E3: the last stand

Our Youthography correspondents wrap up E3 coverage with some new titles for tweens, the week's biggest game announcements and their very own best-of list.

Toronto-based Youthography’s John Price and Nicole Fawcette have seen it all at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2009 in LA, and leave us with their picks for the year’s highlights.

We’re sad to see such a momentous week in video games come to an end, but we’ve had a lot of fun in LA covering some truly exciting media briefings and talking to Canadian industry professionals about watershed moments we’re experiencing right now in gaming.

Titles for the tween market

Since the attendees at E3 are typically representative of an older, hardcore gaming audience (re: males 18 to 34), it can be easy to lose sight of one of the biggest game consumer markets: tweens. Data from Youthography’s PING report reveals that 94% of all Canadians aged 9 to 13 play video games, making it the largest consumer set of gamers between the ages of 9 and 34.

Titles we learned of this week that will be important for the tweens are plentiful. Perhaps most notably, Hannah Montana: Rock Out the Show PSP rhythm games from Disney Interactive (which will also come bundled with a limited edition lilac-coloured PSP – pretty!). Also from the Disney family comes JONAS for the Nintendo DS which allows players to take on the role of Nick, Kevin, or Joe in adventures based on the hit show of the same name.

We were also impressed with the game adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, based on the Spike Jonze interpretation of the children’s book by Maurice Sendak. While you predominantly play as Max, the human boy that lands in an imaginative world where he is crowned the king of all the Wild Things, the video game also allows players to play as the Wild Things in select missions. While the film has been rumoured to be more for adults than kids, we think the Where the Wild Things Are title is great for the whole family. This is the kind of timeless classic everyone can get behind.

Games for gamers

Alright, let’s get back to the biggest game announcements from the week. Yesterday we were lucky enough to wrap up our E3 coverage by chatting with Matt Levitan from Sony Computer Entertainment Canada, as well as Craig Flannagan and Jeff Riviat from Xbox Canada. Check out what we think are the best exclusive titles for either system.

Exclusive to the PS3

Announced back at E3 2006, Heavy Rain is a gritty film noir endeavor that allows the player to experience four different characters with a multitude of storyline branches. Gamers will love this title for its unique gameplay based on quick-time events, as well as a unique plot structure that changes the storyline with every player decision (and ability to stay alive). Anything that inspires you to make very careful decisions is a good thing.

Also from Sony is the much-anticipated God of War 3. A gory action adventure, players take the role of Kratos once again in a mythical adventure to kill the god Zeus (revealed to be Kratos’ father in God of War 2). Gamers will love the amazing graphics of the game paired with new missions battling massive gods, such as Helios. But PS owners know what to expect here. Much of the same…with splendid polish.

Exclusive to the Xbox 360

The Halo franchise returns with Halo 3: ODST, which takes place two weeks before the events of Halo 3. While the game is set in the Halo universe, it is not from the perspective of the much-loved Master Chief character. Instead the game’s protagonist is an unnamed character only referred to as the Rookie. Gamers will love ‘Firefight’ mode, where you can take on countless waves of enemies with up to three other players.

Another game getting a lot of buzz on the floor was Xbox’s newest exclusive racer, Forza 3. The game includes over 400 cars from 50 manufacturers, and over 100 tracks. Gamers will love the dedication to make this racer a serious competitor in the category by adding innovative features like an in-car driving view that allows players to see out of their front windshield and side window.

Finally, let’s wrap up this week with our ‘Best of’ list for E3 2009.

• Best Xbox exclusive: Halo 3: ODST

• Best PS3 exclusive: God of War 3

• Best Nintendo exclusive: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

• Best multi-platform game: Splinter Cell Conviction

• Game we had the most fun playing: Brutal Legend

• Best superhero game: Batman: Arkham Asylum

• Best handheld game: Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS

• Best downloadable content: Fat Princess for the PlayStation network

• Best social networking innovation: Twitter on Xbox Live

• Best new motion-control innovation: Project Natal, Xbox 360

• Best press conference: Microsoft Xbox 360

• Best new gaming accessory: Tony Hawk Ride skateboard (honourable mention to DJ Hero turntable)

In the end, word from many is that 2009 was the best E3 yet, for newbs and veterans alike. We’re seeing a new dawn – technology that, just a few short years ago, seemed like sci-fi is now real. And although you will hear from insiders that this year’s Expo lacked a ‘blow-away’ game title, we think that just comes from being spoiled. The bar has been raised again. Video games are more important than ever before.

John Price (john@youthography.com) is director of youth marketing and Nicole Fawcette (nicole@youthography.com) is a research and strategy supervisor with Youthography. Follow John & Nicole’s E3 updates on twitter at Twitter.com/youthography.