With the last batch of painkillers swallowed, the industry this morning hauled its collective hangover through the halls of E3 2005 for the final time.
But while excitement rode high after a vintage year of hardware revelations, a tough transition and emerging trends left some forecasting casualties in the fight for success and survival.
Over the course of the most thrilling pre-show conference programme in years, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo delighted delegates with their respective visions for the next generation of gaming.
The battle between Microsoft and Sony now promises to be a genuine heavyweight tussle, rather than an impossible game of catch-up. Meanwhile Nintendo, although seeming to bow somewhat to market pressures with the design and basic feature set of its petite, DVD-friendly GameCube successor, will continue to forge its own path with a distinct online strategy and shoring up of its handheld empire.
For the world’s hacks it offered near-limitless scope for column inches quivering with excitement. But with the grip of transition threatening to tighten around the throat of the industry, a sense of measured caution replaced the hullabaloo for the trade.
Publishers are in agreement in their expectation that growth in the next generation will see blockbuster games selling more than ever. But at a cost. “Titles will still sell big, but I think there will be fewer of them,” said Atari UK boss Jeremy Wigmore.
“There will be more titles like GTA, FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer,” agreed Konami UK general manager Pete Stone. “But there will be a lot of titles that aren’t going to pay for themselves, so it will become very much a very risky hit and miss business.”
While the advent of new systems became a focal point for full-price publishers, those in other sectors cited their own fears.
“Stores don’t have elastic shelves and eventually something has to give; there will be losers,” said Garry Williams, managing director of budget games firm Sold Out.