IQ News: At E3, Gamers Defy Internet Convention


Microsoft’s investment in Comcast may have the software community focused (again) on cable modems, but at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Atlanta, low-bandwidth telephone access remained the reality. ‘Three to five years from now I can’t think of a scenario where the overwhelming majority of local access won’t be local phone line systems,’ said Andy Grove, chief executive of Intel Corp., during a press briefing in Atlanta.

The fact that most Internet users are still accessing the Web through low-bandwidth phone lines is a hurdle in online electronic entertainment. During E3, the gaming software industry trade show, most established software companies exhibited little interest in moving online. A representative from Nintendo called online gaming ‘premature,’ and a spokesman for Sony PlayStation said the company feels ‘no need’ to enter the online market.

Chip Herman, vice president of marketing at WebTV, echoed Grove’s conservative predictions regarding high-bandwidth Internet access that will be provided by the cable companies. ‘Inherent in his comment is the reality of the cable industry,’ Herman said. WebTV, a terminal that provides Net access over television sets, hopes to define what the post-PC home entertainment industry will look like and how it will be delivered; the company’s technology, predictably, is built around phone-line access, as opposed to cable modem access, which is rolling out very slowly. But before companies such as Sony or Nintendo would think of delivering games online via WebTV, these bandwidth issues have to be overcome. ‘We see online gaming as important,’ said Herman. ‘But it isn’t the huge point of our service.’

The entertainment and educational software industry is a $15.5 billion U.S. industry, according to the Interactive Digital Software Association, owners of the E3 show.

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