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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 04:43 GMT 05:43 UK
Consoles mount battle royal
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website in Los Angeles

People trying out games at E3
Gamers will be able to try out the consoles for three days
Coming into this year's E3 games expo in Los Angeles, all eyes were on Sony to deliver on the hype and buzz surrounding the PlayStation 3 (PS3).

Gamers had already had a taste of what next generation gaming could be in the shape of Microsoft's Xbox 360.

And on the sidelines is Nintendo's Wii, promising to shake up gaming with its motion-sensing controller.

Sony had to come up with something to make fans across the world stand up and take notice.

Hundreds of guests, journalists and industry analysts packed into one of Sony's Hollywood studios on a warm Monday afternoon to be wowed.

Two hours later, they shuffled out knowing the launch date and the price of the system, but feeling somewhat let down.

Why should the consumer be limited to one type of console? Vive la difference I say
Carl Pheasant, London

There was nothing wrong with the games Sony demonstrated. It was more that they looked pretty much like games on the Xbox 360.

Even the tilt-sensitive controller came across as ill-conceived compared with the controller for the Wii.

While Sony showed off one game in which you could control a plane by moving the controller around, Nintendo's whole presentation was based around a new way of playing games.

Play time

After the workmanlike quality of the Sony presentation, Nintendo was a breath of fresh air.

It began off with a vigorous performance by Nintendo guru Shigeru Miyamoto, conducting an orchestra by waving the Wii controller in the air.

Nintendo tennis demo
Nintendo executives played virtual tennis
From the start, it was clear that Nintendo had one aim - to show how much fun you could have, by yourself or with others.

It reflects the different approach of the makers of Mario and Zelda.

Nintendo is ploughing a different path to rivals Sony and Microsoft.

Nintendo is clearly pinning its hopes that gamers will turn their backs on high-definition graphics in favour of new gaming experiences.

Judging by first impressions, the Wii may be just the console to change how we think about video games.

But that still leaves Sony and Microsoft slugging it out for gamers hungry for photo-realistic and intense shooting or racing games.

Here, the software giant from Seattle has a considerable advantage. Its Xbox 360 is already out and, after some supply shortages, readily available in the shops.

Second wave

Microsoft is keeping up the pressure with a raft of new games due out this year.

Screenshot of Gears of War
Gears of War is one of the key new titles for the Xbox 360
The first titles for the Xbox 360 on release were good, but there was no Halo or Grand Theft Auto among them.

Microsoft has to make sure this second wave is sensational, to build on the head start it has gained by launching its console first.

The question for gamers is whether to take the plunge into the world of Xbox now, or wait until later in the year for the PS3 or the Wii.

Nintendo can probably count on dedicated fans, and those attracted by the sheer unconventional nature of the Wii's controllers and its promise of unadulterated fun.

But Sony could find itself being squeezed from both sides. It has the most to lose, as it dominates the current set of consoles, having sold more than 100 million PlayStation 2s.

The strength of the PlayStation brand cannot be underestimated and this will help Sony.

But it is clear that the company has a lot of work to do between now and the planned November launch of the PS3 to remain the king of home console gaming.


See the PlayStation 3 console in action

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