ECTS 2000 report

Sega made the right choice in staying as far away as possible from ECTS this year, the show had the poorest turn out I can remember and there was a general lack of enthusiasm all round. Gone were the stupidly expensive stands from recent years and the show seemed to miss the big boys like EA. There was even a distinct lack of scantily clad PR floozies, which can never be a good thing. On the plus side, pointless free handouts were kept to a minimum, so at least a few hundred acres of amazon rain forest are still intact. The place wasn't the unbearable sauna it usually is either, probably attributable to the cooler weather and smaller attendance.

So, the games. Nintendo were showing off the GameBoy Advance (no GameCube to be seen) which is very nice. And very small. We're talking "hold-it-in-your-fingertips" small. It's a pity they only had about four of them playing Mario Kart advance though. Just to illustrate how quiet this years show was, Shigeru Miyanoto walked past at one point and nobody even noticed! He stopped me on the way and shook my hand saying "Ah, UK:R my favourite website". Although I may have imagined that bit.

You WILL buy one. You WILL lose it down the back of the sofa.

Konami had a big screen showing the new MGS2 video, but I certainly didn't see any of the mass hysteria that supposedly broke out when it was displayed at E3. Infact, the more discerning UK audience greeted it with a look of puzzled bewilderment as they tried to work out just what bits were actually in-game footage. It was also on show in the sweltering Sony area where it was given scant regard as most people were more interested in GT2000, which, admittedly, looked "quite good". Funniest thing overheard, "If I want to watch DVD's I'll buy a DVD player"

Dreamcast games were mainly on show at the Gem distribution stand. With MS:R getting the most interest. It was only the forthcoming demo though (on the new ODM coverdisc), so no chance to see a few of the other cities and cars. ShenMue was playable, as was Sega GT and Space Channel 5 and Ready2Rumble2 (looking far too much like R2R1, I think) but strangely no Virtua Tennis.

Anyway, away from here and on to the Sega event at Leicester Square. I was dreading this might be a real flop with only a limited attendance, but how wrong I was. The place was packed! And, in marked contrast to ECTS, it seemed to be full of people who really appreciated games. We're not just talking geeky gaming fanboys here, there was a real mix of people and ages, even quite a few females (there's hope yet). Dreamcast pods were running in the lobby, but the really good stuff like M:SR and Q3A (Running on three screens and looking excellent) was in a roped off press section where free demo discs were also being handed out. Maybe it would have been more useful to give these to the public though, eh? Still, at least attendees found a free bottle of coke and a bag of popcorn waiting for them as they took their seats.

Dreamcast popcorn. A rare collectors item

The presentation itself started with some totally unrelated, but nevertheless, funny mock TV ad's - along with some of the recent proper ad's. Surprisingly, the two German gentleman sitting next to me found the jingoistic "play Johnny Foreigner" ad featuring sausage eating, jackbooted krauts, absolutely hilarious. Following this was a feature touting the online capabilites of the machine and some of the forthcoming network compatible games. This is where things got interesting, Starlancer, Quake 3 and Speed Devils 2 were some of the titles shown before the inimitable words "Daytona USA" flashed on screen, accompanied by a few brief flashes of (early looking) game footage. This brought a loud cheer and much whooping from the audience. Oh, if only you'd given us this game a year ago Sega. The crowd reaction spoke volumes. Black and White, PSO and Headhunter were also featured in this section.

The remainder of the presentation focused on the rest of the coming attractions, with each game given an extended televisual treatment. M:SR provoked more audience cheering - although this eminated from the back of the theatre so it may have been Bizarre Creations employees - the game footage spliced with scenes of real cars driving through night time London to the sound of Gary Numan's "Cars" track, worked really well. Other favourites were Quake3, Virtua Tennis and Samba de Amigo which looks set to be an Xmas smash.

Sega can claim a victory from this event. It was heartening to see so many people who were still fanatical about Dreamcast and the show can be put down as a definite success. It was clearly the Daytona news that had everyone most excited. To be honest, any version of Daytona would be great. If they can really make it playable online then that will be the icing on the cake. You can keep your PS2, XBox et al. These were real games for real gamers.