‘Twas the night before E3 and all through L.A… well, developers and media alike were buzzing with the anticipation of the revelations to come throughout the yearly expo. Prepping journalists’ taste buds for the news orgy that would come the next day, Pepcom’s annual eFocus expo displayed a sample of the technologies, software and accessories that would be viewed later during the events of E3.
The theme of the mini-convention was Super Heroes, for no particular reason, and true to the spirit of the industry women clad in Superman, Batman, and yes, Wonder Woman costumes handed out fliers and trinkets at the entrance of downtown L.A.’s California Market Center. Here’s a list of the exhibitors and their offerings for the event.
Zcover- This accessory company showed off its line of after-market case protectors for various electronics, including the iPod, PSP, Creative Media Center, and Trio mobile phones. The cases come in a wide assortment of colors and designs, are machine washable, and have see-through screen protectors built-in. The handy skins clung well to the devices shown, but were also easily removed for quick access to the machine’s surface.
Kingston- Various SD memory cards were on display, in sizes from 512 megs to 1 gig of flash memory.
Toshiba- Laptops were the main attraction at Toshiba’s booth, ranging from the dimuniative Libretto and its docking station to the massive Qosmio system, boasting full media center capabilities without powering up an operating system. Tablet PCs and projectors completed the line-up, with one model featuring a detachable document projector as a video source.
Logitech- Logitech’s offerings consisted of new wireless controllers for PS2 and Xbox, featuring lower prices and higher battery life at the expense of losing force feedback. The controllers’ battery lives have been boosted from 100 hours to 300 without charging, and will retail for under $40 and as cheap as $29 once they hit the streets. Another treat was speakers for the PSP, with a design scheme that matches the portable’s sleek aesthetic, as well as a carrying case. Rounding out the products was a hard case for the PSP capable of holding 4 memory cards and 3 UMDs, in addition to the one stored in the unit itself.
Ubicom- On display was a device that boosted performance in online games for PC. The hardware, plugged into your Ethernet connection, detects when latency-intensive applications are run, and enhances traffic in a way that significantly reduces latency.
Razor- The mouse manufacturer showcased its 1600dpi optical and infrared models, as well as a spiffy mousepad/wrist rest. While not on display, the representative on hand spoke of a new keyboard model coming to stores this October.
Nvidia- Dell’s XPS laptop was on display, specifically the GeForce Go 6800 Ultra underneath its hood. The European handheld Gizmondo, running off of Nvidia’s graphics hardware and proprietary Wireless Media Processor, proved to be a surprisingly powerful especially when set against the PSP’s sharper yet much newer capabilities.
Voodoo PC- Voodoo showcased its “7 Deadly Sins” line of notebooks and desktop PCs, with taglines such as “Unfettered Domination” and “Just F#!kin Deadly” for their Omen and Eden models, respectively. Coinciding with Voodoo’s style in the boutique PC market, there were three separate models codenamed Envy, each boasting features like Dual Battery support, built-in cameras and luscious paint jobs.
eMagin- The technology company demonstrated a gimmicky headset that worked in coordination with a dualshock-like PC controller, as used for Half-Life 2. With the headset in place, the mouse look control is set to coordinate with the motion sensor inside the unit, so as the wearer turns to his left, so does the display on the screen. Actual forward movement is controlled through the controller, creating an interesting dynamic between hand-eye coordination and immersive movement. However, the unit’s price was a little steep for the average gamer: $899.
Konami- The Metal Gear maker displayed its newest dance game, DDR Extreme 2. This release features a remixed song list with recent pop hits by artists such as Sean Paul, full online play, and a mysterious ‘Dance Master’ mode that was left unexplained.
Sandisk- Miniturized technology was the star of this booth, with a 2 gig SD card sharing the limelight with a GameBoy-cart sized MP3 player, available in 512 meg and 1 gig flavors. The player will retail for $119 and $139, depending on the storage capacity.
Jakks Pacific- The plug-n-play TV game company showed off its new Star Wars and Fantastic Four games, with a few new surprises. Starting with the Star Wars game, controllers will be made wireless for an extra $10, bringing retail price up to $29.99. For gamers who are serious about their casual games, models with memory cards will also be sold soon, so players can save their progress midway through a game. Surprisingly, the memory card-enabled models will retail for the games’ current price point of $19.99.
Intel- Not much was shown at the famous manufacturer’s booth. A running slideshow promoted the 2700 6 Multimedia Accelerator, a hardware component that increases performance in running games and DVDs on laptops.
Atlus USA- Ongoing trailers showcased some interesting console offerings, most notably being the aptly-titled Samurai Western from the makers of Way of the Samurai. The game finds the player in the role of the samurai Goijiro Kiryu, as he brings “…justice back to the old west…” The action game features cooperative play in an interesting way-by letting a second player assist the first in the role of Ralph the gunslinger, creating a real sword vs gun gameplay dynamic. Other games showcased included the DS titles Snowboarding Kids, or SBK, “Now with 100% more attitude,” Puyo Pop Fever, and the quirky Under the Knife, the first-ever portable surgery simulator.
Netgear- A bunch of web-based gadgets manned Netgear’s table, ranging from a storage caddy for two IDE hard drives to a mini travel-router, for the distinguished businessman on the go. Also shown was a 54 Mbps wireless router based on game performance, and a pair of 54 Mbps wall-plug wireless range extenders that handily plug into power sockets.
Dell- Dell’s XPS desktop PC was put to work, running a technical demo of Doom 3, media center, a full system virus scan, and a slideshow of high-res pictures all at once. The Doom 3 demo clocked in at around 30 fps and despite bouts of slowdown looked quite playable, even on high settings.
Planetwide Games- New MMORPG RYL: Path of the Emperor was on display, with its visceral hack ‘n slash gameplay appealing to the action oriented. While the game will require a monthly fee of $12.95 when it launches in July, the makers offer an unconventional alternative-instead of paying the fee, gamers can opt to take surveys as payment for playing the game.
ATI- The PCI Express Radeon X800 XL was in full-force, running the current ‘Ruby’ demo on a formidable laptop. However, the most interesting component of ATI’s booth was the tiny Cyon phone. Featuring a flip design akin to the DS, when folded over the model looks like a double-thick cell phone. When opened up, the phone’s dpad and 4-button control pad looks eerily like a shrunken down version of Nintendo’s handheld, setting new standards in miniaturized complexity. While on sale in Korea, it might be a year or two before stateside gamers can get a crack at LG’s impressive cell phone.
Ageia Technologies- Ageia’s aftermarket accelerated physics system is the first of its kind, an additional chip consumers buy and install into their system to handle complex physics computations. Although it’s a strange concept for a product, the representative on hand claimed to have support from the developers of Unreal Tournament 2007, and will release the system once adequate developer support is achieved. The component will set gamers back $249-$299 once it launches.
With each booth issuing statements and secrets to be elaborated on in the coming days, eFocus had its fair share of developments when put in context to the monstrous expo next door. Stay tuned to MyGamer for more news as it breaks from downtown L.A., the heart of E3.