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What Will Microsoft, Nintendo Cook Up?

After last night's controller announcement from Sony, everyone seems to be wondering if Nintendo will have an equally surprising announcement up its sleeve.

The applause for most of Sony's announcements was a little tepid. The Nintendo event is always a little more high energy, because Nintendo fans are ... a little intense. If there aren't screams and of joy from some of these people in the crowd when the company shows its upcoming games and Wii console off, it'll be a first.

Today's announcements are back-to-back news conferences from Nintendo and Microsoft. Only rumor/guess I've heard that Microsoft is interested in putting out a free, ad-supported version of its Xbox Live service for the Xbox 360, in which users get to play each other for free online, but have to look at ads. Would expect the company will also talk about the supply of 360s, how they've addressed the problem, yadda yadda. The big thing people are looking to Microsoft for is: When does Halo 3 come out? If it comes out well in advance of the PS3, it could get people to buy Microsoft's console instead of the more expensive one from Sony.

None of the games have yet grabbed the buzz, though some folks were talking about the Square Enix press conference (which I skipped), in which a bunch of Final Fantasy games were announced.

At the Sony event I actually heard someone mildly complaining that the Nintendo party will feature the Black-Eyed Peas, because Fergie & co. apparently played at some other game-related trade show (and the Consumer Electronics Show).

Sony always throws an enormous fiesta, and people are already looking forward to it. The bands that play at that shindig are always kept as a top-secret surprise, but there's a rumor about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That rumor is itself part of E3 tradition -- by tomorrow, I expect to hear its counterpart: that Aerosmith will play, or was supposed to play, but had a conflict. Almost anything is believable, because Sony has had great surprise shows in the past: Beck, Macy Gray, Crystal Method, Missy Elliott, Outkast, and on and on.

With Sony's impressions fresh in mind, it's time to see what Nintendo has to offer via its morning news conference.

The unconventional controller war has officially begun, Nintendo having fired its first shot via the "wand" system some months back and Sony now responding with a Bluetooth, gyroscope-based unit that offers six additional axes of passive input that could make all the difference -- or frustrate its user base once the novelty has worn off.

Nintendo has a perfect opportunity to impress, despite its confusingly named Wii console. And where Sony hyped integration between its PSP and PS3 consoles as well as emulation of older titles, Nintendo has traditionally placed itself in a position to connect its consoles as well as offer older content for easy download.

Once again, Nintendo will have to strike a balance between its youth/family markets as well as the older generation, which Sony and Microsoft have managed and corralled better content for. A single market, by any form of logic, can be served better than a mixed one, and it's time to see how Nintendo evolves with this under consideration.

Well after a good night's sleep, I'm off to the Nintendo news conference. Going to be interesting to see what they say. The general consensus after the Sony event was good - they showed some promising new games, showed off some cool tech, and the controller unveiling really threw a wrench in Nintendo's plans. However, with Sony blowing their wad and telling the world the high price of the PS3, Nintendo (and Microsoft) have some ammo for their speeches today. Let the mud slinging begin!

By Bob Greiner  |  May 9, 2006; 10:49 AM ET  | Category:  E3: Dispatches
Previous: PS3 Impressions | Next: E3 in Today's Print Post

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What is so confusing about Wii?

One syllable, one letter followed by two identical ones.

Posted by: manny | May 9, 2006 12:37 PM

Nintendo actually announced that the new controller feature would be a part of Wii before Sony delayed and then added this new feature to their console. Sony... finally learning a few things from Microsoft.

Posted by: greg | May 9, 2006 12:40 PM

I'm sure MS will have an add-on gyro stick eventually if it's that big a hit. It sounds really goofy to me. Kids might enjoy playfully slinging a controller around, but many grown-ups play games to kick back and relax. MS will be dropping their prices by at least $100 having been in the market for a year prior to Sony's release, so you're talking about $300 price difference on the low-end consoles. Topple that with the already established online community and a year's worth of games already out (not to mention the Wii won't be in hi-def). I think MS has this one in the bag.

Posted by: Joe | May 9, 2006 12:53 PM

I heard a rumor today about a portable 360 coming soon...

Posted by: E | May 9, 2006 1:02 PM

Nintendo will be left behind because they gambled on high def and must now sit and watch everyone plug a PS3 or 360 into their $2,000 televisions. Microsoft will be left behind because they gambled on HD-DVD and then handicapped themselves by not bundling the technology with the 360. Sony is in a great position to not only to release a competitive console, but also ensure the success of BluRay.

Posted by: Karl | May 9, 2006 5:05 PM

...Yes, Nintendo will be left behind because it doesn't support HD - a technology owned by (at best) 10% of the population.

Sony's price is WAY too high, the games are all bad sequals, they have a gimmicky pathetic attempt to rip off the Wii controller - but hey, you can use your $250 PSP as a side-mirror in GT4HD, and watch blue-ray movies.

Sony is arrogant, stupid, and terrible.

It's sad to say, but Microsoft consoles have looked much better than the last Sony consoles (excluding the original xbox controller, of course).

Posted by: Randlan | May 9, 2006 6:13 PM

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