LOS ANGELES--By the time that Electronic Arts' Electronic Entertainment Expo 2008 press conference rolled around in mid-July last year, the publisher had long since announced numerous new franchises that would debut that year. As such, the publisher's E3 appearance was a bit of a dud, with the headline announcement being a publishing deal with id Software on the postapocalyptic action game Rage. Ironically, the biggest EA news of the show came after the press event, when CEO John Riccitiello casually confirmed Star Wars: The Old Republic.
This year, the publisher has once again already revealed much of its plans for later this year and into the next. Headline games planned for release before the end of the publisher's fiscal year include Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Dante's Inferno, Dead Space Extraction, The Sims 3, Army of Two: The 40th Day, The Saboteur, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and a Need for Speed trifecta, plus myriad sports simulation games and EA Partners collaborations.
Nevertheless, EA may have a few mysteries and wild cards that could make an appearance during its E3 2009 press event, which will begin at 2 p.m. PDT on Monday, June 1. Candidates include the ongoing Steven Spielberg collaboration LMNO, as well as Project RedLime from Starbreeze and an untitled venture with Goichi Suda's Grasshopper Manufacture, to name a few. The publisher has also already confirmed for GameSpot that at least one online-oriented Madden NFL 10 announcement is en route.
A full live blog of today's event is below, and full video of the event is also viewable via GameSpot Live.
[1:53] Fresh off of Microsoft's impressive press conference, it's now EA's turn to take the stage.
[1:53] The Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, roughly two miles from the Los Angeles Convention Center, is absolutely packed with people…and more continue to flood in.
[1:53] And it's no surprise, considering the snaking line of press, investors, and other industry watchers that queue up more than an hour before the event began.
[1:54] Men and women in suits mix with journalists in T-shirts…I guess that could be called business casual?
[1:54] EA's seems to be pumping the ever-stimulating EA Trax through the Orpheum's hallowed speakers.
[1:55] On the massive center stage screen, the projector plays looped footage showing off the iconic characters in EA's stable…EA Sports stars, Battlefield 2 stars, Warhammer Online…stars?
[1:55] And a woman's voice chimes in over the sound system.
[1:56] A few reminders, of course. The emergency exits are here, here, and here. Be calm. Do not panic if EA's new products set the place aflame.
[1:56] OK, the doors have been shut…the Orpheum is officially sold out.
[1:59] Cell phones off, iPhones off, Blackberrys off…guess those last two fall outside the realm of your typical definition of "cell phone."
[2:00] The mingling has quickly died down as the show is about to begin.
[2:01] The audience seems to know more than this journalist, because EA is showing no signs of taking the stage.
[2:01] The montage continues to roll…here Spore creatures being goofy, there Sims being slightly less goofy.
[2:02] Army of Two mercenaries join the Mass Effect crew, both blasting at their foe of choice.
[2:04] Larry Fitzgerald makes an amazing grab, as he is wont to do.
[2:04] The lights have dimmed, here we go…
[2:05] Visceral Games logo pops up on the screen. X-ray skulls…to the extreme!
[2:05] And we've got a trailer for Dante's Inferno.
[2:05] Fire-breathing beasts from the pits of hell torment buried humans.
[2:06] Game Hero Dante fights against a massive female giant, wielding a large scythe.
[2:06] He jumps out of a window, confronts Dante's fabled Beatrice. She says, "You broke your promise."
[2:06] The hero takes on hordes of monsters, using weapons and magic alike.
[2:06] The game's tagline? "Go to Hell."
[2:07] And now EA CEO John Riccitiello takes the stage.
[2:07] He recognizes Jonathan Knight, the executive producer of the game.
[2:07] "Tonight at midnight, in dozens of countries around the world, we're introducing The Sims 3."
[2:08] Riccitiello then queues up The Sims 3 trailer as an appetizer for the event.
[2:08] A child Sim fondles her mother's pregnant belly, a father sim tosses his new child, we see town life, Sims playing in the park, dancing under the moon.
