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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Current game consoles live on
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

EA stand in E3
EA is planning to carry on working on current generation games
With powerful new games consoles on the way, it might seem like game over for the current set of consoles.

But the makers of the PlayStation 2 (PS2) and Xbox are confident that gamers will be playing their machines for a few more years.

Sony expects to sell a further eight million PS2s in Europe alone over the next 12 months and Microsoft says it will continue to manufacture millions more Xboxes.

At the recent E3 games expo in Los Angeles, there was little talk about the current generation of machines. Instead all eyes were on the new wave of consoles announced by the big names in the business.

To much fanfare, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo unveiled the machines which they hope we will be playing in the years to come.

These so-called next-generation consoles are opening a new chapter in the history of games, offering high-definition cinematic images in real time and the computing power to deliver sophisticated and complex gameplay.

Old workhorse

Microsoft's new Xbox 360 is due to go on sale worldwide towards the end of the year, with the PlayStation 3 coming in the spring of 2006. Nintendo has talked about releasing its Revolution sometime next year.

The games will phase out very slowly. The industry has learnt that moving away too quickly is costly
Gerhard Florin, Electronic Arts
Despite the column inches devoted to the new machines, most of the floor space at E3 was taken up by games for the current generation of machines.

The PS2 is the oldest of the bunch. It was launched in October 2000 and so far more than 80 million have been sold worldwide.

Despite its age, Sony expects its old workhorse to continue doing well, though sales will slow down.

The head of Sony Computer Entertainment in Europe, David Reeves, has talked about having close to 50 million PS2s in homes in Europe, the Middle East and Australia by 2010, up from 30 million at the moment.

Sony has some knowledge in managing the lifespan of a console, due to its experience with the original PlayStation. The console is more than 10 years old, as it was first launched in Japan in 1994.

With 100 million PSOnes worldwide, the console is still selling, albeit in small numbers.

Xbox games

Microsoft is also looking to get some more mileage out of its Xbox.

Xbox stand at E3
200 games coming for the Xbox this year
"We have got our full weight behind the Xbox and we are committed to making millions more of the console," said Michel Cassius, Xbox's European director.

But Microsoft is adopting a different tactic to Sony. It is going to stop working on current generation titles and instead focus on games for the Xbox 360.

"Microsoft Game Studios will focus on the next-generation of games but third-party publishers are looking at an install console base of 20 million and plus," said Mr Cassius.

He stressed that Xbox fans had much to look forward to, with 200 games coming this year and 150 next year.

"We are not shying away from the Xbox," insisted Mr Cassius. "We are investing in the content that will define the next-generation console and that is critical to us."

Slow change

Judging by the number of games at E3, game publishers believe there is life left in the current consoles.

The biggest game on show was the latest incarnation of the Legend of Zelda for Nintendo's GameCube

And there was plenty on offer from big names in the industry such as Activision, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts (EA).

"We cannot leave the current generation alone," explained EA's European boss Gerhard Florin.

"Everyone moved off the PSOne onto the PlayStation 2 too quickly. We won't make that mistake again," he told the BBC News website.

As the world's largest games publisher, EA holds considerable sway. It is working on new titles such as The Godfather, Black and Batman Begins.

"In 2006 our main focus will be on the current generation," said Mr Florin. But the number of games will start to slow by 2008.

"The games will phase out very slowly. The industry has learnt that moving away too quickly is costly."




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