Page last updated at 07:16 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 08:16 UK

Gaming giants look to mainstream

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Pensioners playing with a Nintendo DS, AP
Nintendo has pioneered lifestyle gaming

The giants of the video games industry gather in Los Angeles this week for the E3 conference, and all sights are set on the mass market.

Microsoft and Sony are both expected to follow the Nintendo Wii's lead and push into social gaming.

Observers say the recent cut for the Xbox 360 is Microsoft's bid to make the console more appealing.

"There is a strong move to pull in women, young girls and older people," said analyst Piers Harding-Rolls.

"It's not just about the traditional gamer anymore. More casual, lifestyle and family-orientated products are going to appeal to a wider demographic," said the Screen Digest analyst.

Huge success

Nintendo has had huge success with its Wii console, dominating rivals Sony and Microsoft by focusing on casual and lifestyle titles.

"They have created a new category of gaming - lifestyle and training games and this social software genre is doing fantastically well," said Mr Harding-Rolls.

Microsoft want to be seen more like Disney and less like Tarantino
Darren Waters, technology editor BBC News website

"Nintendo is riding a wave and other platforms are seeking to try and get into those channels as well."

He added: "There is definitely a demand for more of that product that Nintendo has championed."

Screen Digest predicts that the market for current generation consoles will hit 80 million by the end of the year.

Publishers and developers are beginning to exploit new forms of content, new types of gaming, as well as delivery through online sales, said Mr Harding-Rolls.

Marketing campaign

Microsoft is expected to unveil a massive marketing campaign aimed at repositioning the Xbox 360.

One of the first elements of that is to cut the price of the 20GB Xbox 360 in North American to $299 (150) - closer to the price of the Wii.

Additionally, in August a 60GB Xbox will debut that will cost $349 (175).

The campaign is intended to show a stronger emphasis on social gaming though the console's traditional strength in action and adventure titles will also be well represented.

Wii in action
The Wii has changed ideas about what games can be

Highly-anticipated sequel Gears of War 2 will be on show, as will role playing game Fable 2, from British developer Peter Molyneux's firm Lionhead.

In an E3 diary written for the BBC News website, he said: "It's the adrenaline rush of pushing your chest out and showing who you are and what you stand for.

"And this year Lionhead stands for Fable 2, which amazingly is finally done."

Sony will be showing PlayStation 3 exclusive titles Resistance 2, Killzone 2 and LittleBigPlanet.

The company is also expected to give more details of its online virtual world, called Home, and there are reports that a third God of War title might also be shown.

Lifestyle peripherals

"I think that you'll have some exciting lifestyle peripherals on the PlayStation Portable alongside the PlayStation 3," predicted games consultant Nick Parker.

LittleBigPlanet is one of Sony's big games

Nintendo is expected to announce a number of deals with third-party developers, who are hoping to capitalise on the success of the Wii, as well as lift the lid of what its own internal studios are currently working on.

"Wii is dominated by Nintendo's own software. Can third parties make substantial returns on the Wii?" asked Mr Harding-Rolls.

He added: "Behind closed doors Nintendo will be looking to reassure publishers about the potential of the platform and its longevity."

One of the other key themes of E3 will be the continued growth in online content, he predicted.

He said: "We'll see more downloadable titles. It will be interesting to see if there any more premium titles delivered via digital distribution.

"Online gaming is becoming increasingly popular across the whole of Europe. Europe is not a small online gaming market anymore."

The success of games based around peripherals, such as Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Singstar, is also likely to spur more developers to create add-on friendly titles, especially as their increased sales prices boost revenues.

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