Today saw the start of a series of events across London, which in previous years have seen ECTS as the core trade event. This year however new entrants GameStars Live and the European Games Network, made their debut.

London 2004: European Games Network. Image copyright GamesPaper

GamesPaper started off at EGN this morning for a pre-show press briefing, where ELSPA's Roger Bennett gave an overview as to why the new shows had come about, and how he felt they complimented other shows, both in Europe and around the world such as E3 and the Tokyo Games Show which is taking place later this month.

From here it was on to the EGN and GameStars Live showfloors, with a very business-like style to the European Games Network, with numerous closed off interview rooms, and a more standard "games show" feel to the public event which was taking place on the other side of the exhibition centre.

Major draws within GameStars Live were Microsoft's Halo 2, which was making it's first public appearance in the UK, and massive queues soon formed for the 5 vs 5 deathmatch on the Zanzibar level. Halo 2 is certainly shaping up to be as good as the hype has made it sound, and will prove to be one of the biggest blockbusters this Christmas from our brief but enjoyable play of it first this this morning.

London 2004: GameStars Live. Image copyright GamesPaper

Also on the Microsoft Xbox stand the recently released Forza Motorsport made an appearance, and is looking like a visual treat with some excellent car models and a damage system which sees your carbon fibre bodywork get torn and scuffed when other cars bump in to you. Acclaim's Juiced was also playable and looks to have great promise, although the cars which were unlocked seemed all too floaty and almost as if they were hovering above the track.

Elsewhere in the huge hall which was the size of three football pitches, EA were showing off long-awaited The Sims 2, and Atari had an 80% complete version of Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, which has taken a huge leap forward in terms of visual appeal from the previous titles and the "coastercam" seems to run very smoothly in this early build.

London 2004: GameStars Live. Image copyright GamesPaper

Nintendo's stand was fully themed in the style of a Seaside Pier, complete with helter skelter, fishing game, crazy golf, fortune telling hut and numerous other Pier style features - a very impressive stand, simply for the amount of work which appears to have gone in to making it work so well. Sadly however Nintendo were blighted with a power failure during the early hours of the show, meaning many of the demo pods were crowded late in to the day.

ECTS is the sole event which is taking place at Earls Court this year, and unlike the previous two years isn't running alongside the PlayStation Experience. It's a much smaller show with a lot less exhibitors, most of which were middleware, distribution and manufacturing related companies rather than publishers revealing forthcoming games.

London 2004: ECTS. Image copyright GamesPaper

Visitor numbers to the Earls Court show seemed down when GamesPaper visited during the early afternoon, although this probably wasn't helped by the two main routes between the two sites on the Underground being severly restricted and even suspended for a few hours, causing many people not to bother to make the hour-long journey across to West London.

GamesPaper returns to Excel for day 2 of the shows today, and updates direct from the show floor will be appearing on GamesPaper Direct.

Related articles:
GamesPaper Direct from the show floor
London 2004: Full coverage of ECTS, EGN and GameStars Live
London 2004: ECTS, EGN and GameStars Live show previews