The annual ECTS trade show kicked off at Earls Court in London this morning, with a typically early start for what was shaping up to be a very enjoyable and tiring day ahead.


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ECTS 2003 seems to have got over the problems of the last few years, and it's clear to see that the industry as a whole is seeing the event as more important again, with the return of some major names both inside the exhibition hall, and also out in the forecourt such as Nintendo's "truck" and pitstop area.

Companies inside Earls Court - which is also home to the PlayStation Experience from Thursday morning - included big names such as Atari, Konami, THQ, and Ubi Soft, along with a number of smaller and newer publishers who were showing forthcoming titles, many of them for the first time.

There were two clear winners in the draw for visitor interest - Valve's Half-Life 2 was the major attraction of the show with crowds lining up around the Vivendi stand in queue's which lasted over an hour, and resulted in a 22 minute presentation of the game engine, various new technological features and some very impressive gameplay footage - well worth the queue.

Nokia's N-gage stand was the other crowd puller, with a large number of playable games on show including Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Tomb Raider, Sonic N, Moto GP and Red Faction to name just a few on the smaller than expected N-gage device.


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Numerous publishers stands had mobile phone based games on display, in what appears to be a fast-growing area of the gaming industry. In fact with the addition of the Vodafone Live Arcade championship at ECTS during the second and third days of the show, it could be said that it's the year of mobile gaming - something which seems likely to become more of a feature in the industry over the next 12 months.

Accessories such as controllers, wheels, dancemats and light guns were also in abundance, as were budget-priced games such as the Play It and Phoenix Games ranges.

We're back at ECTS again tomorrow for day 2, to see the PlayStation Experience, along with other parts of the show which we simply didn't get time to see today, and we'll have a full rundown of the biggest titles on each of the main exhibitors stands, and news of the major announcements, during the coming days.

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