Gamers give Nintendo's new Wii console the thumbs-up

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Gamers gave Nintendo's new "Wii" video game console a hands-down victory over Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 at the premier video games trade show that ended in Los Angeles. The innovative motion-sensing Wii controller and games that shied away from blood-and-guts action won praise, while the latest PlayStation met with unenthused satisfaction. Hard-core and novice video game players crammed into Nintendo's warehouse-sized Wii pavilion and waited in a perpetual line outside. At the nearby PlayStation 3 exhibit at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), there was little wait to play on Sony's yet-to-be-released console.

"If that line would ever go down, I sure would want to try it," Teresa Holt, 28, of Texas said, nodding toward the Wii pavilion after finishing a PlayStation game. A random survey of PlayStation 3 gamers revealed that most thought the scenes were more realistic and the machine faster than its predecessor, but not worth the wait or the whopping price Sony planned to charge. With its 20-gigabyte disk drive, the PlayStation 3 that Sony intended to sell for 499 dollars in the United States was a "crap version" that self-respecting gamers won't settle for, said Jeff Sobol, an independent game publisher from Canada. Sony's loaded 60-gigabyte model will sell for 599 dollars when the systems are released late this year, according to the Japanese company. Microsoft's Xbox 360 is already on sale in the United States for 299 dollars or 399 dollars with a hard drive. The tricked-out PlayStation 3 "wasn't that big of a jump over the Xbox 360" made by US-based Microsoft, Sobol said. In the Wii pavilion, players blurted superlatives with giddy delight.

"Sweet," one fellow chimed as he and a friend ogled motion-sensitive Wii controllers that came in "Zapper (gun), Nunchuk, Classic" styles. "Awesome," Matt Callaway said after he and Jaap Tuinman finished playing video tennis by swinging Wii controllers like rackets. "I'm psyched; it's exciting," Tuinman said. "It's something I could play with my wife." Nintendo heralded the system as "disruptive" technology intended to revolutionize video game playing and lure new players to games by making the controls less intimidating.

"It's really fun," said Kappei Morishita. "I like it, and I'm in my forties. The current games get too complicated. This is back to basics. I could play with friends at a party." Nintendo was coupling Wii with game software it hoped would appeal to "casual players" such as Morishita. Among the video game offerings will be "Brain Age" mind-tests, orchestra conducting, and hospital surgery. Nintendo will also roll-out a version of its popular cult game, The Legend of Zelda, made for Wii. Zelda was among the games people got to try. Ubisoft of France designed an action game, "Red Steel," to arrive at market alongside Wii. Nintendo had yet to reveal the Wii's price, but it was rumored it would cost less than PlayStation 3 and be on par with XBox 360. "It is very unlikely Sony will take the lead going forward," said Hiroshi Kamide, an industry analyst with KBC Securities in Japan. "The logical choice is to buy Nintendo, and the price point is good. Microsoft and Sony will tie." Industry analysts at E3 agreed that "at the end of the day, it's all about the games" and not the consoles. "People buy machines to play games," said Anita Frazier, an entertainment industry analyst with NPD Group in the United States. "I know several hardcore gamers who say they will get all three, because of the content on each system." Console makers routinely capitalize on winning game franchises and tie games to popular films, television shows and comics. They understand that hooking a player on exclusive games often hooks them on their consoles. "Metal Gear 3 is the only reason I would buy PlayStation 3," gamer Raphael Phillips said as he finished trying out the new console. "If I had my choice, I'd play it on an Xbox 360 because it costs less."

The Xbox 360 hasn't swept the global market and sales have suffered from supply problems, said David MacQueen, an analyst with Screen Digest in Britain. Britain is the largest European video game market and the third largest in the world, MacQueen said, noting "Brits really love new gadgets, and then lose interest quickly."

"The Xbox is not grabbing the Europe market," MacQueen said. "In Japan we can see why it was called the Xbox 360 -- it looks like that was the number of units it sold."

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