This is a weird time for video gaming. There are many unknowns about the business for the rest of year, questions that gamers usually could answer by now. Why? Quite simply because there won't be the annual "Christmas in May" event known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year.

An expo is planned, but it will be offered in a smaller format, far less than the video-game holiday that it used to be.

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For industry insiders, the expo will be better, as the last couple of E3 events were so chaotic and pressure-cooked that almost every major developer and console-maker spent the three days trying to prove who had the best eye candy or the biggest stage set.

Not who had the best games or were the most innovative.

Sony's Killzone tech demo comes to mind as a title that threw everyone into a tizzy only to find out that the video wasn't real in-game footage.

Now, much of that hype has been removed, and E3 will be an invitation-only event (with an expected attendance of 4,000 visitors instead of the more than 60,000 in previous years), and it will begin almost two months later (July 11).

Gamers should be able to get better, more manageable information on a wider variety of games, which is great, but the giddiness of expecting the spectacular is gone.

The month of May just seems weird now. Quiet.

There are cricket sounds coming from my PC.

Even Wendy's Wii gets Jack'd. One would think Jack Thompson, lawyer and antiviolent-video-game crusader (we are trying to be as respectful as possible, but he is also the bane of most gamers and developers), would leave the little redhead's selling of hamburgers alone, but noooo.

Wendy's will begin a promotion for Wii-related toys in July, according to Totalgamerzone.com, a campaign centered on games like Wii Sports.

Nintendo (known for being the most family-friendly console-maker) also will add a controversial game this summer to its Wii lineup, Rockstar's Manhunt 2. Bluntly put, the Manhunt series involves a lot of killing, and supposedly gamers will utilize the swinging motion of the Wii controller to hack their way to a high score.

Although Wendy's has nothing to do with that game, Jack sent them a letter demanding that they cease the Wii kid's meal promotion because of the release of this Rockstar title.

Huh? Isn't this sort of like blaming PC's for the Columbine game? Blaming DVD players for porn? Dude, just get double with cheese, a biggie fry, a frosty, and just chiiillll.

Spore's Slow Growth. We have been drooling over Sims creator Will Wright's new project, Spore, for more than a hot minute. The ability to play a game where one guides a single-cell organism through its evolution to a human-like civilization, and even space travel, is one of the most promising games to come along in a long time. Throughout 2006, we were told of a late 2007 release date by publisher Electronic Arts.

Not anymore.

At a recent conference call, EA bigwigs pushed the game back to the "end of the 2008 fiscal year." That means somewhere around next March or so.

Do we have reason to believe that the game is in trouble? Not really.

Could the heavenly game be coming back down to earth in regards to what is really possible and practical for a video game?

Probably.

Cheap or just Cheaper?

Sony's PlayStation 3 isn't expensive for nothing. Hi-def Blu-ray drive, HDMI outputs, all those goodies add up. From a cost perspective, however (and ignoring a pretty weak current lineup of games), PS3 owners got a bargain, according to digitimes.com. They compared the cost of components of the Xbox 360 and the PS3 and found that it costs Sony about $840 to make the $599 system. The 360, which had a year head start, has gotten the production costs down to $323, generating a $76 profit on the $399 system, if these numbers are to be believed.

Contact "Bare Knuckles" at bknuckles@phillynews.com.