[2:08] Brief trailer ends, and Riccitiello reenters.
[2:08] "We've got 12 great games from 12 creators I'm very proud to work with."
[2:09] "Three things to take away: The breadth of entertainment, the Nintendo Wii platform is a spectacular platform being built from the ground up."
[2:10] Chip Lange, a 20 year EA veteran and now the GM of Hasbro's division, takes the stage.
[2:10] He talks about Littlest Pet Shop…it looks like EA is going to be coming heavy right up front.
[2:10] Girls are going to be bringing their pets on three brand-new adventures: Take your pets to the city, the country, and the beach.
[2:10] Littlest Pet Shop Online is coming this fall.
[2:11] The game will incorporate Sackboy-like plushy toys that are o-so cute.
[2:12] "It's safe and fun," Lange emphasizes.
[2:12] He then queues up a trailer for the game, which his little girls are looking forward to, apparently.
[2:12] The Littlest Pet Shop Online trailer talks up the many customization options and minigames.
[2:12] Anyone can play, subscription is optional, the trailer notes.
[2:13] A logo for EA Girls comes up--apparently this is a new label at EA.
[2:13] Executive producer Dyan Williams then takes the stage, followed by four girls. She's here to talk about Charm Girls Club, a new Bratz-like franchise from EA.
[2:13] EA Charm Girls has four titles coming. The crowd seems very excited about this, as a possibly ironic smattering of applause erupts. That or they're plants.
[2:13] Heckling little girls is never a good idea…keep it classy, folks.
[2:14] The girls on stage begin to vigorously shake Wii Remotes as they compete in a hairspray challenge. (Lighters and open flame not included.)
[2:14] The girls exit the stage as a trailer for the game rolls.
[2:15] The trailer shows four ethnically diverse girls having slumber parties, going shopping, dancing, and jumping. BFFs forever! (Wait, that's redundant.)
[2:15] More thunderous applause.
[2:16] Senior VP of EA Games Europe Patrick Soderlund then comes on stage to show off Need for Speed Shift, one of the three titles that are part of the NFS franchise relaunch.
[2:16] Soderlund calls out the cockpit view that Shift will have, says it offers the same rush as racing real cars.
[2:17] Until now, driving games have not been able to recreate the power and emotion of racing at top speeds.
[2:17] The video for the demo abruptly cuts out, and recues it. Remain calm and carry on…
[2:18] Shows various racing styles, from being precise and clean to trading paint with other drivers' cars.
[2:18] Shift is about how you drive to get to the finish line, he says.
[2:18] The driver profile gives each player a unique persona that compliments their driving style.
[2:18] It looks like we're going to get actual gameplay footage.
[2:19] A demoer comes on stage, and races around downtown London in a BMW M2.
[2:19] He definitely falls into the aggressive category, as he ricochets off cars in the first corner.
[2:19] In the straightaway he floors it, slowing only for the corner. While turning, he gets T-boned, but manages to keep driving.
[2:20] Another straightaway, and the speeds reach in excess of 240 km/h (149 mph).
[2:20] But, unfortunately, he wrecks, as the screen turns grey.
[2:21] There's a competition at EA's booth where the best racer gets to go home with a real-life BMW. (Note to self: Visit EA's booth during show.)
[2:21] And it's BioWare time, as Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk take the stage.
[2:22] They're here to show Dragon Age: Origins on consoles for the first time.
[2:22] "Dragon Age: Origins is our biggest, and most ambitious game to date. Our darkest to date, as well," says one of the good doctors.
[2:22] They call out the October 20 release date, and flip to footage of the game.
[2:23] A familiar-looking trailer rolls, showing the Grey Wardens fighting against The Dark Spawn.
[2:23] A heavy metal song accompanying the trailer dispels the fantasy vibe to a certain extent.
[2:24] Those who have compared the game to Lord of the Rings clearely have not seen the uncesored trailer, as blood splatters, women's thighs are shown, gore flies. This is definitely a dark game in the Conan the Barbarian vein.
