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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 May 2006, 00:24 GMT 01:24 UK
Nintendo steals the show at E3
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website in Los Angeles

People queuing at the Nintendo stand
Queues for the Nintendo Wii stretched around its stand
If success was judged by the size of the queues at this week's E3 games expo, then Nintendo would win hands down.

Fans waited in line for hours to have a go at the new Wii console and its unorthodox motion-sensing controller.

Nintendo's Wii (pronounced "we") stole the show in Los Angeles, which is one of the key events of the games industry.

It managed to overshadow Sony's much vaunted PlayStation 3 (PS3), even though this was the first time buffs were able to play games on the new system.

As E3 entered its final hours on Friday afternoon, the queues to play the PS3 had vanished.

The PS3 and the Wii are due out by the end of the year. They are part of a new wave of gaming that was kicked off by Microsoft last November with the debut of its Xbox 360.

Fun and games

The three console makers have their eyes on a games industry worth billions which is currently dominated by Sony due to the phenomenal success of its PlayStation 2.

As the current leader, Sony has the most to lose as gamers take up the new machines.

PlayStation 3 stand
The PlayStation 3 is out in November
"Microsoft and Nintendo are building towards something bigger," said Margaret Robertson, editor of the games magazine Edge. "Sony is feeding the market they have built."

The systems from Microsoft and Sony boast powerful computer processors and high definition graphics.

The Wii cannot compare to the raw power of its rivals. Instead Nintendo is aspiring to change the way people play video games.

It has abandoned the traditional controller loaded with buttons in favour of one shaped like a TV remote.

The wand-like controller has a motion sensor, so people can play by wielding it like a sword or swinging it like a tennis racket.

"It's not high-definition gaming, but it is fun," said Ankarino Lara, vice president of games website Gamespot.

"The Wii is going to change the way we perceive gaming. We're going to see games that are accessible at low cost, games that are fun for family and friends."

Great expectations

Nintendo kept quiet on the price of the Wii but most analysts expect it to cost between $200 and $300.

Microsoft still doesn't have the breadth of software to be a real rival to Sony, or the devotion to be a rival to Nintendo
Margaret Robertson, Edge
This gives it a clear advantage over the PS3, which will cost $499 (499 euros) for a basic model with a 20GB hard drive.

The version with key features such as a special output for top quality high definition video, wi-fi, memory card slots and a 60GB will cost $599 (599 euros).

At that price, enthusiasts were expecting to be blown away by the games at E3 but left disappointed.

"It is hard to be over-excited about what Sony has shown," said Ms Robertson.

"They are saying the next generation begins when we say it begins, but at the moment what they are showing isn't bearing that out.

"There isn't the dramatic difference between PS3 games and the 360 games that Sony is telling you to expect.

Shooting spree

Microsoft is trying to capitalise on the situation by gearing up new games for its Xbox 360

Xbox stand
Fans got their hands on upcoming Xbox 360 games
The software giant was first to market with the November debut of its new console.

It has set itself the ambitious goal of selling 10 million Xbox 360s by the time the rival systems go on sale.

While it had a solid line-up at E3, few titles failed to generate the excitement of a Halo or Grand Theft Auto.

These best-selling games are coming to the 360, but not until 2007.

At E3, most of the new games for the Xbox 360 were shooting, sports or racing titles, with the exception of the children's game, Viva Pinata.

"Microsoft still doesn't have the breadth of software to be a real rival to Sony, or the devotion to be a rival to Nintendo," said Ms Robertson.

Must-have games are vital to a console's success. E3 offered a glimpse of what was coming for the three consoles.

In the end, the success of the systems is often determined by the quality and variety of games available, rather than processing power or crisp graphics.

Alfred.Hermida-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk




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