Magazine article Information Today

E3-Electronic Entertainment Expo ... Plus; Plenty of Educational Multimedia Was on Display at This West Coast Event

Magazine article Information Today

E3-Electronic Entertainment Expo ... Plus; Plenty of Educational Multimedia Was on Display at This West Coast Event

Article excerpt

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) debuted last year and literally stole the show (or at least a significant part of it) from other venerable exhibits like the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), Intermedia, and the Interactive Multimedia Association (IMA) show and conference. Many big-name publishers chose to go to E3 instead of to the former exhibitions. Even COMDEX may feel the heat from E3, which got such rave reviews after its 1995 premiere that I regretted missing it. It's not that I was particularly interested, let alone competent, in electronic entertainment hardware and software, but the list of exhibitors included several publishers that are important players in the more traditional information industry, such as Grolier, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan, with their multimedia educational, reference, and recreational titles online and on CD-ROM. E3 was also perfectly timed for me this year, taking place May 18-19 in Los Angeles, right after I attended the National Online Meeting in New York and before I hit the ASIS Mid-Year Conference in San Diego.

Beyond the Big Three

In the electronic entertainment business, the three supercompanies are Sony, Sega, and Nintendo. ("Computer entertainment" would be a more appropriate moniker for their business, but it lacks alliteration and doesn't lend itself to the clever acronym "E3.") These companies had such gigantic villages to demonstrate their latest hardware and software for the billion-dollar gaming industry that even a Texan would have been impressed. No one could say "big hat, no cattle," either, as Sony stunned everyone at the show not only with its crowd-attracting games but also by announcing a 50 percent price reduction for its Playstation. This seemed to have caught everyone off guard. (To put things into perspective, Sony sold I million Playstations in just eight months at the old $299 price.) It took more than a day for Sega to recover from the shock and announce a price cut on Saturn to match Sony's new $199 price tag. (Cynics say that Sony made the announcement to attract attention because Sega was showing better games.)

Nintendo did not enter into the price slashing, counting instead on the appeal of its upcoming Nintendo 64 hardware, which promises to make wonderful animation and 3-D effects using a 64-bit processor.

There were some 400 additional exhibitors, many with exhibit booths that would have turned heads at other shows, but I went for the ones that had products of more relevance to me and the readers of IT.

Beyond Games

Entertainment is quite an umbrella term and may include products that others prefer to describe as educational or reference. ASS we all know, good education, good teaching, good writing, and good reference work can and should entertain to hold the attention of the users. Many multimedia products that were shown at E3 strived to achieve that.

I was somewhat surprised that Microsoft did not show its superb reference products (Encarta, World Atlas, Cinemania), and instead devoted its entire booth to games, flashing the tag line, "We know how to play games." Most of us knew that, I presume. Entertainment and education can happily live together, and Hachette, the French parent company of Grolier, seems to prove it by extending its CD-ROM product line to games while still maintaining and improving its respected reference CD-ROMs, The Grolier Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and The Guinness Disc of World Records. Grolier should be applauded for launching a revised version of its 1996 encyclopedia (just a few months before the 1997 edition is to debut) to include a much better online connection than the one offered in the first version of the 1996 edition. It was exactly this feature that I criticized in my recent encyclopedia review in Computers in Libraries magazine [April 1996, p. 26], and I am delighted to see that the new release is not restricted to the limited capabilities of Compuserve but also offers a far better AOL connection, and, even more important, hot links to relevant and free World Wide Web. …

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