[2:24] Muzyka and Zeschuk return to show off…Mass Effect 2!
[2:24] They give a brief rundown of the original Mass Effect, saying it broke RPG sales records on the 360 when it first came out.
[2:25] Shephard's latest mission is one in which he is not expected to survive, and he must find a team to join him in this suicidal mission. (Yes, he is still alive apparently.)
[2:25] We look forward to bringing Mass Effect 2 to the Xbox 360 and PC early next year--no mention of a PS3 version.
[2:25] They then kick it over to the first full gameplay footage of Mass Effect 2.
[2:26] Joker's back--Seth Green getting more voice work!
[2:26] The Normandy slips through space, then cutting to Shephard and several others from the original Mass Effect fighting for their lives.
[2:27] The game will feature a number of new weapons, and it looks like some kind of nuclear shoulder-fired weapon like the Fat Man in Fallout 3.
[2:27] The trailer cuts, and the crowd applauds.
[2:28] Looks like we're shifting to EA Sports now, as a montage shows amateur sports players failing miserably at their sports of choice…to comical effect. It's all fun and game until someone gets hurt--and then it's only fun.
[2:28] EA Sports, it's in the game…and look who it is! Peter Moore takes the stage to excited applause.
[2:28] The former Microsoft exec and EA Sports president talks about "the most diverse product portfolio," starting with Fight Night Round 4.
[2:29] The game will help EA Sports "deliver the win."
[2:29] Tyson and Ali on the box, as has been previously announced. Round 3 raised the graphics standard, while Moore promises Round 4 will raise the bar on animation and feel.
[2:29] A live demo of the game ensues.
[2:29] Four key pillars of boxing: Speed, strength, strategy, and style.
[2:30] Round 4's graphics ran at 60 frames per second--Round 3 only ran at 30.
[2:30] Tyson and Ali duke it out, a match-up fans of the Sweet Science could only dream of previously.
[2:31] Ali just owned Tyson, by the way.
[2:31] Height and reach matter in this game, the producer of the game says, giving Ali the clear advantage.
[2:31] (Guess the producer has never heard of Manny Pacquiao.)
[2:32] It's a lot more dynamic with the new physics engine, Moore notes.
[2:32] Tyson continues to try to get close to Ali, but Ali keeps him at a distance.
[2:32] They then slow it down with a replay, and those sweat-spraying punches come to life.
[2:32] Moore ushers the Fight Night guys off stage, and says the game will come out a week early…now expected June 25.
[2:33] Announcing the next new global franchise from EA: EA Sports MMA!
[2:33] "It's time to ground and pound." Coming in 2010.
[2:33] UFC Unleashed has some competition, it would seem.
[2:34] "We are more than ready for the fight," says Moore with typical braggadocio.
[2:34] Moore then addresses online play in EA Sports titles.
[2:34] Over 500 million games played on the EA Sports servers, he says.
[2:34] FIFA 09 Ultimate Team DLC received 1.3 million downloads when it was released.
[2:34] EA Tiburon co-founder Steve Chiang then takes the stage.
[2:35] He is here to talk about networked play, showing off Tiger Woods PGA tour Online, which will launch this fall. Play Tiger right in your browser.
[2:36] He then talks about two new connected features.
[2:36] The first is team builder, for NCAA Football 10.
[2:36] It's a Web application, you can create and build your team with various logos that can be imported. You can customize anything from the stadium right down to the turf to player jerseys and looks.
[2:37] Team Builder is available today, apparently, more than one month before NCAA Football hits stores.
[2:37] "This next feature may end productivity in the workplace forever."
[2:37] Online franchises confirmed for Madden NFL 10…who's excited?
[2:38] This is a heavily Web-based feature, a full fantasy team suite of tools.
[2:38] All of it integrates with the actual Madden NFL 10 game.
