Sony, Nintendo Strut Their Stuff at E3

PSP Go among several new technologies, gaming units unveiled.

Sony unveiled the highly-anticipated portable PSP Go on Tuesday as the Electronics Entertainment Expo officially opened its doors.


The conglomerate’s computer entertainment unit also previewed its new software lineup, more available feature and TV content — and an engineering prototype of motion controller for the PS3.


The PSP Go system will come with 16GB of internal flash memory for games, videos, music, and photos, and content including "Gran Turismo," "LittleBigPlanet," and "Resident Evil."


The “digital lifestyle” portable system will be available Oct. 1 for a list price of $250.


Of course, for most E3 attendees, this show is about the games themselves.


There was energy across the massive and high volume exhibition, where thousands of players were having a blast trying out the newest titles in elaborately designed stands.


Middle Earth was recreated to help launch “The Lord of the Rings: Aragon’s Quest” from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Disney previewed games for upcoming film titles such as “G-Force,” “A Christmas Carol” and “The Princess and the Frog.” At EA, players boxed, played football, became wizards, and sought adventures. Attendees kicked off their shoes and hopped on a Balance Board at the Nintendo booth.


And at the PlayStation stand, anxious attendees stood in line to actually try out the new PSP Go.


Sony also previewed an engineering prototype of a motion controller that can be combined with PlayStationEye. The controller — with buttons, motion sensors and a glowing sphere that can be tracked — allows the camera to project users onto the TV screen to play and interact with onscreen objects. During the demo, the player “held” objects as diverse as a tennis racket, sword and flashlight, as well as interacted with computer-generated objects.


During the conference, held Monday morning at the Shrine Auditorium, Sony announced that the PlayStation Network would continue to add new content and services from established studio partners, in addition to new partners including Showtime, Starz, Summit and The Weinstein Company.


The technology giant also reported that the portable PSP system would offer direct access the PlayStation Network’s video delivery service.


Also Tuesday at E3, Nintendo unveiled titles including a new version of Wii Fit, the Wii MotionPlus accessory and Facebook support as part of its E3 press conference at the Staples Center.


The Wii MotionPlus is new technology that is designed to offer “motion-controlled precision” when combined with specially designed games and when connected to the Wii Remote. Available June 8, Wii MotionPlus will complement upcoming titles including the Wii Sports Resort that comes out July 26.


Wii Fit Plus — a new version of the popular Wii Fit–allows players to customize workout routines and includes 15 new balance games and six new strength training and yoga activities. It ships in the fall.


Nintendo also previewed new technology, its Wii Vitality Sensor technology, which the company said would initially sense the user’s pulse and other information with an eye toward relaxation and health.


For the portable Nintendo DSi system, Nintendo announced integration with Facebook, available this summer.


Later in the day, Michael Gallagher, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, which puts on the E3 confab, gave the keynote address.


His call to arms: “The interplay between video games and Hollywood continues to grown stronger,” he asserted.


The gaming community made a case for his point at E3, which opened today at the Los Angeles Convention Center and is expected to draw 40,000 attendees.


Gallagher reported that 68% of U.S. households now play computer and video games — which was a $22 billion business in 2008.


He added that one of every three entertainment dollars spent in March were spent on computer and video games, and he concluded that games are now at the “forefront of the entertainment industry.”


Addressing one of the themes consistent in exhibitor announcements, Gallagher pointed out that “in the age of social networking, games are superbly positioned.”


He reported that over 40 million subscribers use Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network.


As to content delivery, he added that during the first three months that Netflix was available on Xbox, over 25 million hours of movies and TV program were viewed.


Looking ahead, he noted that mobile gaming and in-game advertising are two simultaneously emerging trends. As to mobile opportunities, he reported that last November alone, players downloaded 8.5 million mobile games.


While many 3D stakeholders view video games at the killer app for bringing 3D to the home, Gallagher thinks its not quite the time. “I’d love to see it,” he said. “It still may be a little ways off. There are not many householders with that technical ability today.”


Gallagher had some news for content creators, as he reported that this year 18 states are looking to expand tax incentives for video game creation.


Meanwhile, a string of exhibitor press conferences held Monday and today revealed continuing movement in the industry toward social networking features, content distribution and developing motion controllers.