News from the virtual world:
Naturally, Activision's forthcoming "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" drew a lot of attention. Its new highlights include a multiplayer battle mode and head-to-head face-offs against "boss" players like former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash.
But the studio that created "GH" has moved on to Electronic Arts' and MTV Games' "Rock Band."
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Crowds lined up at EA's E3 suite for hands-on time with "Rock Band," which adds bass, drums and vocals to the "GH" formula.
Developer Harmonix is promising new downloadable tunes — and even full albums, starting with The Who's "Who's Next" — every week.
Metallica will be making some of its most popular tracks available, and Steven Van Zandt will help Harmonix pick new songs.
At least half a dozen other games this fall are trying to recreate some of that "Guitar Hero" magic.
Disney's "Hannah Montana Music Jam" and Ubisoft's "Jam Sessions" both turn the Nintendo DS into a guitar.
Karaoke lovers can chime in on Disney's "High School Musical: Sing It!" or the latest installments of Sony's "SingStar" franchise.
Dancers can get down with EA's "Boogie" or Konami's "Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party."
Even the crazed bunnies in Ubisoft's "Rayman Raving Rabbids 2" have formed a band; they do a mean (as in unlistenable) cover of "Smoke on the Water."
— ALL ABOARD: Just about every game company (other than Sony and Microsoft) is jumping aboard the Wii bandwagon.
Designers are finding all sorts of wacky things you can do with the Wii's remote controller.
There are fighting games like Atari's "Godzilla Unleashed" and "Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3."
There are party games like Atari's "Jenga" and Electronic Arts' untitled trivia game.
There are family-oriented "sandbox" games like EA's "Blocks" and "MySims."
And there are the aforementioned "Boogie," "Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party" and "Rayman Raving Rabbids 2."
Oddly enough, there are two games in which you control a bubble of liquid: THQ's "De Blob" and Konami's "Dewy's Adventure."
But most intriguing of all may be Capcom's "Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure," a colorful adventure in which you use the Wii remote to pick up the objects you need to solve puzzles.
It's reminiscent of the "point-and-click" adventures that were popular in the early days of computer gaming. Could we be seeing a renaissance of the genre?
— MOORE ON THE MOVE: The biggest surprise out of E3 came less than a week after it ended, when Peter Moore, the head of Microsoft's Xbox division, announced he was leaving the company to take the top job at EA Sports.
The move seems a little odd: Why give up a job where you can handle all sorts of games in favor of a job where you're stuck in one niche? (Granted, it's a broad, very lucrative niche.)
But Moore said he wanted to move his family back to the San Francisco Bay Area, where EA is located, from Microsoft headquarters in Washington state. A $1.5 million signing bonus from EA probably didn't hurt.
Moore's replacement at Microsoft will be Don Mattrick — who, incidentally, left his role as president of EA's studios last year after 15 years with the company.
— NEW IN STORES: Activision's "Guitar Hero Encore Rocks the 80s" shreds the PlayStation 2. ... EA Sports' "NASCAR 08" takes another lap on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PS2. ... Nintendo sneaks the poorly reviewed "Escape from Bug Island" (for the Wii) into North America. ... Sega's "Alien Syndrome" (Wii, PSP) and Square Enix's "Final Fantasy II" (PSP) get updated for the 21st century. ... Koei's strategy series gets small in "Dynasty Warriors DS: Fighter's Battle" (Koei, DS).