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3D, Motion Dominate Top E3 Trends

LOS ANGELES — Typically,
motion and 3D aren’t a
great combination, but motion-
sensing game control and
3D graphics stood out as the
top trends to emerge from last
week’s 2010 Electronic Entertainment
Expo (E3).

Microsoft started the early
buzz by introducing a slimmer
version of the Xbox 360
console and by demonstrating
its long-awaited controller-free
motion-sensing gaming system
called Kinect (formerly codenamed
Project Natal).

The new Xbox 360 went on
sale this month at a $300 suggested

In other show highlights, Sony
said the motion-control system
for the PlayStation3, called Play-
Station Move, will be available in
the U.S. on Sept. 19.

Nintendo, meanwhile, unveiled its
glasses-free 3D handheld video game
player — the 3DS — and said it will
be released by the end of the fiscal year,
concluding in March, at a price to be
announced later.

Features in the slimmer Xbox 360
console include a removable 250GB
hard drive (up from 120GB), 802.11n
Wi-Fi connectivity, five USB slots,
touch-sensitive power buttons and
backward compatibility with all games.

The new unit is also said to be quieter
than previous iterations, using one fan
instead of two.

A Kinect-Ready port on the console
hooks up directly to the new Kinect
motion-control system. The Xbox 360
accessory, which will be released later
this year, uses multiple cameras to track
a player’s body movements and translate
them into game controls.

New titles that make use of the system
were announced by several developers,
including Konami and Activision.

Kinect will also connect to legacy
Xbox 360 consoles, but through a more
cumbersome series of connections. Kinect
is Microsoft’s attempt to compete
with Nintendo’s Wii, which has used
motion control in games for several
years, and Sony’s new motion wand accessory
called Move.

Like Kinect, Move uses a motionsensing
camera called the PlayStation
Eye (successor to EyeToy), which tracks
the motion of a handheld wand.

Microsoft’s system, on the other
hand, does not require a wand or controller,
cueing only on a player’s hands
and gestures.

Sony’s Move system has a special camera
that connects to a PlayStation3 and
comes with wand controllers that let users
control games with body movements.
The main controller will sell for $50 and
a navigation piece will sell for $30. A
bundle with the main controller, the eye
camera, a Sports Champions game and a
demo disc will sell for $100.

Sony offers a combination of optional
and mandatory motion control in new
Move-enabled games, which will sell for
$40 each, for Sony published titles.

In addition, Sony said it will offer two
PlayStation Move controller peripherals:
a PlayStation Move charging station
for up to two controllers at a time
($30) and a PlayStation Move shooting
attachment ($20) that will allow the
Move controller to be placed horizontally
so players can hold it as if they are
holding a gun, Sony said.

A special PlayStation3 console bundled
with a Move controller will sell for
$400, Sony said.

Another big part of the Sony’s announcements
were its plans to develop
a full library of 3D titles for the Play-
Station3, which was made 3D compatible
following a recent firmware update.
The company said the long-anticipated
Gran Turismo 5 — the next iteration
of its popular racing game franchise —
will be released on Nov. 2, and will be
among the platform’s 3D offerings.

Sony also will introduce later this
month a premium online service called
PlayStation Plus, requiring a $50 a year
fee ($18 for three months).

The service will be in addition to the
PlayStation Network’s current free online
play system, but will offer gamers
discounts on PSN games, free content,
early demos and other exclusives.

Nintendo said it is hoping its 3DS will help it cash in on the current 3D
mania by offering a self-contained system
that doesn’t require the purchase of
a 3D-capable TV set or special glasses
to see 3D images. The company also acknowledged
it is looking to add 3D capability
to the next gaming console system
it introduces.

As for the Wii console, Nintendo
said it will be releasing new titles, including
a new version of Zelda, to compete
with motion-controlled games
coming for the Xbox 360 Kinect and
the PlayStation3 Move systems.

In other news at the show, Game developer
Ubisoft announced a game for
both the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation3
that has players sing and dance
like Michael Jackson. Versions will also
be available for the Wii, DS and PSP.

Players are supposed to sing and dance
like Michael Jackson and are then scored
on the quality of their performance. It is
slated for a November release.

The game will join Harmonix’s Dance
Central and Konami’s Dance Masters
in the category of dance-centric games
designed for Microsoft’s Kinect.

Meanwhile, Richard Branson’s Virgin
enterprises announced its return
to the gaming industry by unveiling a
new online platform designed to track
multi-player gaming for the PlayStation3
and Xbox 360 and offer players
the ability to compete for cash, points
and prizes.

The Virgin Gaming platform, which
launched this month, uses a “game verifier” technology that was originally developed
for partner WorldGaming of Toronto
based on an algorithm that reads
player skill levels and ranks them.