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E3 in LA: In the game industry's California backyard, the big star is French



Gamers take in the sights at the E3 Expo. At this big event for Los Angeles and Southern California, the big star is Ubisoft, a French company.
Gamers take in the sights at the E3 Expo. At this big event for Los Angeles and Southern California, the big star is Ubisoft, a French company.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra/KPCC
Gamers take in the sights at the E3 Expo. At this big event for Los Angeles and Southern California, the big star is Ubisoft, a French company.
Michael Chan, of Hong Kong, plays new Sony PlayStation game at the 2012 E3 Expo.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra/KPCC
Gamers take in the sights at the E3 Expo. At this big event for Los Angeles and Southern California, the big star is Ubisoft, a French company.
The Annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, started in 1995 in Los Angeles. The popular conference saw almost 47,000 attendees in 2011.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra/KPCC
Gamers take in the sights at the E3 Expo. At this big event for Los Angeles and Southern California, the big star is Ubisoft, a French company.
E3 Expo attendees take a picture in front of an advertisement for the popular video game, Halo.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra/KPCC


All the biggest names in gaming have pulled into Los Angeles this week for E3. Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, and Activision are just a few of the companies that call Southern California home. All these companies have had hits and made millions. Some have created veritable pop-culture phenomena with games like "Medal of Honor" and "Call of Duty."

But at E3, the company that getting all the buzz is...French!

(OK, Activision is owned in part by Vivendi, a French company, but it's still based in L.A.)

It's Ubisoft, and its new game, "Watch Dogs," is the talk of E3. The actual game itself is cryptic ‚ but that's the point. It's based on concepts such as surveillance, hacking, and security. You can check out a sample here.

It rather notably isn't a sequel to a previous game. The business model of the gaming business has become highly reliant of offering new iterations of essentially the same thing. Ubisoft is somewhat guilty of this itself, with its "Assassin's Creed" series. 

But Ubisoft is showing a willingness to follow a riskier path with "Watch Dogs" and also "ZombiU," the trailer for which yesterday scared me straight into the arms of a food truck from Louisiana outside the L.A. Convention Center. "ZombiU" is designed for the new Wii U system, an effort by Nintendo to bolster a once-popular format that's flagging in popularity.

The now "traditional" videogame industry is feeling some pressure from social games, such as those produced by Zynga for Facebook. Making sequels was good enough in the past. But Ubisoft is showing that something truly new might be required to capture the attention of gamers in the future.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.