SONY PUMPS UP VOLUME AT E3 DISPLAY

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A report from the floor of the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

Sony knows how to put on a show. To launch its PlayStation videogame player, Sony Computer Entertainment walled in its Circuit City-size booth and forced the curious throngs to wait for entrance.

Inside, visitors were subjected to a high-energy, 5-minute video. The hype was so loud Sony employees wore earplugs. But the message on the screen was simple: "It's the games, stupid."

Indeed. Elsewhere in the booth, visitors appeared to be having a lot of fun testing out dozens of PlayStations and games. Pleasure is seri-ous business, and PlayStation is serious fun.

Elsewhere in the hall, Sega of America curiously stuck its new machine, Saturn, in the corner of a massive booth, an underwhelming display for what is to be the biggest introduction in Sega's history. Nintendo of America won't have its new player out till next spring.

Other takes on the first E3:

Mortal combat: The event drew 40,851 registered attendees, the biggest new-media show yet. The showdown in Round II a year from now could be fiercer: Nintendo, Sega and Sony have bid to take the entire main hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center, forcing hundreds of game and secondary hardware companies to a smaller hall down the corridor. Show co-producer Infotainment World, San Mateo, Calif., would prefer to spread the giants across the center. "It's a question of where we put the aircraft carriers," says Infotainment World President Patrick Ferrell.

Zoop it: Viacom New Media has the makings of a hit in Zoop, an addictive puzzle game. Viacom will introduce Zoop Oct. 10 with an unprecedented global launch in eight videogame and PC formats selling for $35 to $50. Zoop seems well-suited for PC users bored with electronic solitaire. Since Viacom New Media installed Zoop on its computers, VP-Marketing Al Nilsen boasts, "Productivity in our office has declined dramatically."

High-stakes game: If you want to create a hit videogame on the cheap, you're probably doomed. Industry veteran Alan Chaplin, VP-sales of games marketer Crystal Dynamics, figures the cost of producing a top 10 videogame has doubled in the past year to $2 million because consumers demand improved production values.

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