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E3 EA Conference 2009

The show floor may have opened on Tuesday, but thanks to press conferences from some major players, E3 got an early start. It’s not all about the “big three,” as Electronic Arts proved this afternoon with a compelling lineup of software targeting every corner of the playing field. So, one might ask, how did EA’s presentation fair? Well, it may not have been as flashy as the Microsoft show that preceded it, but I feel like they brought the goods.

Electronic Arts has done a fantastic job in the last year by breaking away from their previous model. The EA that we see now in 2009 is smarter, leaner, and has built new partnerships which will potentially help them retake their crown. In 2008 EA shrank as their rival Activision grew. But the previous year was not a total waste for the software giant. They established new franchises internally, and developed partnerships with former Activision all-stars like id Software and Harmonix.

A year later, this strategy really seems to be paying off.

They opened this afternoon’s presentation with a cinematic trailer for their new action title, Dante’s Inferno. Although they avoided showing us any actual in-game footage—an unfortunate theme in today’s event—Visceral Game’s new title was a good way to highlight their future direction. We would see more original content, but not before they shifted focus.

After a quick trailer of the entirely expected Sims 3, a brief demo for Need for Speed Shift, and a few games targeting a younger audience—it was Peter Moore’s turn to show off what EA Sports had in store for the next year.

While these games don’t personally hold my attention too effectively, there was some really ground breaking stuff on display. Perhaps the most important point conveyed by their sports team was a new emphasis on online integration. Titles such as Madden 10, and it’s little brother NCAA 10, both include a myriad of online functions. These features promise to expand Madden’s franchise options into an entirely new realm, and are offering gamers the ability to customize their teams in entirely new ways.

It’s worth noting that NCAA 10‘s new web features are available immediately, prior to the games launch later this year. Users will be able to customize their teams now, and access that content when they play the game launches. Peter Moore also announced MMA, a mixed martial arts fighter, and presented a live demonstration of the upcoming Fight Night Round 4.

Other titles previewed included Pandemic’s sandbox adventure Saboteur, and Double Fine’s rock-opera Brutal Legend.

Ultimately I feel that Bioware stole the spotlight at Electronic Arts’ press conference. While there were no gameplay demos for their wares, they dropped new trailers for Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2, and wowed the audience with a stunning CG trailer for the Star War’s branded MMORPG, The Old Republic.

All things considered, EA gave us a lot to ponder. While they only teased us with the announcement of Crysis 2, and left big titles from Valve and DICE out of the picture, they needed to save something for the show floor. As third parties go, EA is moving into 2010 with extreme promise.

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