ECTS 2003: Show Round-Up Report
This year's European Computer Trade Show has come to a close. Here we summarise our impressions of what was on offer. PSP news included.
For a massive games industry territory that produces among the best products in the world and, according to research firm Media Create, sees faster market growth that North America or Japan, the continent's annual European Computer Trade Show is still a remarkably unexceptional experience. But it is definitely getting better, there's no question about it.
Since its perilous move to the Excel venue in East London in 2001, the show needed a major rethink, and last year's subsequent move to Earl's Court, along with the addition of the PlayStation Experience consumer show running alongside the trade event, at least bought the event's organisers some time.
This year they went one step further to improve the event, with the return of some key exhibitors, including Nintendo who were situated outside the event with the main focus being a big truck full of the latest GameCube and GBA titles, and a Mario Kart Double Dash!! frenzy, that demonstrated the newest, undeniably enjoyable version of the code.
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's show, the PlayStation Experience 2003, kicked off on Day 2 of ECTS, and injected some excitement into proceedings that was missing on Day 1. The Experience show continues until this Sunday, and is quite probably the best consumer videogame event ever staged in the UK.
With the latest versions of Gran Turismo 4, Ghosthunter, Jak II: Renegade, Ratchet & Clank 2, Syphon Filter and much more all playable, SCEE's exhibition of their own titles combines a fantastic firstparty line-up, with the bonus of screaming 'world premiere' at consumers, most of whom will have got their hands on these titles for the first time.
But the Experience has been much more than that, with the inclusion of most every thirdparty-published PlayStation title that matters right now; a unique mix of on-stage entertainment from popular UK acts, artists and groups including Big Brovaz, Triple 8, Javine and Killa Kella; and numerous buzzing tournaments including Sega's Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution competition, from which the winner walked away with a gorgeous full-scale VF4E arcade cabinet.
Moving back to the show itself, and there were still several key showings not to be missed. While the usual E3 déja-vu kicked in with showings of such still-impressive products as Metal Gear Solid 3 and Half-Life 2, a smattering of new products were on offer to get excited about. The newest of these was probably Driver 3 from Atari, which you can check out in our related article today, but was video-only at the show unfortunately.
Also providing the show with a much-needed kick in the backside were Atari's Unreal II on Xbox and Unreal Tournament 2004 for PC, both of which impressed, Colin 04 from Codies, Capcom offerings such as Viewtiful Joe, THQ titles including Sphinx and Broken Sword 3, and a very strong UbiSoft stand that boasted Beyond Good & Evil, XIII, Far Cry and Prince of Persia, among others.
The quality of UbiSoft's line-up was recognised at the ECTS 2003 Awards, where the French publisher scooped prizes for XIII, Far Cry, Everquest II and Splinter Cell. Xbox was awarded Best Console, Nintendo were named Best Publisher, while ATI unsurprisingly won Best PC Hardware for their Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card. Other products including Viewtiful Joe, EyeToy: Play, GTA Vice City and Half-Life 2, were also recognised.
Although Microsoft had a booth for meetings, no firstparty Xbox titles were on show, with the company instead preparing for the massive X03 trade event, which starts in a couple of weeks in Cannes, Southern France. Meanwhile at ECTS, Nokia continued their industry push for N-Gage, with an attractive stand showcasing the first wave of titles and shouting about the newly announced deal with EA.
Around the show, the most exciting news buzzing around was in relation to PlayStation Portable / PSP development, which suggested that the first development kits are being sent to key developers over the next couple of weeks. The first title known to exist for the platform is Sahara, based on a movie license for a film coming next year, directed by Breck Eisner and depicting the evils of an African dictator's nuclear waste disposal plant. In addition, it is strongly rumoured that Sony's The Getaway will launch with the platform.
Overall the show was still sheepish in the gigantic shadow casted by E3, but certainly restored hope that, as the European industry grows and matures, perhaps it might one day compete in terms of scale and grandeur. All going to plan, there will be even more at ECTS 2004 that somehow incents less time spent in The Tournament, a drinking establishment around the corner.
Editorial Director, Kikizo.com