Videogames, films on display at mega event

Hollywood isn’t the only one playing the promotional game at Comic-Con.

Videogame publishers have set up shop at the annual confab in San Diego this week to tout their newest titles, hoping that the kind of early buzz that benefits movies and TV shows will help boost interest in their games as well.

Gamemakers have shown up at the four-day show in the past but hardly with the presence they’ve achieved this year — Electronic Arts, Activision, Capcom, Konami, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3, among others, take up a sizable section of the event’s show floor that previously housed comicbook sellers.

And all have the same goals: to impress the confab’s 125,000 attendees and get them to spread the word about what they see.

“It’s where all the important opinionmakers come,” said Jim Lee, Executive Creative Director for DC Universe Online. “If they don’t like it here, we’ve got a problem.”

Sony Online and DC Comics are using the show to promote the launch of “DC Universe Online.” Similar to its runaway hit “EverQuest,” game enables paying subscribers to create their own superhero or villain character, and they’ll play alongside the popular DC Comics super heroes and villains.

Interactive superheroes also proved the focus for Warner Bros.’ vidgame arm with its upcoming “Lego Batman” release. Meanwhile, other publishers touted fantasy and sci-fi fare, with Codemasters pushing “Lord of the Rings Online” and EA giving first plays of its high-profile titles “Mirror’s Edge,” “Dead Space,” “Warhammer Online,” “Battlefield Heroes” and “Spore.”

Game execs say the growth of Comic-Con over the years has made it a lucrative way to reach comicbook fans, hardcore and casual gamers in one place.

“They’re here, and they’re doing nothing else but focusing on their favorite forms of entertainment,” said Mike Quigley, group VP of global marketing for EA Games, which has had a presence at the Con for the past five years. “We love consumer shows because it’s a way to reach out to the most rabid and the most loyal fans,” Quigley added.

“It’s become the new place to show off games to the public” after the E3 vidgame confab became too loud and expensive, Lee said.

Games were even well represented during the start of the studio presentations Thursday as 20th Century Fox kicked things off with “Max Payne,” based on the popular Take-Two Interactive vidgame, as well as with the redo of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and a surprise appearance from Hugh Jackman to push “X-Men Origins Wolverine.”

Fox wound up benefiting from the scheduling of its panel before that of Summit Entertainment, which packed the confab’s largest presentation hall with 6,500 fans who showed up early to secure a seat for the “Twilight” panel.

The mostly female crowd of teens and tweens, some with shirts identifying themselves as “Twilighters,” erupted in screams for Mark Wahlberg, who made his first appearance at the Con to push “Payne.”

The reaction surprised the thesp, prompting him to respond, “It’s like doing a concert in Japan. You don’t say anything and everyone goes ‘Whoo!’ “

Interest in “Twilight” was so high, in fact, that after Summit’s panel ended, fans flocked to the company’s booth on the show floor creating such a traffic problem that fire marshals had to close the booth.

Jackman, who’s become a Comic-Con regular over the years, generated excitement with “Wolverine.”

“I’ve waited years to bring Wolverine to Comic-Con,” Jackman said, adding that the “X-Men” pics hadn’t been represented at the show in the past. “Without you guys I wouldn’t have a career.”

These thesps at least were able to make the appearance. Some others didn’t.

Dakota Fanning, who was supposed to sit alongside Chris Evans and Djimon Hounsou to sell Summit’s “Push,” found herself stuck on Interstate 5 in a massive traffic snarl, caused by the turnover of a tractor trailer from Los Angeles, and missed the panel entirely. Wreck also kept Ian McShane from a panel to discuss NBC’s “Kings,” and Doug Liman from the Peacock’s “Knight Rider” panel.

The morning wasn’t without its snafus on site as well. Panels were delayed when a massive curtain covering Hall H’s back wall collapsed, prompting organizers to double-check the rest of the walls before beginning presentations. No one was hurt.

Comic-Con ends Sunday.

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