* Nintendo to launch new home console
* Sony looks for fresh start with consumers
* Electronic Arts unveils new online games service
By Liana B. Baker
NEW YORK, June 3 Comeback stories will be the
unofficial plotline of next week's Electronic Entertainment Expo,
the annual event where the videogame industry shows off a dizzying
display of new games, consoles and assorted gadgets.
About 45,000 reporters, industry types and analysts will
converge on Los Angeles for the E3 conference, sprawled across a
space the size of eight U.S. football fields.
This year's conference, running June 7-9, comes as the
industry tries to cope with the rapid growth of online and mobile
gaming -- and as two of its stalwarts find themselves on unsteady
Nintendo 7974.OS, once a leader in hardware sales, is
struggling to win users from Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Sony Corp
(6758.T)(SNE.N) and is coming off a disappointing launch of its
3DS handheld device. In a bid to return to the top, it will be
unveiling a new video game console designed for the home.
Sony, meanwhile, will try to erase the black eye caused by a
data breach that exposed the personal information of more than 100
million of its video game users.
Both Japanese companies will be hosting press conferences
ahead of Tuesday's official start of E3.
Nintendo so far has released few details about its new device,
but it is widely expected to feature HD graphics, a special
controller, motion sensors and technology that allows it to run
old Nintendo games.
The introduction of a new home console -- the first in five
years -- could jump-start the struggling $65 billion global video
game business, industry executives said.
"I see the coming of a new Nintendo device as a positive for
the industry because it's pushing everybody to perform," said Yves
Guillemot, chief executive of French video game publisher Ubisoft
"It is going to push Sony and Microsoft to act," he said.
Sony launched its PlayStation 3 home console in November 2006
while Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, launched in November 2005.
Both consoles have been selling steadily and neither hardware
maker has said they have immediate plans for new systems, unlike
To refreshen their consoles, Sony and Microsoft each
introduced new motion controllers that let users watch themselves
play sports and dance on their TV screens.
SONY MOVES ON
Sony faces a different sort of hurdle following a major data
hacking incident in April. Since the attack, critics have slammed
Sony for failing to protect its networks and then waiting up to a
week before alerting its customers.
Sony's online gaming system, the PlayStation Network, was
offline for about three weeks and some parts of it are still not
working in certain countries. [ID:nL3E7GV08P] Lawmakers,
regulators and law enforcement officials in many countries are
investigating the attack.
There is little chance Sony can avoid fallout from the crisis
"Sony's presentation is going to have to deal with mea culpa
of the hacking and reassuring consumers that their information is
safe," said MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler. "You can't just
brush it under the rug."
When it manages to turn talk away from the attack, Sony will
focus on plugging its not-yet-released handheld device, called the
NGP, or Next Generation Portable. The sleek 5-inch touchscreen
device has Wi-Fi and 3G network connectivity, and front and
rear-facing cameras. Sony is expected to release details of the
NGP's pricing, launch date and games at the conference.
"We think our security is as strong as ever," said John
Koller, Sony's director of Hardware Marketing. "Consumers are
going to come back in droves and frankly we have strong offerings
Another dominating topic at E3 will be everything and anything
having to do with online gaming -- the wide range of games played
over the Internet, including on Facebook, via home computers,
consoles, and on mobile devices. Online and digital games will
generate sales of $18 billion this year, up 15 percent from a year
ago, according to DFC Intelligence.
Ahead of the show, Electronic Arts Inc ERTS.O said on Friday
it was launching an online games service called "Origin," which
lets consumers buy and download PC games directly from the
publisher online, as well as track all of their games across
The company's high-profile titles "Battlefield 3" and "FIFA
12" will be available on the service when they come out.
EA said the new service will be the only way to download one
of its most hotly anticipated games "Star Wars: the Old Republic"
due out later this year.
Given the success of upstarts like Zynga, simpler social and
mobile games can no longer be ignored by E3, an event that
typically has been a showcase for the industry's major players.
This year, a number of the traditional game publishers are
expected to make announcements about social or mobile games.
"This new tendency of having more social games that are played
with friends and family will tremendously impact the existing
business," said Ubisoft's CEO Guillemot.
But some parts of E3 cannot be predicted, said Mike Gallagher,
chief executive of the Entertainment Software Association, the
trade group that puts on the show.
"What E3 brings is the surprise."
(Related Factbox: [ID:nN02284735] )