. Couch them in large, glitzy press conferences, broadcast all around the world on the internet, and you create a clear, visible and very public indicator of where the industry is going.
So on that front, what do we learn from this week's show?
One could argue that we see that the casual market, as pioneered by Nintendo in recent years, is now firmly entrenched at the heart of the industry - but this is nothing new. The focus granted to PlayStation's Move and Xbox 360's Kinect in their respective conferences is mere confirmation of a direction which was already well-understood.
For all the technical innovation and clever hardware on display, both products are simply chasing Nintendo's coat-tails at the moment - not the position Microsoft and Sony had hoped to be in at this point in the generation, but equally, nothing new to those who have been watching this saga unfold.
What was more interesting, in my view, was watching all three platform holders struggle with one of the most important concepts introduced by this casual revolution. Casual gaming cannot be seen simply as an end, but also as a means - a means to introduce a whole new audience to the wider world of interactive entertainment.
Casual games should encourage people to pick up the controller (or not, in the case of Kinect), and then, having demystified the world of gaming, beckon them onwards to explore further. If millions of people are playing SingStar, Wii Fit, or Dance Central, and none of them are moving further upstream to explore other games, then the industry has fallen flat on its face in one of its greatest challenges.
Only Nintendo gave this concept a name - "bridge games" - but then went on to demonstrate that the company isn't quite au fait with the idea just yet, by showing off Wii Party, a title placed firmly and resolutely in the casual ghetto.
I shouldn't be too snide; Nintendo is by far the most successful of the platform holders at creating true bridge games. The real irony was that it was mislabelling Wii Party as a bridge title only moments after a demonstration of one of the finest bridge titles imaginable, the new Legend of Zelda game, which adapts widely understood and liked Wii Sports Resort control schemes into a fun, accessible game world. Like Mario Galaxy and Mario Kart before it, it has huge potential to push legions of casual gamers upstream and encourage them to engage more deeply with games.
The company having by far the most trouble with this concept was undoubtedly Microsoft. Kinect's technical prowess couldn't disguise the fracture down the middle of the Xbox conference - on one side stood burly, blood-splattered, face-stomping Gears of War 3, and on the other side, a small girl playing with a virtual tiger cub, and there wasn't a whole lot in the middle. (Admittedly, I found the creepily anthropomorphic tiger cub to be far more terrifying than anything on offer in Gears, but I don't think that was the reaction either developer was angling for.)
Microsoft deserves some breathing room here. Sony and Nintendo have been playing both sides of the field for many years, and are only now learning how to bridge the gap between them most effectively - Sony titles such as Sorcery and the Move edition of Heavy Rain could be very effective as bridge games, although right now we're still waiting to see the casual titles which will bring that end of the market in in the first place.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has spent the past few years focusing - with enormous success - on dominating the hardcore end of the gaming spectrum, with only throwaway gestures towards the casual market. Turning this tanker around is going to be tough - and quite rightly, the company doesn't want to alienate the hardcore fans it's spent billions of dollars appealing to in the first place.
It's right and proper that franchises like Gears of War should be front and centre for Microsoft, just as it's absolutely right for Nintendo to focus on some of its beloved core franchises after a few years in which the balance was (arguably) tipped in the other direction, if not in terms of actual releases then certainly in terms of marketing and publicity.
However, it needs software that spans the gap between the two camps of offerings which are emerging on Xbox 360 - games that encourage players of Dance Central or Your Shape to move upstream and explore. It's unlikely, perhaps, that they'll ever end up kerb-stomping crinkle-faced nasties in Cliff Bleszinski's latest, but we're a long way past the point of the Xbox being all about shooting and driving, even if the public perception hasn't quite moved with the software line-up.
The long-term challenge for the games market must, ultimately, be to emulate the success which other mediums have had in creating markets where consumers routinely and happily move between genres, and where franchises which would be pigeonholed as "hardcore" in the games world nestle comfortably in people's DVD collections alongside those which would be dismissed as "casual".
Games haven't yet reached that point, and while the motion controllers which have dominated E3 conferences may turn out to be a step in the right direction, they are not a panacea. It's a mantra made dull by the frequency with which it's repeated, but one which remains utterly true - it's all about the software (well, partially about the marketing - but mostly about the software).
The task of bridging the gap, of opening up the casual ghetto and encouraging all these new players to experience a wider range of games, falls heavily on the shoulders of game designers, regardless of what new toys are added to their arsenals by platform holders.
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