ATLANTA -- At a show that in the past was dominated by console games like those made by Nintendo, Sony and Sega, software for personal computers was a major presence at the Electronic Entertainment Expo held here earlier this month.
Both Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., and Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., had large exhibits, and Intel's was the first-ever by a computer hardware manufacturer at the three-year-old E3 show.
Andrew Grove, Intel president and chief executive officer, delivered one of two keynote addresses, with the other given by Tom Brokaw of NBC News and MSNBC, a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft.
The show, held June 19 to 21, attracted 37,100 attendees. About 1,500 new software titles were debuted during the event by 486 exhibiting companies, said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, Washington, which owns E3.
In his keynote speech, Grove challenged the games industry to rethink its business model. "The definition of this industry that says we are in the business of building and selling video games is too restrictive. We need to open it to a new definition that says our business is to create and sell interactive entertainment," he said.
Grove's presentation featured a series of demonstrations of new interactive entertainment products using Intel's Pentium II processor, which was released six weeks prior to E3. Examples included multiplayer games played over the Internet using audio and video communications, arcade-quality games for home use involving three-dimensional advanced graphics technology, and writable digital videodisc-random access memory technology used to create home movies that can be played back on combination television-PC units. Products like these will reach mass-market levels more quickly than earlier PC generations, said Grove. Pentium II computers are being sold now for $2,500, a price point it took Pentium processors more than two years to reach, and the older 486-based machines five years. This price will go down, he said. "I anticipate that there will be mainstream consumer purchases in significant volume of Pentium II processor-based platforms and these kinds of products this Christmas season," he said.
While Grove is clearly an advocate of PC-based systems, he sees them co-existing with console games. "With the combination of the best of both breeds in this industry, we are going to have a whole lot more fun," he said.
The real competition for interactive entertainment is television, he said. "The most important competition is for eyeball hours and, when it comes to that, the TV is very well entrenched," he said.
"Leisure time of individuals is limited. While money can be made, time cannot be generated," Grove said.
During the show, Intel announced that a new technology it is developing will allow mainstream PCs to play DVD movies and other programming by the end of the year. Another sign of the game business embracing PC technologies was in the exhibit of Sega Entertainment, Redwood City, Calif. While the Sega Saturn game platform is running third in the battle of advanced-generation console systems to the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64, Sega is shifting its attention to the PC arena.
The company is converting 11 of its arcade, sports and character cartridge-based games for computer use. Among the titles are "Virtual Fighter 2," "Daytona USA Deluxe" and "Sonic 3D Blast." By 1998, the company plans to release all its new titles simultaneously for the PC and its Sega Saturn console platform, said an official.
Sega has also put the biggest emphasis behind on-line gaming of all the major manufacturers. The company has released five games that can use the Sega Saturn Net Link peripheral: "Sega Rally Championship," "Virtual On," "Duke Nukem 3D," "Saturn Bomberman" and "Daytona USA CCE." The games must be bought or rented at retail before they can be played by multiple players on line.