Thursday, July 17, 2008
NINTENDO ROLLS OUT NEW GAMES FOR WII, DS-Sony cutting price of PS3, adding video downloads
LOS ANGELES - In a bid to regain lost ground in the fiercely competitive gaming business, Sony announced Tuesday that it will cut the price of its high-end PlayStation 3 console by $100. It also will introduce downloads of movies and TV shows to the game machine's online store and, with some software partners, roll out a number of exclusive games.
The moves suggested that Sony still views Microsoft as its chief rival rather than market leader Nintendo, which seems focused on extending its lead. But, of course, that's not how Sony brass portrayed its announcements at a press event here at the game industry's E3 conference.
Sony's PlayStation brand in general and the PS3 in particular are "just beginning to hit [their] stride," said Jack Tretton, CEO of the North American branch of Sony Computer Entertainment, which oversees the PlayStation products.
While Sony focused on Microsoft, Nintendo showed that its focus is still on attracting a broad audience. The company announced a sequel to its popular - and accessible - "Wii Sports" game, and introduced a new title in the same vein, dubbed "Wii Music."
But Nintendo also showed an eagerness to compete with its two rivals on what is arguably their turf, announcing that a new version of "Grand Theft Auto" is coming out for its DS handheld.
Five years ago, the "common sense" view was to be pessimistic about Nintendo's future because it had lost out to Sony in two consecutive console cycles, noted
Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's president, at the company's own press event. But the Wii and DS have launched a "paradigm shift" in the game business, he said.
"In a paradigm shift, common sense doesn't seem to make as much sense any more," he said.
Sony announced that this fall it will cut the price of the 80-gigabyte version of the PlayStation 3 from $500 to $400. At the same time, the company plans to discontinue the 40-gigabyte version of the console, which previously sold for $400. Sony hopes the lower price will attract the "millions of PlayStation 2 users who are on the cusp of upgrading," Tretton said.
Slow sales for PS3
Since its launch, the PlayStation 3 has been the most expensive console on the market, which may help explain its slow sales. The price cut is similar to one announced by Microsoft on Sunday. Microsoft is cutting the price of its 20-gigabyte Xbox 360 by $50 to $299 to clear inventory and is introducing a 60-gigabyte model at $349, the former price of the 20-gigabyte version.
But neither Sony nor Microsoft seems ready to get into a price war with Nintendo, whose Wii is not only the lowest price console at $249, but also the best selling.
Sony also plans to introduce a video service that resembles one already available on its rival's Xbox Live service. Through the new service, PlayStation 3 users will be able to buy or rent movies and TV shows from major studios such as Paramount, Disney, 20th Century Fox, and - of course - Sony Pictures.
PlayStation Network's video delivery service, which was set to launch Tuesday evening, initially will offer nearly 300 full-length movies and more than 1,200 TV episodes, many available in both standard definition and high definition. Tretton said Sony would add to the service over time. Microsoft, meanwhile, now has some 20,000 videos available either through its service or through its new partnership with Netflix.
Nintendo does not offer movies or TV shows through the online service for its Wii - and hasn't announced plans to do so.
Like Microsoft, Sony also used its press event to tout upcoming games, mostly action and shooter titles. New versions of the popular "Resistance" and "God of War" games, which are exclusive to Sony, are heading to the PlayStation 3, Tretton said. Microsoft announced Monday that it has a number of games coming that are either exclusive to the Xbox 360 or new to the platform after previously being exclusive to PlayStation consoles.
Nintendo, meanwhile, used its separate press event to focus on games that the company hopes will appeal to an audience broader than game enthusiasts - the same audience that has helped make the DS and the Wii the top-selling game machines.
Nintendo not done
Later this year, the company will launch "Wii Music," a musical game in the mode of "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band," but one that can be played with the controls that come with the Wii - or with the board that comes with the Wii Fit - rather than requiring add-on accessories.
Next spring the company plans to offer a sequel to the popular "Wii Sports" game that comes with the console. Dubbed "Wii Sports Resort," it will come with the company's new MotionPlus accessory designed to give users added precision in pointing and using the Wii remote.
The company did announce one big surprise. Take-Two plans to release a version of its mega-hit "Grand Theft Auto" franchise for Nintendo's DS handheld. Dubbed "Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown," the game will be the first version of the series on the DS and one of the first ever for a Nintendo game system.