[2:38] And Moore is back, talking about a bold new action. He is, of course, talking about Wii games.
[2:39] Response to EA Sports Active has been "overwhelming," Moore says, saying the game is good PR for the industry.
[2:40] A trailer for EA Sports Active rolls.
[2:40] A select few were selected to take EA's 30 day challenge.
[2:41] A lot of people seemed to lose 30 pounds in 30 days…someone should make a reality TV show about this! Wait, what's that? There already is one?
[2:42] The trailer ends, with Moore welcoming to the stage Allison Sweeney, a young mother who apparently shed her baby weight just using EA Sports active.
[2:42] All cynicism aside, she seems genuinely enthusiastic about the product.
[2:42] Moore says that 600,000 units of EA Sports Active have been sold.
[2:43] That's the best Wii launch in EA Sports history.
[2:43] Moore announces the first expansion pack for EA Sports Active is in development, due this holiday.
[2:43] Perfect stocking stuffer, Sweeney quickly chimes in…guess she is on message after all.
[2:44] Moore then transitions to EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis.
[2:44] "It was finally time to bring an authentic Tennis game to the Wii."
[2:44] Moore brings out the game's producer, Thomas Singleton, to show off the game.
[2:45] The pair then play a game, Moore as Pete Sampras, Singleton as John McEnroe.
[2:45] Singleton talks some trash: "Pete's got a lot of tools, but you need to know how to use them."
[2:46] Moore misses the first few points, and gets a bit ticked off, to put it nicely.
[2:46] Oh, what's this? Pete Sampras comes up behind Moore.
[2:46] Moore, oblivious, continues to berate the virtual Sampras for his poor play.
[2:46] Sampras then takes the controller, and Singleton kindly explains to him how to play tennis.
[2:47] Sampras takes the first point with ease.
[2:47] Sampras has clearly done this before, as he easily scores an ace.
[2:48] Moore asks, "How does this feel in relation to the real Wimbeldon?" "This is easier," Sampras deadpans.
[2:49] EA Sports wraps up, Moore and Sampras and Singleton exit the stage, as The Saboteur lead designer Tom French takes the stage.
[2:49] The Pandemic staffer introduces a trailer.
[2:50] As Nazis act like jerks in a cabaret (imagine that!), a note passed to an intense-looking civilian, and he walks out of the theater.
[2:51] The game has a heavily stylized look--nearly black and white--as French Resistance fighters plague the Nazi ranks, taking sniper shots from rooftops, sneaking up on Germans and tossing them off buildings.
[2:51] The stylized look is called "The Will to Fight." Sean, the protagonist in the game, is shown climbing up buildings. As he fights, he adds color the graphics, "inspiring the people."
[2:52] The game's hero then takes a Nazi soldier's uniform, using it as a disguise to plant an explosive.
[2:52] The bomb goes off, and the Nazis begin to fire at him….he now needs to flee. He hijacks a vehicle while being pelted by bullets.
[2:53] Dumping it, he heads to Paris' Red Light District, where he is able to hide safely. Apparently all of Nazi-occupied Paris will be an "open sandbox" which players can roam around in.
[2:54] Sean is then shown coming out of a brothel, zipping up his pants. Oooh la la, quelle scandale!
[2:55] Riccitiello then says that the event will shift toward its EA Partners program, which teams with developers to help release new products like Rock Band (Harmonix) and Orange Box (Valve).
[2:55] Recently minted EA partner Tim Schafer of Double Fine takes the stage to talk about Brutal Legend.
[2:56] Schafer talks about the "vocal talent" that have contributed the game. "Did you make this game to meet all these people? Yeah. I'm sorry you all didn't think of it first."
[2:56] He talks about meeting Rob Halford, singer for Judas Priest. Apparently, he's a pretty funny guy.
[2:56] Halford did such a good job leading a biker gang, Schafer said, they had him do more voices.
[2:56] Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead be in the game as well, "lovingly rendered down to the very last mole."
