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Wii U takes centre stage at E3 video game expo

The Electronic Entertainment Expo kicks off this week, while a new report shows a sharp increase in gaming among Canadians, especially women.

Nintendo’s Wii U video-game handheld console is displayed at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California, June 7, 2011 (Photo: Bloomberg/Getty)

I’m in Los Angeles this week for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, which is one of the biggest video game shows in the world. E3 serves as the pivotal showcase for game makers as they head into the second half of the year. The run-up to Christmas is, of course, their blockbuster season, so the event is where they start to build buzz for the biggest games of the year.

The big story at this year’s show will of course be the Wii U, or Nintendo’s next-generation console. The company showed off early prototypes at last year’s show, so this year we’ll be getting much more detail as well as, I’m sure, some hands-on time. I’m certainly curious as to whether Nintendo can recapture some of the early momentum it had with the Wii, but also whether it can lure back hard-core gamers.

Besides that, the focus is largely going to be on the games themselves, rather than hardware. Sony and Microsoft are not likely to talk about next-generation consoles, since they’re doing just fine with their existing machines.

I’ve got a packed schedule—I’ll be in briefings with all of the major publishers, including Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Activision, and will be interviewing a couple of big-wigs. Some of the major games I’m scheduled to check out include Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, The Amazing Spider-Man, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Halo 4, Fable: The Journey, Assassin’s Creed 3, Far Cry 3, God of War: Ascension and The Last of Us, plus a whole bunch more.

And since we’re talking about video games, the Entertainment Software Association of Canada has released a few new snippets of data just in time for E3. The industry’s lobby group does regular demographic check-ups to see who is playing video games and the results are always informative.

In the latest survey, 58% of Canadians reported playing video games in the past four weeks, up 5% from 2010. About 80% of households have at least one cellphone, tablet or other mobile device, with 61% having a video game console, which is up 14% from 2010.

The average age of gamers, meanwhile, dipped to 31 from 33 in the previous survey. More and more of them are female though, with about 54% surveyed of the male persuasion, down from 62%.