CHIBA — The nation’s largest game exhibition opened Friday at the Makuhari Messe convention hall here, with industry chatter focused squarely on an upcoming war between the new game consoles of Microsoft Corp., the Sony group and Nintendo Co.
This year’s Tokyo Game Show, sponsored by the Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association, is likely to be dominated by these next-generation consoles, which are said to boast movielike graphics and sound.
At Microsoft Corp.’s massive exhibition booth, some 60 Xbox 360 sets are set up for visitors, who may actually play 14 game titles developed for the console.
The company, which announced the Xbox 360’s release date and price Thursday, hopes to use the occasion to win over gamers in Japan, with the original Xbox having wilted badly in its duel with Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 2.
During the day’s keynote speech, Robert Bach, Microsoft’s chief Xbox officer, said the software giant had learned from past mistakes and had listened to customers in preparing the next-generation console, which will go on sale here Dec. 10.
He said the Xbox 360 features a stylish design and will boast a rich array of game titles, with many specially aimed at Japanese gamers.
Meanwhile, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. has set up a theater featuring a huge screen to showcase clips of game titles for its next-generation PlayStation 3 console, which is expected to debut in the spring.
PS3 consoles are on display, though none of the game titles are available for tryouts at this event.
New game titles for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable are also on show, with visitors allowed to play many of them.
Not to be outdone in the hyperbole stakes, Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo Co., unveiled an innovative controller for the firm’s next-generation console during his keynote speech at the event.
Unlike conventional video game controllers, the new model looked a lot like a TV remote, designed to be held and manipulated with one hand.
In addition to pushing keys, users will be able to maneuver by moving or shaking the controller, using it as a fishing rod or a squash racket, for instance.
Iwata said the new controller forms part of the company’s strategy to expand the gamer population beyond the usual crowd of video game buffs by offering games that can be played intuitively, and therefore enjoyed by both beginners and skilled hands.
He has been rather critical of an industry trend toward more elaborate and time-consuming games, saying it is turning away beginners and nongamers.
The firm’s new console, code-named Revolution, is expected to be released in 2006.
The console is not on display at the game show, however, as the company is not participating in the exhibition segment of the event.
In addition to video games, more than 100 game titles for cell phone handsets are on show, underlining the growing status of handsets as game hardware.
The Tokyo Game Show is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is 1,200 yen.
Organizers are expecting some 150,000 visitors.
Old favorites retained Bloomberg Nintendo Co., which introduced Super Mario and Donkey Kong in 1981, will be relying on the same characters to sell its new game console even as Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. offer machines featuring more realistic graphics and faster Internet connections.
The third-biggest maker of game devices for the home is betting that by keeping the hardware of its new Revolution console simple, it can lower prices while still improving games aimed at children and families.
At the Tokyo Game Show on Friday, Nintendo unveiled a controller for the console that looks like a television remote, betting the interactive device will attract more people to gaming.
“Nintendo realizes it can’t be No. 1 in this industry,” said Takashi Oka, who has an “outperform” rating on Nintendo’s stock at UFJ Tsubasa Securities Co. “Instead of overinvesting in hardware to the point that they can’t recoup losses, they are looking to churn out a steady profit from capturing a niche.”
What Sony and Microsoft are doing is “similar to taking a Formula One racing car to go shopping at the neighborhood grocery store,” said Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo Co., in a May interview. “Our focus is on strengthening the game, rather than strengthening and adding more horsepower to the processor.”
Nintendo’s strategy has worked so far.
The Kyoto-based company hasn’t posted an annual loss since introducing the original Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985.
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