News from the virtual world:
— E FOR SOME: The video-game industry deserves some credit for reaching out to fans with the E For All Expo, held last weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The inaugural event drew 18,000 gamers — not bad for the first time, but less than half the attendance of the fan-created Penny Arcade Expo, which attracted 37,000 people to Seattle in August.
"We are thrilled with the attendance, and we are pleased that we delivered the event we aimed for, which was a celebration that truly was for the entire game community," said Mary Dolaher, the CEO of IDG World Expo, which mounted the event.
For gamers who got their first chance to play Konami's "Metal Gear Solid 4" and Nintendo's "Super Smash Bros. Brawl," the trip seemed to be worth it.
Still, IDG needs to get Sony and Microsoft on board if it expects more players to show up. And it needs to rethink its schedule: Next year's E For All is slated for the last weekend of August, the traditional dates for Penny Arcade Expo.
— A C-NOTE FOR SANTA: The PlayStation 3 continues to stumble along. In September, U.S. sales of Sony's newest console lagged far behind those of Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii.
Still, there's plenty of time left for holiday shopping — and Sony is hoping a $100 price cut will encourage all you Santas to put a PS3 under the tree.
The $499 starter PS3, with a 60-gigabyte hard drive, is being replaced by a $399 unit with 40 gigabytes. The other trade-off: The $400 model won't play PlayStation 2 games.
Sony's hoping that players will finally shift their focus to an expanding lineup of PS3 software, like the spectacular new "Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction."
Sony's higher-end, 80-gigabyte PS3 is also getting a price cut, from $599 to $499. That narrows the gap with the $449 Xbox 360 Elite — though it's still twice as expensive as the Wii.
— DRAW PLAY: I thought the PlayStation 2 epic "Okami" was the best game of 2006 — but most of you were too busy chain-sawing aliens in "Gears of War" to take a look at this masterpiece from Capcom's now-disbanded Clover Studio.
Well, here's your second chance: Capcom is digging up this buried treasure and will be republishing it for the Wii.
"Okami" always felt like a Wii game anyway. Throughout the game you're required to use a "Celestial Brush" to draw spells or solve puzzles.
On the PS2, you had to hold an awkward combination of buttons to use the brush; the Wii, presumably, will let you draw by simply pointing the remote at the screen.
Since the Clover team has separated, the Wii translation is being handled by Ready at Dawn, the studio behind the PSP game "Daxter."
I almost wish I hadn't played "Okami" already, because it's sure to be one of the best Wii games of 2008.
— SPY GAME: Do you have what it takes to be the next 007? Of course, you do; all those hours spent playing "GoldenEye" have to be worth something. And the surveillance arm of British intelligence seems to agree.
GCHQ, which stands for Government Communications Headquarters, is reaching out to potential recruits by advertising in video games.
British players of "Splinter Cell: Double Agent," "Need for Speed Carbon" and "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" will discover in-game billboards promoting "Careers in British Intelligence."
GCHQ said it hoped the campaign would "capture the imagination of people with a particular interest in [information technology]." No guarantees that you'll be issued a license to kill.
— NEW IN STORES: Besides "Ratchet & Clank," Sony is also bringing collectible card games to the PS3 with "The Eye of Judgment." ... The week's big Wii title is Capcom's "Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure." ... The Xbox 360 and PS3 share THQ's "Conan" (the barbarian, not the talk-show host) and Codemasters' "Clive Barker's Jericho." ... Capcom's wacky lawyer returns to the DS in "Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations." ... Namco's popular flight sim finally arrives on the 360 in "Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation." ... And the hills are alive with the sounds of "High School Musical: Sing It!" (Disney, PlayStation 2), "Dancing With the Stars" (Activision, Wii, PS2) and "Rhythm 'n Notes" (Agetec, DS).