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E3 Editor's blog: games go A-list

The day the stars came out for E3.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

"You have arrived."

So intoned the sat-nav in Eurogamer's rental car, over and over, as we circled the Galen Center looking for parking in advance of yesterday's Microsoft press conference. We laughed and made jokes about what big deals we were.

By the end of the day, as we pulled up at a theatre on Wilshire where a party was being held for DJ Hero, the phrase had taken on a different meaning. In the course of three press conferences, we'd laid eyes on Pete Sampras, Pele, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. In a couple of hours, we'd watch Eminem and Jay-Z take to the stage.

It's an amazing roll call by any standards. Two of the greatest living sportsmen, hip-hop's two biggest stars, two of Hollywood's richest directors, and the actual surviving Beatles. And they were all promoting videogames.

The sat-nav might as well have been addressing the whole industry. "You have arrived." Haven't we just.

Of course, they all turned up for different reasons, and some of them, presumably, for fat paycheques. The pair of retired sports stars phoned it in amiably enough, Pete Sampras for EA Sports' Grand Slam Tennis, Pele for Ubisoft's kids' football adventure for Wii, Academy of Champions. Notwithstanding the stature of these two greats, there was nothing exceptional about their appearances - this sort of thing goes all the way back to Madden and beyond. The relationship between sports and videogames is a straightforward, old and well-rehearsed one. You scratch my back and I'll star on your cover.

For the music stars, it's more a matter of necessity. Gaming's late and loud arrival in the world of pop comes just in the nick of time, as a record business hobbled by piracy desperately seeks new ways to sell to new audiences. Elder statesmen Starr and McCartney could barely contain their disgust - "The game... is good," muttered the drummer through gritted teeth - but they turned up anyway.

The rappers were more pragmatic. Jay-Z honoured this corporate gig with a blistering, breathless set and a deadpan plug. "DJ Hero, out in October," he said in a rare gap between tunes. "They didn't pay me to say that. I just felt compelled." Eminem just felt unwell, by the look of him.

But it was the two technocrat film directors' appearances that were the most significant. There's been talk of convergence between film and games for years, but the giant Cameron, in his rambling address during the Ubisoft presser, revealed that the moment has finally come. His designers and Ubisoft's have been sharing and swapping assets for Avatar, and Ubisoft has created 100 shots for his movie. Film-making, digital film-making at least, can no longer afford to separate itself from games, and the two media will make the step into stereoscopic 3D together with Avatar.

Meanwhile, Spielberg coming out for Project Natal was a huge coup for Microsoft, and a soft slap for Nintendo whose Wii the director has praised, made Boom Blox for, but never actually endorsed. It was about much more than one-upmanship, however - you sensed that Spielberg's excitement at the potential of the new technology was genuine, and this great populist's instincts should never be underestimated.

The fact is, even in woeful economic conditions, games are making lots of money and taking up lots of people's time. The other entertainment industries are being drawn in like moths to the flame. There's nowhere better to take the mood of showbusiness than Los Angeles, and yesterday showbusiness gave games a ringing endorsement. You could almost feel the ground shifting. E3 2009 couldn't have got off to a better start.

Oh, and another thing: of the eight megastars who turned out today, only one, Cameron, was backing a game that you play with a regular controller.

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