The 2004 edition of the show is perhaps best remembered for the appearance on stage of new Nintendo of America marketing head Reggie Fils-Aime at their pre-E3 press conference as he declared that he was all about kicking ass, taking names and making games. It was the beginning of Nintendo's revival in the console market after letting Sony take over the industry. File-Aime showed off their new Nintendo DS console which had 3D graphics (a first for a Nintendo console) two screens with one being a touch screen and onboard WiFi connectivity. The biggest announcement was that it was launching that fall ahead of the PSP's launch in the US. The press conference also introduced a new Zelda game featuring the classic look instead of the cel-shaded look of the last game. Originally it was supposed to be a Gamecube game but as we will see Nintendo decided to switch tracks later on.
Sony's E3 presence was smaller than in past years. Many expected to check out PSP games for the first time but Sony only showed a few tech demos of the hardware. Microsoft was all about Halo 2 at their E3 booth as they prepared for the last great game for their original Xbox console. Both Half-Life 2 and Doom 3, the big stars of the last two shows, still had not been released by this time (they would both finally get released before the end of the year). Meanwhile Blizzard showed off World of Warcraft at their booth as people were awaiting the launch of what turned out to be the biggest PC MMO in history later that year. Other impressive games like Burnout 3, F.E.A.R, and what was then called Splinter Cell 3 were also shown. Blizzard also showed their console action game Starcraft: Ghost at E3 but just a few weeks later it was revealed that the company had dumped the game's original development team and brought in a new team. The efforts turned out to be for naught as Blizzard pulled the plug on the whole game in 2006. The folks at Infinium Labs attended their first and last E3 with a huge display as they tried to convince people that their Phantom Gaming Device was going to blow everyone away. No one was convinced and the Phantom was never heard from again at the show
The big highlight for me at E3 2004 was yet another visit to the Playboy Mansion, this time to see a more complete version of the game Playboy: The Mansion. Unlike the previous E3 where the event was just for a few game journalists, this was a full Playboy party with tons of Playmates and Hugh Hefner himself attending. The game finally got released in 2005 but proved to be a bomb in sales and in critics eyes.
It was perhaps the most memorable E3 since the launch of the Xbox and Gamecube in 2001. Sony came out swinging as they devoted their entire pre-E3 press conference to the announcement of the PS3 console. It showed off its advanced graphics via Epic Games' Unreal Engine and it showed a number of games that were supposedly in development. Some of them turned into real games like Warhawk and Resistance: Fall of Man while others have yet to actually appear (including what looked like a net Red Dead Revolver title from Rockstar). The most impressive trailer of them all was Killzone, a sci-fi first person shooter that looked like a CGI movie. As it turned out it was a CGI movie. At the time everyone thought Sony was going to be king of the consoles once again. The release date of Spring 2006, however, was one that most journalists didn't think Sony could make. As it turned out they were right.
Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference was a more sedate affair than last year's show. The company showed off the very small case of their next-gen console which they were then calling Revolution. They also showed off more of their Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and promising it would come out in the fall of 2005 for the Gamecube. That announcement turned out to be premature.
Microsoft decided to launch its new Xbox 360 console a few days before E3 which made their pre-E3 press conference something of an anti-climax. The games the company showed were mixed with Call of Duty 2 looking great on the console while others like Perfect Dark Zero were a disappointment. Microsoft's big news was that the console was launching that November, one year ahead of Sony and Nintendo's efforts. One big game that debuted at E3 was the Xbox 360 exclusive Gears of War but it would be over a year before the game actually launched.
As far as games. Bethesda Softworks blew people away with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and 3D Realms and Human Head showed off Prey; yes, Prey a game that was last shown way back at E3 1998. The new Doom 3 engine based game contained some of the same gameplay as the original Prey but it was basically a whole new look at the original game. Also shown behind closed doors was Alan Wake, the next game from developer Remedy. It would later be bought by Microsoft for their Xbox 360 and PC platforms. The game that got the journalist's biggest attention was Spore, the next game from SimCity and Sims developer Will Wright. The evolution style game had a demo that showcased the user generated creation of a life form that turned into a space faring civilization. It's taking longer to develop than first announced, though as Spore has now been pushed back to sometime in 2008. One highlight for me was seeing MacGyver himself, Richard Dean Anderson, on stage at the Namco booth as he promoted the upcoming Stargate SG-1 first person shooter, shown in playable form at the show. It was clear that Anderson was out of his element; he didn't know anything about games in general or the Stargate game in particular. As it turned out development of the Stargate SG-1 title imploded later that year and it was canceled.