Real news from the virtual world:
— RETURN ENGAGEMENT: The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the video-game industry's premier North American convention, has been pretty low-key the last few years, exchanging the glitz of the early '00s for a more subdued event.
But many of the companies involved thought E3 needed to get the excitement back, particularly during a time in which business was booming.
So when E3 returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center next June, the old spectacle — the enormous displays, deafening music, scantily dressed "booth babes" — is expected back, too.
Instead of limiting the guest list to 5,000, the Entertainment Software Association is welcoming "all qualified computer and video game industry audiences."
In 2006, that crowd soared past 60,000. E3 still won't be open to the game-playing public, though.
After this year's show, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I hate E3 like this." And Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North America, compared it to "a pipe-fitters show in the basement."
Both men were psyched for the return of a flashier E3.
"The new, larger event is better for industry leaders and for serious gamers," Riccitiello said. And Detoc said, "The changes made will ensure that the 2009 E3 Expo conveys the best of what makes us proud as entertainment leaders."
— SHOW DOGS: The expected return of a more flamboyant E3 appears to have driven the last nail into the coffin of its sister show, the consumer-oriented E for All.
IDG, the company that mounted the event over the last two years, said it won't be returning next year.
"We encourage E for All exhibitors to participate in the new E3 event, which we believe will meet their needs as well as those of the industry at large," an IDG spokesman told the Voodoo Extreme Web site.
E for All won't be missed. The 2008 show attracted just 15,000 attendees, and video-game powerhouses like Nintendo and Sony didn't bother to show up.
On the other hand, the fan-friendly Penny Arcade Expo shows no sign of slowing down.
PAX 2008 drew 58,000 gamers to Seattle in August, and publishers have embraced it as a way to give enthusiasts their first look at the fall's biggest releases.
PAX co-founder Mike Krahulik isn't worried about the new E3 making a dent in his show's attendance.
"E3 has always been and looks like it will continue to be about the industry," he told Edge Online. "PAX is about the community around games as much as it's about the games themselves."
— I BENT MY WOOKIEE: Of the dozens of "Star Wars" games published over the last three decades, BioWare's 2003 "Knights of the Old Republic" was the most ambitious and satisfying.
So when BioWare announced in 2006 that it was developing a massively multiplayer online game, fans dreamed that the studio was returning to the Old Republic timeline, about 4,000 years before the events in the "Star Wars" films.
The force is with them. After months of rumors, BioWare has confirmed the existence of "The Old Republic," which producer Dallas Dickinson described as "'Knights of the Old Republic III' through 'Knights of the Old Republic X' — and we're releasing them all at once."
You'll be able to play as a Jedi or a Sith, and the studio said the game will focus on storytelling more than combat.
What will become of LucasArts' current MMO, "Star Wars Galaxies"?
"We think the games can live side-by-side," said LucasArts online director Tom Nichols. "They obviously have very different timelines and will have very different game mechanics."
— NEW IN STORES: In a week of huge releases, the standout is "Fallout 3," (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3), Bethesda Softworks' long-awaited post-apocalyptic role-playing epic. ... Sony's build-your-own-level action game "LittleBigPlanet" (PS3) arrives after a brief delay. ... Activision's "Guitar Hero World Tour" brings on the drums and vocals, too (360, Wii, PS3, PS2). ... Three racers come to the starting line: Capcom's "MotoGP 08," Activision's "Score International Baja 1000" (both for the 360, Wii, PS3, PS2) and Sony's "MotorStorm: Pacific Rift" (PS3). ... Konami's "Pro Evolution Soccer 2009" (360, PS3, PS2) returns to the pitch. ... And for your holiday party, there are Microsoft's "Scene It? Box Office Smash" (360) and Sony's "SingStar Vol. 2" (PS3), "SingStar Country" and "SingStar Legends" (both PS2).