There are exciting times ahead in the world of electronic entertainment, although they can be hard to identify in the cacophony of the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3).
The industry's biggest trade fair kicked off with an ear-splitting preview in Los Angeles on Tuesday as row after row of gamemakers showed off their latest offerings with the help of scantily clad models, booming gunfire and graphics that edge ever-closer to the hyper-realistic holy grail of computer gaming.
E3 organisers said around 400 exhibiting companies from 70 countries are at this year's show. The size of the gathering testifies to its popularity. The NPD Group, which tracks the industry, said videogame sales in the US totalled R76-billion last year with worldwide sales about double that figure.
And that was in a down year, when sales were low because consoles are getting long in the tooth and customers began waiting for new models to hit the showrooms.
Most of the big news from the four-day confab was known in advance. There are upgrades for Microsoft's Xbox console, which is gaining on Sony's PlayStation 2; then from Nintendo and Sony, new portable gaming consoles that'll spark a new handheld war for the hearts of male teens and the pockets of their parents; and new game announcements.
To keep sales up, Sony announced it was dropping the price of its PS2. Microsoft, meanwhile, was intent on improving its Xbox. It unveiled a live video-conferencing feature for its consoles, allowing up to five players to see and speak to each other as they blast away.
Another significant announcement for the Xbox was the news that publishing giant Electronic Arts will start to produce games for it.
Since conventional wisdom states that any console is only as good as the games it plays, the deal gives a real boost to Microsoft's dream of surpassing Sony as the industry's leading console.
"This is what gamers have been clamouring for in the past couple of years," said Cameron Ferroni, general manager of Xbox Live at Microsoft, with only a hint of hype.
Sony, meanwhile, has said it hopes that its entry into the handheld gaming market might give birth to a new cash cow and is even touting its PSP as the Walkman of the 21st century. The comment refers to Sony's portable cassette player of the 1970s that epitomised the company's leadership of consumer electronics.
Now Sony has largely missed out so far on the latest wave of portables. But with the ability to play movies, games and music, the PSP marks Sony's bold attempt to leapfrog the entire field. Business 2.0 magazine has already dubbed it the iPod killer, predicting that it will mark the beginning of the end for Apple Computer's dominant MP3 player.