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E3: 'Not just for nerds and geeks'

Electronic Entertainment Expo kicks off May 12

By Stephen Ryan
CNN Headline News

Microsoft Xbox will preview its new game, "Halo 2" at E3.
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(CNN) -- "The Mecca of video games. It's where you would go for everything about gaming." That's how Shane Bettenhausen, Electronic Gaming Monthly's previews editor, describes the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3. The video game conference kicks off in Los Angeles, California, on May 12.

This year, Bettenhausen says, "Two new consoles are among the most exciting things." The PlayStation Portable (PSP) and the Nintendo Dual Screen will be revealed the day before E3 starts. "The PSP is roughly the same quality as the PS2," Bettenhausen says. "It plays its own type of games, music and movies. Sony classifies it as a Walkman meets a convergence product. They revealed that they were working on it at the last E3, but it wasn't seen."

You'll likely pay for PSP's convenience though.

"The cost will probably be expensive," Bettenhausen says. "The development behind it is so high-tech and pricey. It's expected to run anywhere from $200 to $400. It's high-end, geared towards an iPod-style market. It's not trying to compete with [Nintendo's] Game Boy."

Nintendo's Dual Screen (DS) may compete with its own product line.

"The DS is more like a Gameboy but with dual screens," Bettenhausen says. "Nobody has seen it before so we're all eyeing it with extreme skepticism. People definitely want to see it, though. The screens are vertical. Not side-by-side. It is expected to be affordable and will play existing games."

As for the games themselves, Rockstar is expected to rock the house again. The company's grand slam this time is the next chapter in the "Grand Theft Auto" series: "GTA San Andreas." "San Andreas will be revealed at E3 for the first time. Then it comes out in October," Bettenhausen says. "Usually you see games a year in advance, but Rockstar likes to wait until the last minute. There are rumors it might have online play. Although that's not confirmed. Rockstar is so secretive."

That is just a taste of what is expected at E3 2004. The rest is left up to your imagination until next Wednesday.

"A lot of big games won't even be on the show floor. Only certain people will be allowed to play the demos," Bettenhausen says. "For example, Halo 2 will be hidden. After all, Halo is one of Xbox's best games. It's tough to figure out why companies do that. They want to keep certain things secret so other companies don't rip them off. Another company could preview a game, spend time developing it themselves, then get it out before the original."

Until May 12, gamers will be nestled all snug with their controllers and visions of E3 dancing in their heads. And enchanting visions they are.

"I was dumbfounded because so much money is spent on E3. It's like an amusement park," Bettenhausen says. "And the parties, the parties are great. Sony and Nintendo throw lavish parties. There are famous musicians, too.This year Nintendo has Sheryl Crow. The Foo Fighters have been there. Stars like Robin Williams, Elijah Wood and Steven Spielberg go to E3. It's not just for nerds and geeks."

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