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This year’s top surprises at E3

With the video game industry’s largest trade show over, it’s time to wrap up some of the highlights. We’ll start with the biggest surprises that VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi and I saw at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

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VentureBeat’s photo gallery captures the noise of E3 2011 (part 1)

The only thing bad about an E3 photo gallery is that you can’t hear the sounds. E3, the video game industry’s trade show, is an extremely loud trade show, with game exhibitors blasting sounds as much as they can to draw attention to their games. The convention drew an estimated 45,000 people to Los Angeles this week. We were there from the first parties to the last. We saw many of the 35,000 screens showing off new games. Here’s the show in pictures.

Microsoft demos long-awaited Star Wars Kinect game (video)

It isn’t trapped in a galaxy far, far away any more. Microsoft finally unveiled a Star Wars game powered by its motion controller, the Kinect, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo today in Los Angeles, Calif.

Double Fine channels its creativity into Sesame Street Kinect game (video)

Double Fine Productions doesn’t believe in transitions. Its last game was Brutal Legend, a mature-rated heavy metal fantasy game for headbanging fans. Its new title is Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, a Kinect motion-sensing game for the Xbox 360 with plenty of flowers and love.

Classic Halo remake coming to Xbox 360

Microsoft announced today that it is re-mastering its popular Halo game for the Xbox 360 with high-definition graphics and Xbox Live features. The company made the announcement at the Electronic Entertainment Expo today in Los Angeles, Calif.

Microsoft demos a Kinect-enabled Mass Effect 3 for hardcore gamers (video)

Xbox 360 manufacturer Microsoft announced today that one of the hottest titles that will be released next year, Mass Effect 3, will feature voice controls with the console’s Kinect motion controller. Microsoft made the announcement at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, one of the video game industry’s largest trade shows, in Los Angeles, Calif. today.

MagicPixelGames founded to make motion-control family games

Magic Pixel Games is coming out of stealth today as a new game studio focused on making motion-control family games. The Los Angeles game studio hopes to benefit from the wave of popularity for motion-sensing game systems, from Microsoft’s Kinect to Sony’s PlayStation Move.

Hulu Plus is welcome addition to Xbox Live, but Kinect control is slow

Microsoft is adding Hulu Plus to the Xbox Live online gaming service on Friday, expanding the system’s entertainment options in a very good way. Users who pay $7.99 a month can get access to the streaming movie and TV show service of Hulu via the Xbox 360.

Xbox and Kinect shine in Microsoft earnings report

The Xbox and Kinect motion controller are again Microsoft’s brightest stars as the company posted strong earnings and 60 percent growth in its entertainment division, even though sales of its flagship Windows operating system fell slightly amid weak personal computer demand.

DEMO: FaceCake offers Jetson-like future of fashion

FaceCake is one of 53 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2011 event taking place this week in Palm Desert, Calif. After our selection, the companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Windows Phone 7 and Kinect learn to play ball together (video)

Now here’s a cool demonstration of some possible integration between Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and its Kinect motion gaming controller: using a phone to throw balls at gamers playing the Rally Ball game on the Xbox 360.

Shortages coming for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Kinect

Microsoft confirmed today that its Xbox 360 game console and Kinect motion-control system sold in such large numbers during the holidays that it expects shortages in the near term.

Motion-control startup Omek is bringing gesture controls to the PC (video)

After the smashing success of Microsoft’s Kinect motion-control system for the Xbox 360, a bunch of companies are getting excited about taking the technology to PCs and other devices. We profiled Sixense earlier today, and here’s a snapshot of motion-sensing software firm Omek Interactive, which was founded in 2006.

Groupon will become the Sarah Palin of tech, and other predictions for 2011

2011 will be a year of economic recovery and continued drama in Silicon Valley, marked by the hyped battles of Apple vs. Google, Google vs. Facebook, and Oracle vs. the rest of the enterprise world. Without further ado, here is the 4th annual edition of my technology predictions.

VentureBeat’s top 10 tech trends of 2011 (vote for your favorite)

As we begin 2011, optimism is on the upswing. And we’ll need it: The technology industry has a lot of potential, as embodied in these 10 trends we’re seeing, but it will take continued growth — and a lot of hard work — to make them happen. What do you think of our crystal ball-gazing? Vote for your favorite trend in our poll at the end.

Week in review: Skype outage affects tens of millions

Here’s our roundup of the of the week’s tech business news. (It’s shorter than usual, owing to the fact that there’s less going on during the holidays.) First, here are the most popular stories VentureBeat published in the last seven days:

Microsoft says “Not!” to Kinect sex game

Microsoft got excited when hackers started coming up with novel uses for its Kinect motion control system which debuted for the Xbox 360 in November. But it was less than thrilled with the idea of using Kinect for sex games.

Call of Duty and Kinect help video game sales hit record in November

And there was much rejoicing. Video game sales rose a healthy 8 percent for the month of November compared to a year ago, according to market researcher NPD. The sales were up mostly thanks to strong sales of Call of Duty Black Ops and the debut of Microsoft’s Kinect motion-control system.

Is Microsoft readying for a surprise comeback?

Microsoft is on a roll: Its newly launched Windows Phone 7 is gaining momentum, and Kinect, its motion controller response to the Wii, could very well sell out before the end of the year. If there was ever a time for Microsoft to get back on its feet and stand shoulder to shoulder with Apple and Google, this would be it.

VentureBeat’s picks for the 10 best video games of the holiday season

We’ve unveiled VentureBeat’s picks for the 10 best video games of the holiday season. And this year’s picks really show how much the $20 million U.S. gaming market has changed in the past year. The growing influence of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and mobile gaming experiences such as the iPhone are clear to see. These games have great single-player experiences, but many of them also have excellent social sharing and multiplayer experiences too, a factor that’s becoming increasingly important in this market.

Microsoft Kinect hack gets serious with multitouch interface (video)

The comparisons between Microsoft’s Kinect body-gesture motion-control system and the cool gesture-controlled computer in the 2002 sci fi movie Minority Report are getting old, but I can’t help but think of that film when looking at developer Florian Echtler’s multitouch interface hack (see video below) for Kinect.

Nintendo: the gaming landscape has changed forever, but console’s are doing just fine

Five years ago, video games were in a “golden age.” The Playstation 2 was dominating sales and found its way into most households, and gamers still plugged controllers into their systems to play their games. Then people began texting on their phones — and the world changed forever, said Nintendo of America’s president Reggie Fils-Aime.

Review: Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing game system isn’t as good as we hoped

Microsoft has created a unique experience with its Kinect motion-control gaming system. On its face, it’s more compelling than either the Nintendo Wii, which is now showing its age, and the Sony PlayStation Move, the wand-like controller from Sony that doesn’t go far enough in motion sensing.