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Comment: Taking the Pulse of the Industry

As well as providing overseas visitors with an altogether unhealthy dose of jetlag, the E3 Expo serves a number of very important roles for the games industry - chief among which is its provision of an effective barometer for the health of the industry as a whole.

In effect, you can take the pulse of the games market at E3 and make a fairly accurate prediction for the coming year's performance - witness the subdued shows during the last "transition period" as publishers tightened their belts and fretted over their falling revenues for a good example.

This year's show has been widely categorised as disappointing in terms of the software on show, even if PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS are certainly considered to be very exciting new platforms. There's a strong feeling that the industry is now truly into the harvest period on the current generation of console hardware, and sadly, this seems to be fuelling investment in bankable sequels and existing franchises rather than in innovative titles which could exploit niches within the huge installed base of the PlayStation 2. There are exceptions, of course, but in general E3 this year was not an exciting one from the software perspective.

Which isn't to say that the industry is in the same unhealthy state that we saw during the last generational transition. In fact, the mood around the show was positively bullish - and nowhere is that more obvious than in some of the interviews which have been posted after the event. EA's Larry Probst, for example, happily discussed a vision of the coming years which would see his company continuing to grow through the next transition period and building both market share and revenues for years to come. Microsoft's J Allard talked about tackling the issues needed to bring the games industry up to the same kind of level of penetration as the movie industry. All around the show, the same thing was evident; big ideas, bullish projections and almost unbridled optimism.

The seeming failure of many companies to innovate and branch out in their software development is disappointing (although with the industry on the verge of seeing three new console platforms announced, it's not impossible that developers could be keeping their powder dry for the next generation platforms), but overall the pulse of the industry is strong and steady. If E3 is anything to go by, this is set to be another amazing year for the videogames market.

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Rob Fahey avatar
Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.