May 21, 2002 1:35 PM PDT

Sony trash-talks Microsoft, others

LOS ANGELES--With most of the actual news, such as console price cuts and online strategies, having leaked out weeks ago, Sony kicked off the game industry's biggest trade show by trash-talking the competition.


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Kaz Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, used the company's press conference in advance of the Electronic Entertainment Expo to tout the huge sales lead of Sony's PlayStation 2 over Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube.

The PS2, which has been on the market a year longer than either competitor, has sold 30 million units worldwide, compared with about 4 million for each for its rivals. Sony expects to sell another 20 million during the current fiscal year.

"The console wars are over," Hirai said. "I liken the gap with our competition to the Grand Canyon."

Hirai said the $100 price cut Sony announced last week should boost the PS2's lead even further, with sales up 500 percent to 800 percent at major retailers since the cut went into effect.

Hirai said Sony intends to maintain its lead as gaming moves online. Sony will begin selling an Internet adapter for the PS2 this fall, accompanied by a handful of Internet-ready games. Unlike the closed, subscription-based Xbox network Microsoft announced Monday, Sony will rely on game publishers to supply online features, and will work with any Internet service.

"Even MSN users are welcome," Hirai quipped.

One of the early supporters of online PS2 gaming has been leading games publisher Electronic Arts, which has said it will produce an online PS2 version of its hit "Madden Football" franchise but will not support the Xbox.

Sony also previewed a slew of upcoming PS2 titles, including high-profile exclusives such as new versions of Eidos Interactive's "Tomb Raider" and Electronic Arts' "Medal of Honor" series. Hirai added that "Grand Theft Auto 3," the top-selling video game for the past few months, will remain exclusive to the PS2, with publisher Take-Two canceling previous plans to bring the game to the Xbox.

The next Mario: You?
Meanwhile, at its E3 press conference, Nintendo said that while it's made an entry into online gaming, its focus is more on plans to hook up the GameCube with GameBoy Advance, the company's market-leading portable game system.

GameCube owners can already hook up a GameBoy Advance to act as an extra controller, but upcoming titles such as "Animal Crossing" and a new version of "Donkey Kong" will allow players to swap content between the two devices. Nintendo believes this "connectivity" approach, where games can follow players wherever they are, holds more immediate promise than Internet play, said Satoru Iowata, director of corporate planning for Nintendo.

"For now, online is within the reach of only a few gamers," Iowata said. "Connectivity is within reach of everyone."

Nintendo showed demonstrations of upcoming GameCube titles featuring franchise characters such as Mario and Zelda and announced several new GameBoy Advance accessories. The e-Reader will read data from a new series of collectible trading cards Nintendo will introduce, capitalizing on a phenomenon the company started with Pokemon. The e-Reader will be available in mid-September for $40. The Game Eye is a camera add-on that will allow players to create characters that look like them. Pricing and availability were not announced for it.

 

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