LOS ANGELES (CNN/Money) – E3 is not about the here and now. It's about the future – sometimes the distant future. While a lot of the titles on display here will get a lot of press ink in the coming months, a good percentage won't see the light of day until 2005 – and possibly 2006.
That said, we've made our best guess as to which games stand a decent chance of hitting shelves by this holiday season. These are the titles your friends and children (and maybe even you) will be asking for come December.
Because everyone has different tastes, labeling any game "the best of E3" is a futile gesture. What we've compiled below are games that had a particularly strong buzz this past week. While we expect them to make it out this year, deadlines in the gaming industry are nebulous things, and there are no guarantees.
Oh, and to those folks wondering where "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" is on this list: Take Two Interactive Software (TTWO: Research, Estimates) did not show the game at this year's E3, disqualifying it from consideration. But you can still count on it being on most gamers' wish lists when it's released on Oct. 19.
Halo 2 (Publisher: Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates)) – This one's a no-brainer. It's the successor to the Xbox's most-popular title and will incorporate online multi-player gameplay as well. I didn't get to experience the single-player game, but multiplayer was a blast, with new weapons, better graphics and some innovative features (such as the ability to wield two weapons simultaneously and the opportunity to hijack a combat vehicle being driven by the enemy). Due out Nov. 9 and exclusive to Xbox, this will likely be one of the biggest games of the year.
Half-Life 2 (Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games (V: Research, Estimates)) – After last year's misplaced claims that the game would ship by September 2003, I'm a bit wary of developer Valve Software's insistence that this sequel to the popular PC game will ship this summer. But I'm willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt – and the game is even more impressive looking this year. Valve's also now talking about the multiplayer components (a reworked version of "Counter-Strike" in the same graphics engine as Half-Life 2), which is a good sign that the end of development is in sight. "Half-Life 2" will redefine what gamers expect from their games visually – and the gameplay is a lot of fun as well. Look for an "M" rating, though, so it's not for children – and, as a warning to casual gamers, it's a pretty tough game.
Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth (Publisher: Electronic Arts (ERTS: Research, Estimates)) – With no "Lord of the Rings" movie to support this game, Electronic Arts was a little nervous about this real-time strategy title. They didn't need to be. The game deftly incorporates the epic feel of the Peter Jackson films, giving you the chance to control both the righteous armies of Gondor or the evil forces of Mordor. Better still, the development teams seems to be making a special effort to create an interface that is extremely friendly to people who haven't played strategy games before.
Spider Man 2 (Publisher: Activision (ATVI: Research, Estimates)) – Imagine the best parts of "Spider Man" mixed with the freeform aspects of "Grand Theft Auto" and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect with "Spider Man 2". This sequel gives you the opportunity to web swing a replica of Manhattan however you'd like. There's a story mode that will tie in with the movie, but you're just as free to roam around and stop street crime. The game, available for all platforms, will be out the summer and should be a steady seller for Activision through the holiday season.
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (Publisher: Atari (ATAR: Research, Estimates)) – For years, "Roller Coaster Tycoon" was one of the best selling PC game of all time. 2002's sequel was something of a letdown, feeling more like an expansion pack. This latest version, though, is sure to be a hot seller. You'll once again build, design and manage your own theme park. This time, though, the game is in 3D – and you're finally able to ride the coasters you design. It's family friendly and you'll never have to wait in line for a ride.
The Sims 2 (Publisher: Electronic Arts) – The original "Sims" became a phenomenon. The sequel takes the series in a new direction, but one that ardent fans are likely to embrace. You'll once again control the lives of virtual people. This time, though, you'll see those lives in much greater detail – and be able to watch your legacy grow. Your Sims will pass along their genetic code to their offspring, meaning you'll be able to see generations change as the years pass, though still possess traits of their parents. Socially, your Sims will be more active than ever, with dozens of new features including the addition of hair and clothing options. Due out in September, "The Sims 2" will be a PC exclusive.
Morris is Director of Content Development. Click here to send him an email.