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ComicCon 2006: Tales from the Geek Side

Frequent readers of Semico know that I am a fan of this convention and attend it during my family vacation. This year the Massimini’s enjoyed San Diego and ComicCon again. Yes, there were more geeks than you can shake a light saber at.

For those unfamiliar with ComicCon, it is the largest convention for comic books in the world. However, it covers a great deal more. Science fiction and fantasy TV and movies are heavily represented. These are usually tied in with comics and animation. There is also a strong tie in with video games. Attendance reaches 100,000 on Saturday. It is the largest convention through out the year for the city of San Diego.

No, I did NOT go in costume, though there were plenty of interesting sights. At ComicCon one sees the rich source material for new entertainment. This is very important for the video game market. The fans of the sci-fi/comic genre want cutting edge graphics and special effects. They represent a key segment of the video game market. ComicCon is a venue for previewing many new upcoming games for the holiday season.

My 16-year old son was more than willing to provide in-depth research. He spent the entire time in the video game area just like every other year. However, this time he also attended some seminars that were given on some of the technical details for gaming PCs. I think I know his wish list for Christmas. The dual core MPUs from Intel and AMD are spurring interest among the high-end gamers.

Last year the emphasis appeared to be more on the video game consoles and portables, very little for the PC. This year the video game developers covered a broader range. Nintendo DS and Sony PSP were quite prominent. Maximum PC, a PC gaming magazine, had a large area showing off new games for the PC platform and high end hardware, including graphics cards. THQ demo’ed several games for the PC, PSP, PS II and XBox 360.

Interestingly neither the Sony PS III nor the Nintendo Wii were being demo’ed. Grant it, they have not been officially released, but I would have expected some kind of marketing for these upcoming gaming platforms. Nevertheless, portable games seemed to generate large interest. Several attendees could be seen slipping out their PSPs for free downloads and for interacting with each other in the halls.

Sony held a one-hour seminar, “PSP University”, in which it showcased the many functions and features for the PSP other than as a game platform. Currently the PSP can be used to view movies, play music, view photos, browse the internet, and much more. One future game, “Killzone Liberation”, will allow up to 16 players in adhoc mode via wireless connection.

In addition to previewing several new game titles for the coming holiday season, Sony also highlighted other upcoming features: improved web surfing, more wireless hotspots, email accounts, RSS audio (pod-casting), digital camera for the USB port (Fall 2006), GPS for the USB port (either Fall or Winter 2006), and location free TV and Tivo (Tivo Togo). It appears to Semico that the real competition for PSP in the long run may not be Nintendo DS but the video iPod and other handheld media players.

Semico has recent reports on the personal media players, “Multimedia To Go”, and the handheld games, “Playing It’s Way To the Top.”

The PSP and upcoming PS III with Blu-Ray should not be viewed as stand alone products. Rather these fit into a broader corporate strategy for Sony. These devices are a way for Sony to tap its portfolio of movie and music titles.

Based on what I saw at ComicCon 2006 this coming holiday season should see healthy activity for the video game market and consumer electronics in general.