Sony


There will be no on-stage antics like this from Nintendo at this year's E3.
Ben Kuchera

For the first time since the annual industry conference started in 1995, Nintendo will not be holding a major press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year, instead "working to establish a new presentation style for E3."

Nintendo announced the surprising change in its promotional plans via an investor presentation by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata overnight. Rather than holding a major E3 press event to appeal to different audiences around the world, Iwata says Nintendo is "planning to host a few smaller events that are specifically focused on our software lineup for the US market" for this year's show, one for American distributors and another for the Western press. Iwata also cryptically mentioned that Nintendo is "continuing to investigate ways to deliver information about our games directly to our home audience around the time of E3," suggesting that it might be planning some sort of video presentation directly to consumers via the Web (or the Wii U) during the show.

While Nintendo will still be showing off new Wii U and 3DS titles on the E3 show floor, the move represents a significant change in marketing tactics for the major console maker. It would be like Apple deciding to announce the next major revision to iOS not with a worldwide developer-focused keynote address, but by simply setting up a booth at Mobile World Congress and inviting the press and select developers to try it out during a cocktail hour.

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Leaked numbers from NPD's latest report on US game hardware sales suggest consumers aren't scrambling for new systems from Sony and Nintendo. Numbers obtained and confirmed by sources in a position to know on gaming forum NeoGAF suggest the Wii U sold only 67,000 units in the US during the five weeks running from March 3 through April 6.

The leaked numbers continue a disappointing 2013 for Nintendo's newest system, which sold an estimated 50,000 US units in January and roughly 64,000 in February. This is after the system sold a decent 890,000 units during the 2012 holiday launch season last November and December.

For comparison, the Wii U is so far selling about 28 percent slower than the GameCube did in the five months after launching in November 2001, and about 50 percent slower than the Nintendo 64 and the original Wii did in their first five months. The Wii U is only about 10 percent behind the cumulative US sales numbers put up by the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 five months into their life cycles, however.

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An image from a Nintendo teardown shows the heart of the Wii U.

Remember the days when your idiot friends would argue with you in the schoolyard about how "blast processing" made the Sega Genesis a better system than the Super Nintendo? Or how the Nintendo 64 was twice as good as the Sony PlayStation because it had twice as many "bits"? Or how the Wii's processor was no better than "two GameCubes stuck together"? Here in our new, enlightened age, I thought we had left such context-free numbers games behind like so many other childish arguments.

But no, in 2012 people are apparently still obsessing over how a single spec number makes one console wholly better or worse than another. Today's bit of myopic number-crunching is based on the findings of Wii hacker (and now purported Wii U hacker) Hector Martin, who last night tweeted claims that he had discovered the previously unknown clock speeds for the Wii U's tri-core PowerPC 750 processor (about 1.24GHz) and the AMD Radeon-based GPU (about 550MHz).

The Wii U's CPU clock speed number is indeed lower than the Xbox 360's 3.2GHz clock (although the 360's gets halved to a functional 1.6GHz when multithreading) or the PS3's 4GHz clock. The GPU clock speeds are more comparable across the PS3, the Xbox 360, and the Wii U. Still, plenty of reporters jumped on that fact as undeniable evidence that the Wii U hardware is actually inferior to that of consoles that came out years ago.

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Nintendo today announced first-week sales of 400,000 Wii U systems in North America, falling short of the mark set by the first Wii, but surpassing early sales of previous high-definition systems.

American corporate president Reggie Fils-Aime told CNet sales of the new system have been limited only by Nintendo's ability to get product to stores. "Retailers are also doing their best to get the product to store shelves, but as soon as product hits retail, they're selling out immediately," Fils-Aime said, gelling with reports from retailers like GameStop that explicitly noted in Black Friday ads that they had no hardware stock to sell.

The original Wii sold over 600,000  units in the Americas in the eight days following its November 2006 launch, which also overlapped with Black Friday. Indeed, the Wii was nearly impossible to find on store shelves for months following launch, selling millions of systems in that time.

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The PlayStation Move is Sony's answer to the motion control trend. It uses a digital camera called the PlayStation Eye to track the movement of a new controller stuffed with gyroscopes and sensors and magic—all of it topped with a glowing plastic ball.

It's been over a week since my Move review hardware arrived, and I've played games with a variety of people just to gauge their reactions. When holding one of the Move controllers for the first time, everyone seems to have one instinctive response: they give that ball on the top a good, hard squeeze, like it's a clown nose.

The ball doesn't light up until you have the PlayStation Eye turned on and a game begins. Then it glows brightly, and the changing color of the ball often provides in-game information. The glowing ball also adds an extra helping of surrealism to some titles; playing archery, it was almost distracting to have that glowing pink orb so close to my face. During dark sections, I could see the glowing ball reflected on the screen of my television.

The ball sometimes cycles slowly between different colors. At other times it pulses. You can feel the motor inside the force feedback mechanism move in time to the light, as though you're holding the heart of some mechanical, bio-luminescent beast. If you have kids, you are screwed during play time; anyone from the ages of ten on down will gravitate towards that glowing ball, and they won't want to let go. My baby wants to gum on it constantly, while my older kids wave it around like they're at a pre-pubescent rave.

The PlayStation Move is here, ladies and gentleman, and it's pretty damn great.

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The Nintendo Wii has enjoyed amazing success this generation, bridging the gap between hardcore and casual gamers. The low-cost console's innovative motion controls expanded the audience for games, and it looked as if Sony and Microsoft would never catch up in the United States. Both Microsoft and Sony ultimately decided that there's something to the whole motion control thing, however, and have announced products that will soon see them following in the Wii's footsteps.

Sony's entry into the motion control race is the Move, a collection of devices that work together to create motion controls that are more precise than what Nintendo can offer, with games that enjoy high-definition graphics and better frame rates than the Wii can deliver. Microsoft's motion effort takes a different tack, using a sort of camera that will sit under your television and allow you to interact with your games by moving your body and waving your hands. In essence, Microsoft's Kinect makes you the controller. Make no mistake, the Move and Kinect are me-too products. It's no coincidence that both motion control schemes follow on the heels of the Wii's success. The question is how well each product will engage with the Wii's strengths and weaknesses in order to carve out its own success.

After looking at the final pricing from Microsoft and Sony, playing many games on both technologies, and getting a feel for what both companies are after, we've come to this conclusion: Sony's strategy is going to offer more to a wider variety of gamers. That's not to say that it will be more popular, sell more, or make more money for third-party developers—it's just that for our audience, Sony is the better bet as of this moment.

Here's why.

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