[2:58] Lita Ford, the "Queen of Heavy Metal," is also in the game wearing an outfit that would be most politely described as "provocative."
[2:58] Last but not least, Schafer announces that Ozzy Osbourne will make an appearance in the game, and is shown in his underground lair surrounded by motel lava.
[2:59] Schafer then shows a portion of a new trailer that is supposed to debut tomorrow.
[3:00] The trailer shows Jack Black's character wielding an axe, riding in a hot rod, smoking a cigarette.
[3:00] The game looks positively hilarious--which is to be expected, considering Schafer's noted work on Psychonauts.
[3:00] Black apparently recorded over 2,600 lines of dialogue for the game; he appears delivering "a special message" via video.
[3:01] "S'up gamers. Jack Black here." He's got an Xbox 360 controller surgically grafted directly into his brain, "making me the human video game!"
[3:02] Schafer, controlling him, says I should stop, we should just run some footage. Black responds, "You have footage of the game, why did I drill a freaking hole in my skull?!"
[3:02] "I thought it'd be funny," Schafer responds.
[3:02] As previously noted, the game is coming "this Rocktober."
[3:04] Cevat Yerli, CEO and president of Crytek, appears on stage. He is, as previously announced, here to announce EA is publishing Crysis 2 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. It is being developed simultaneously on all three consoles.
[3:04] Yerli says more on the game will be announced later this year, and brings Riccitiello back on stage to announce a new member of EA Partners.
[3:05] The people behind Grand Theft Auto, Grand Theft Auto, and Crackdown…that's right Realtime Worlds.
[3:05] And we're talking about is APB--the so-called "Grand Theft Auto MMO"--which will be published by EA Partners.
[3:05] Dave Jones takes the stage, better known as the creator of the GTA franchise. He shows off the impressive customization abilities that wowed audiences during the 2008 Game Developers Conference.
[3:06] Every character is unique, created by a player.
[3:06] He then cues up a trailer for APB.
[3:07] A city that looks not unlike that of GTAIV is shown, though with a grittier, more stylized edge.
[3:07] Cops attempt to keep the gangs in check…each of these are player-controlled factions, by the way.
[3:07] There also appears to be non-player characters and some sort of storyline.
[3:08] Suddenly, a Star Wars anthem comes up--looks like we're going to see a bit more of BioWare.
[3:09] A whole platoon of jedi knights take the stage to introduce Star Wars: The Old Republic, the upcoming MMORPG from BioWare Austin.
[3:09] Muzyka returns with Darrell Rodriguez from LucasArts, both wearing Obi-wan like robes.
[3:12] The two talk up the game, saying it will be a rich, new MMOG, a company defining opportunity, Muzyka says.
[3:12] Rodriguez says that SW: TOR will be the first-ever fully voiced MMOG.
[3:12] Muzyka says that this may be one of the largest voice-over projects ever.
[3:12] Everyone one of the classes in the game will have their own unique story, Rodriguez notes
[3:12] Muzyka then debuts the very first cinematic trailer for SW:TOR.
[3:13] The jedi knights shuffle off stage as the trailer cues up.
[3:13] A Sith lord is shown, as well as a Mandalorian assassin.
[3:13] They are attacking a Jedi temple, and a spaceship crashes right through the front door.
[3:14] An army of Sith exit the ship, and a massive battle ensues.
[3:15] Red lightsabers clash with blue and green energy weapons. Force pushing will apparently be in the game…or the cinematic at least.
[3:15] A duel between the Jedi champion and the Sith champion, and it looks like the Sith will come out on top. "You were deceived, and now your republic shall fall," says the evil victor.
[3:16] The city surrounding the Jedi temple is then put to the sword…er, lightsaber.
[3:16] The trailer concludes with the city in flames, and the dark lord donning his hood.
[3:16] Riccitiello returns to the stage.
[3:16] And it looks like Riccitiello is wrapping up.
[3:16] He invites attendees to the booth, and that's it from EA!