LOS ANGELES: Videogame makers at E3 this week shrugged off the dismal economy, debuting supercharged sequels to blockbuster titles and play that is increasingly social and active.
"All three publishers showed strong," said Scott Steinberg of videogame and gadget website Digital Trends, referring to Electronic Entertainment Expo line-ups touted by competing console makers Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.
"The gamers are probably the ones that are going to win in the end."
Publishers of hit videogame titles such as "Assassin's Creed," "Mass Effect," and "God of War" demonstrated sequels with intriguing story lines, stunning graphics, and game play tuned with feedback from fans.
A second installment in 2K Games "BioShock" set in a fictional undersea world called "Rapture" spins off the original gripping tale and adds online multi-player features that were among E3 trends.
Videogames once designed as solo experiences are increasingly using Internet connections to link players and immerse them together in virtual worlds where multiple players can be allies or enemies.
"BioShock 2" multi-player features let people customize the abilities of characters and then battle in modes including "survival of the fittest" and team civil war, according to 2K senior producer Melissa Miller.
"Imagine going into a match where someone can be just as creative as you are, and how that changes your game play," Miller said after demonstrating the title.
"That is what we think is truly special about the multi-player component."
A "MAG" war videogame poised for release will let as many as 256 online players, divided into units, battle against each other simultaneously.
"We are seeing games become more of a group exercise with a lot more chances to experience games with friends, and social networking," Steinberg said.
"Games are actually bringing people together instead of splitting them apart"
Videogame makers continue to court girls, seniors and others considered "casual gamers," players other than young men fanatic about action and shooter titles.
Titles geared for girls include fashion, cheerleading, and charm.
A "Bayonetta" action videogame features a fierce heroine pitted against a formidable villainess.
Sony is working with entertainment giant Disney to pair a "Hannah Montana" videogame with a lilac PSP handheld playing device.
Girls are prime buyers of Nintendo DS handheld videogame devices, and Ubisoft's line of "Imagine" titles for the gadgets have been hot sellers in with that demographic.
E3 abounded with exercise, sports, and dance videogames that people play by moving their bodies instead of just their thumbs.
Nintendo pioneered the revolution with the release in 2006 of Wii consoles with motion-sensing controllers.
Traditional controllers on consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 feature toggles and buttons players manipulate to dictate actions of videogame characters.
Nintendo rivals Microsoft and Sony both said at E3 they are working on motion-sensing controllers for their videogame consoles, signaling the trend toward active game play is likely to intensify.
A Project Natal prototype for Xbox 360 combines cameras and face and voice recognition software to let players control game play with natural body movements.
"For every two people now playing there is one more just waiting to jump into the game," Nintendo global president Satoru Iwata said, citing a study of done by the Japanese firm.
Videogame hardware and software sales boomed last year despite a global financial crisis but have fallen in recent months. Industry insiders at E3 remain optimistic.
"Over the past year, our industry has done well in this uncertain economic climate," said Xbox vice president John Schappert.
"Perhaps because now, more than ever before, people want to have fun and they want to connect with each other, all from the comfort of their living rooms."