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What we learned from the E3 Expo

John D. Sutter
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Inside what's new at E3
  • E3 is the biggest video gaming event of the year
  • This year's event saw the unveiling of a new Wii and the Sony Vita
  • Blockbuster games -- many with long histories -- also caught attention

(CNN) -- It's been a big week for video gamers.

Nintendo showed off a new version of the Wii -- called the Wii U. Its controller has a giant screen built into it, enabling "second screen" effects.

Microsoft will put live TV on the Xbox.

And Sony, which is still dealing with its hacker woes, came out with a new portable gaming system called Vita.

News from the expo has a bigger reach now than ever . The industry hauled in an estimated $10 billion in revenue in 2009, according to an analysis this month by The Atlantic, and no doubt soared past that figure last year, during which "Call of Duty: Black Ops" broke records by selling 4.1 million copies in one day and topping $1 billion in sales all by itself.

Sixty-seven percent of households have at least one member who plays video games and 40 percent of those players are female, according to the report, showing a shift from the video-game world's stereotypically boy-centric slant.

There was plenty of news at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, which is seen as the largest video gaming event of the year.

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at a few lessons, big ideas and upcoming video game trends we took away from this massive conference:

1. People still love a blockbuster

In recent years, tech writers have loved to pronounce the end of the blockbuster game. This is an era of mobile games and social games, we're told. Think "Farmville" and "Angry Birds." Stuff like "Halo" is out -- not of the moment.

5 hot new video games from E3 2011
Video games as fine art?

Maybe it's because E3 tends to attract a lot of hardcore gamers, who are into Halo-type stuff, but the big games were getting a lot of the buzz this week.

Take a look at this video and story about our favorites.

2. Apps can drive the gaming conversation, too

Still, not all is lost for apps and social games. "Angry Birds" has a TV show, and at E3 we saw that mobile games can conquer other platforms, too.

Take "Fruit Ninja" for example. The popular smartphone game is slashing its way onto Xbox Kinect, which lets people use their bodies as controllers to slice fruit into bits with imaginary ninja swords.

That game is making its way to Facebook, too.

3. There's a rift in the gaming world

If those first two points don't make this clear, let's just come out and say it directly: There's a big divide in the gaming community.

There are "hardcore" gamers, who are stereotyped as those who play Xbox and PlayStation all night long and show up to work the next day with bloodshot eyes and smelling of yesterday's deodorant.

And then there are "casual" gamers -- those who play Wii Tennis with their book clubs or who click away at "Farmville" while watching "Modern Family."

With the Wii U, Nintendo is trying to capture the attention of both groups, the company's global president said in an interview with CNN's Doug Gross.

Many have tried and failed before, but Satoru Iwata said it's still Nintendo's goal to have it all.

"If we maintain that kind of wall or psychological barrier separating the two groups, someday I'm afraid that the culture of video games will be diminished," he said. "We want to create a kind of cycle where casual gamers are gradually growing up to become passionate players. In order to maintain that kind of cycle, we needed to break down the wall."

4. Video games are art -- period

There's a long-raging debate about the artistic merit of video games.

Is a super-detailed, scary-looking ork inside a video game on the same playing field as a painting or sculpture? At E3, we learned the answer is a resounding yes -- as long as the ork is arty and interesting and cool.

Check out some of the video-game art that was showcased in a gallery at E3. And know that others are taking note of this trend, too.

The Smithsonian Institution -- keepers of the keys to intellectual snobbery -- has planned an exhibit called "The Art of Video Games" for 2012.

5. Even 'hardcore' gamers are softies

Much of video game culture is about nostalgia.

Some storylines run on for decades. Think "Tomb Raider," "Halo" or "Mario." And then there's "Zelda," which turns 25 this year.

When Nintendo showed off new "Mario" and "Zelda" games for the audience of hardcore game heads at E3, people went nuts.

The company is trying to capitalize on this franchise loyalty. Nintendo is partnering on a real-world symphony series -- featuring Zelda music. Ah, youth.


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