2003: Bill Gates' crew
Nintendo's dominance of the handheld market faced a new challenge as Nokia announced launch details of its heftily priced ($299) mobile phone 'game deck', N-Gage. Oh, and Sony also revealed the existence of PlayStation Portable (PSP). It didn't show the handheld itself but did excite everybody by promising what it would be capable of. PlayStation big brain Ken Kutaragi hailed PSP as "the Walkman of the 21st Century".
The PSP news dominated the show and even overshadowed the first public appearance of Gran Turismo 4. Still keen to big up its online strategy, Sony used GT4 to show off its Network Adaptor, but the whole process still seemed confusing compared to the up-and-running Xbox Live. By the time GT4 was released in 2005, the online mode has been removed.
As if PSP and GT4 weren't enough, Sony also confirmed that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (which show-goers saw for the first time as a 12 minute movie) and the next GTA would be PS2 exclusive. A big EyeToy presence also ensured that the Sony stand was constantly buzzing.
Microsoft also had an impressive E3: Halo 2's screening sanctum required a dedicated two hour wait to gain access, it was revealed that PC shooter Doom 3 (which looked stunning at the previous E3) would also arrive on Xbox and Rare's Conker: Live and Reloaded joined a wave of new games destined for Microsoft's machine. Even Snoop Dogg turned up to give 'props' to the Bill Gates crew.
Above: Xbox pusher, J Allard, had every reason to smile as Microsoft's machine continued to gather momentum
The only Xbox disappointment was the missing in action status of Perfect Dark Zero. A Rare rep assured enquiring types that they "might see it here next year".
PC games were particularly exciting, with Half-Life 2 standing out as game of the show and stunners such as Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, STALKER Oblivion Lost and Doom 3 (despite only being shown as a trailer again) ensuring that personal computing created a great deal of positive hubbub.
Too much focus on GameCube/GBA link-up, which was showed off with Zelda: Four Swords, and no blockbuster games to get the masses worked up meant that Nintendo had a pretty woeful show that was only saved from being dreadful thanks to playable Mario Kart Double Dash and movies of Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes and Resident Evil 4.
Nintendo's big boss, Satoru Iwata, also casually revealed that GameCube's successor was already in development and would be out before any next-gen machine from either Sony or Microsoft.
2004: Revelations and revolutions
After Nintendo confirmed that it had a new console in development at the previous E3, many people were anticipating PS3 and Xbox 2 announcements, but neither Sony or Microsoft were ready to oblige. Nintendo continued to tease, however, and revealed that its new console would be "revolutionary"...
Even without any next-gen revelations, E3 2004 was still an absolute smash. Sony finally unveiled its sexy-looking PSP and anyone that witnessed its awesome power was truly gobsmacked. The reigning king of the handheld empire, Nintendo, countered Sony's haymaker by revealing that the already-announced DS would have a touch screen. Opinion on which of the new portable devices was divided, although the PSP wow factor gave Sony's device the edge.
The rest of the show was all about killer games. GameCube may have been losing the console war in terms of sales but with a new, grown-up Zelda adventure revealed (by a sword and shield brandishing Miyamoto), Metroid Prime 2, Star Fox, Advance Wars (later known as Battalion Wars) and a fresh E3 trailer of Resident Evil 4, the future looked bright for Nintendo's console.
Above: PSP impressed and many predicted an end to Nintendo's handheld dominance
PS2's armoury was swollen with must-play titles like GTA: San Andreas, which caused a huge stir despite only a few screenshots proving the game's existence, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Gran Turismo 4, God of War and loads of EyeToy stuff (including Chat).
Microsoft had nothing to announce on the same scale as PSP and Zelda, but it still put in a solid performance. It proudly revealed that Xbox had one million online users, unveiled its Live Arcade service and announced that EA was finally supporting Live. All this was topped off nicely with playable Halo 2, which left anyone that sampled the online multiplayer in absolutely no doubt that Live would only go from strength to strength.
Sneaking in the side door was 'the next big thing' for PC, World of Warcraft, while Half-Life 2 promptly blew the socks off anyone that went within a 10 foot radius of it.