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E3: Nintendo and Sony Show What's Next

Mike Musgrove

Many videogame fans are pining to be in LA this week, as the industry's major annual trade show, E3, kicks off at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The show, once known for huge crowds and loud parties, reinvented itself as a small, business-focused event last year, but one tradition remains intact: The dueling news conferences, where the console makers each boast of their latest achievements and show off a few new titles in an effort to get the gamers of the world excited about what's coming this holiday season.

Microsoft had its press conference yesterday, in which it announced that Xbox owners with a Netflix subscription will soon be able to watch 10,000 titles in the rental company's movie library online.

Today, Sony rolled out some details of its own new video store, where PS3 owners will be able to buy and rent movies from studios like Sony Pictures, Warner, Disney, MGM and Lionsgate. Owners of both the PS3 and Sony's "PlayStation Portable" device will even be able to transfer movie rentals from the console onto the mobile gadget for watching on the go. The new service launches tonight.

Sony's console usually hasn't looked like much of a winner since the PS3's launch, as both the Xbox 360 and the Wii have consistently outsold it.

But some new figures from research firm NPD show the PS3 as possibly edging past the Xbox 360 in recent sales. The PS3's built-in Blu-ray player surely hasn't hurt consumer interest in the console, now that the format war over which media format will succeed the standard DVD is over (the other consoles do not have Blu-ray). PS3 owners are also singing the praises of a new software update to the system's software, which makes it easier to chat with other players, among other features.

Jack Tretton, president and chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, said the PlayStation 3 is "hitting its stride" and starting to reap the rewards of its long-term strategy for the console.

Nintendo showed off a hodgepodge of new titles today. The game company started its conference with a look at Shaun White Snowboarding, a new snowboarding game from the gold medalist that will have players standing on the Wii Balance Board controller.

A new hardware add-on to the Wii controller on the way, called Wii MotionPlus, allows the Wii to read a player's arm motions more accurately. With this add-on, in a new version of "Wii Sports", players will be able to throw a Frisbee to, say, a virtual dog with the new controller. This add-on device will also make a better class of swordfighting games for the Wii possible... some are in the works.

One new Nintendo title, called Wii Music, will let players conduct an orchestra or play various virtual "music instruments." Players will be able to, for example, bang a pair of Wii controllers like drumsticks, as a virtual set of drums plays onscreen. It's a game possibility that Nintendo has been dropping hints about since before the Wii's launch in 2006.

There was at least one Nintendo-related surprise -- for me, anyway: A version of Grand Theft Auto is coming to Nintendo's "DS" device. That's a bit of a first for the game system, which is generally more famous for its family-friendly content.

By Mike Musgrove  |  July 15, 2008; 2:43 PM ET  | Category:  Mike Musgrove
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