SANTA MONICA, Calif.--Earlier today, megapublisher Electronic Arts coyly released part of its upcoming game schedule, although it said that more would be revealed at the afternoon's press conference at the Fairmont Hotel's Starlight Room.
Alongside SimCity Societies for the PC, Valve's The Orange Box, Mercenaries 2: World In Flames, Crysis, Hellgate: London, and the new Simpsons game, there will be an as-yet-unnamed EA casual trivia game for the Nintendo Wii, and the introduction of several mainstream casual games for mobiles, handhelds, and the Wii.
Former Activision publishing boss Kathy Vrabeck, now head of EA's casual games division, will be one of the many executives stepping up on stage to show off the megapublisher's upcoming slate.
[2:03] The press conference room is starting to get quite crowded, and some people are having to stand at the back. A lot of coffee is being consumed.
[2:06] People have been told to turn cell phones, pagers, Blackberrys, and "anything else" off. We will be starting soon.
[2:09] As the Pink Panther theme is playing, a herd of gaming press is cramming into the hall, with some having to stand at the back. People are being urged to squeeze in next to each other so everyone can "enjoy" the presentation.
[2:12] The lights go down. A presentation starts to play, showing a montage of upcoming games, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, playground, mobiles, a Wii trivia game, and Boogie.
[2:13] An exec takes to the stage and encourages the audience to visit the company's booth in the Barker Hangar to see the games there. She introduces Kathy Vrabeck, head of the company's casual game division.
[2:14] Vrabeck talks about the company's lofty goals, to get to the 2 billion consumers that are not gamers but the company thinks are out there "ready to game."
[2:15] She's been thinking about what's next for the gaming industry. She says the issue with casual entertainment is that its different business models, game sensibilities, and the like are different from those in core gaming.
[2:16] The company wants to "truly bring gaming to the masses," going after kids, middle-aged women, girls--anyone who doesn't self-identify as a traditional gamer.
[2:17] Casual is very much a multiplatform genre, she says. Consoles like the Wii and the DS handhelds are good because they are family friendly. EA will become the "clear leader" in casual gaming, Vrabeck vows.
[2:18] The first group at EA to get casual was Pogo.com, which has more than 6.5 million subscribers, half of whom are women over 30, and it will be coming to Asia soon.
[2:19] A short montage showing off Pogo.com.
[2:21] Now we're on to Boogie. We haven't really seen it until we have seen it in 3D, apparently. Time to get out the 3D glasses!
[2:22] Alan Tascan, general manager from EA Montreal, takes the stage, and picks a Boogie character--a big guy with spiky hair, wearing a pair of white underwear and a vest.
[2:23] He looks quite funny dancing across the stage. Someone calls out, "Work it baby!" and the audience cracks up.
[2:23] He's had enough now.
[2:24] No, he hasn't--he's going on to the singing part.
[2:25] He's singing "Dontcha" by the Pussycat Dolls. "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" he asks the audience.
[2:25] Time to put on the glasses!
[2:26] This is one of the special effects in the game, you can play it in 3D. There are many others.
[2:28] Now onto EA Mobile. This is the quickest way to expand into the nongaming market, Vrabeck believes. Not everyone can afford a console, but almost everyone has a game-capable mobile.
[2:28] A montage shows EA mobile games Madden, Tetris, NBA Live 08, Bejeweled, and Nuclear Meltdown.
[2:29] EA Canada's Dave McCarthy, executive producer of the title, comes on stage to talk about EA Playground with an entourage.
[2:30] McCarthy and friends play Dodgeball, in a "four-player Wii-only action game." There are three moves: catch with the B button, throw with the Wii Remote, and move with the D pad.
[2:31] They lose 3-0.
[2:31] EA is not just a multiplayer game, it has a full single-player mode, too. There are traditional games like Dodgeball, but also some "over-the-top fantasy games." He is going to show us one called Kicks, a mix of football and tennis.
[2:32] The aim of the game is to take your player on a series of quests to become the king or queen of the playground. It's a game for kids, and the kid inside all of us, he says, and leaves the stage.
[2:33] Vrabeck steps up again. She's talking about an EALA title called Smarty Pants, which is a trivia game for the Wii.
[2:35] The gamers playing spin a wheel by using the Wii Remote to pick a player to start. The game seems to be a combination of trivia and minigames like tug of war.
[2:36] EALA is doing more too--they're in partnership with Spielberg. Neil Young takes to the stage to talk.
[2:37] "We announced in 2005 to develop three pieces of IP with Spielberg, and in 2006 work started on two of these," he says. "The first game attempts to answer the company's founding question: Can a computer game make you cry? The second is a blocks-based game." These are the LMNO and PRQS games Young talked with GameSpot about early in the week.
[2:40] The player demoing PQRS uses the Wii Remote to knock down a pile of blocks, some of which do things like disappear, explode, or react with others. The aim of the game is to knock down the structure in one throw.
[2:40] There are a variety of themes, including medieval and Western. It comes with a designer so gamers can design their own levels.
[2:40] He then blows up some virtual cows in a level one of the testers created.
[2:42] Alex Rigopolous from MTV Harmonix takes the stage to talk about the game "which opened the Sony conference yesterday to much applause." He is referring, of course, to Rock Band at the Microsoft Press Conference.
[2:43] He shows us some of the peripherals, including the drums and the Fender guitar.
[2:45] "Rock Band is not just a game or a title, it's a platform for delivering and exploring music in a new way," he says.
[2:46] "Every single week after the game is released there will be a new batch of songs online," promises Rigopolous. They aim to have thousands of songs available online.
[2:46] There will be a Rock Band advisory committee set up which will include celebrity musicians, who will help decide which songs to include. Steven Van Zandt, the guitarist of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and a star of TV's The Sopranos, will be its chair.
[2:46] Celebrity alert! "Little Steven" takes to the stage. He thinks the game is fun, and that it will introduce a lot of great music to people, and that it will help a lot of upcoming musicians.
[2:50] Van Zandt is going to announce some of the songs. This is just the beginning, he hastens to add, so if you don't see your favorite, don't panic!
[2:53] He announces a selection of titles. The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," David Bowie's "Suffragette City," Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive," Rush's "Tom Sawyer," Nirvana's "In Bloom," Stone Temple Pilots' "Vasoline," and Foo Fighters' "Learn to Fly."
[2:53] MTV Games will be offering full albums for download on the platform. The first to be available will be The Who's Who's Next.
[2:53] They will also be releasing a "substantial amount of tracks" from heavy metal supergroup Metallica, including "Enter Sandman," which will be on the game disc.
[2:54] A group take to the stage to play Bowie's "Suffragette City." It's all over, kids. Notably, there was nothing on Will Wright's Spore.