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Friday, May 12, 2006
Nintendo Wii Steals Show at Expo

Nintendo 's new Wii video game console, considered the underdog in the console wars because it lacks the high-definition graphics and multimedia features of its rivals, is stealing the show at this week's Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show.

The wait to try out the Wii at E3 pushed past four hours on Thursday afternoon, while the wait for hands-on time with Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 was barely 30 minutes. Both consoles will hit the market later this year, though the Wii is expected to cost much less than rival consoles, possibly under $250. Sony's PS3 will sell for $599 (60GB HDD) in the United States while Microsoft's premium Xbox 360 package, which does not include an advanced DVD player and has a 20-gigabyte hard drive, costs $400, by comparison.

The Wii (pronounced "we") uses a motion-sensor enabled controller that looks like a TV remote and allows users to direct action on the screen by wielding it like a sword or swinging it like a baseball bat, tennis racket or golf club.

Faulkner and other attendees agreed that the unique controller is what is drawing people to the Wii.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console came to market last November, delivers high-definition graphics and online game play not a motion-sensing controller. Sony's PS3 controller, similar in size and shape to that of the PlayStation 2, employs a six-way sensing system to capture motion, but some analysts said the sensor technology did not appear as sophisticated as that of the Wii.

The new controllers could unleash the creativity of game developers and provide Nintendo and Sony with the ammunition to cut into the early advantage of Microsoft Corp's Xbox 360 game console, industry watchers said.

Unlike other next-generation consoles, Wii doesn't sport high-definition graphics or make any promises of being a multimedia entertainment hub, but it promises a unique, fun experience new to video games.

And while the company insists that Wii is not a direct competitor to powerful new game consoles like the upcoming Playstation 3 and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360, there is no doubt that it has stolen much of other consoles' thunder.

"You have to play (Wii) in order to understand what it is," said Don James, Nintendo's executive vice president of operations. James said the company knew that lots of people would be drawn to Wii, but he was surprised by the sheer numbers. He said that after 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time (22:00 GMT) they had to stop allowing people into the line because there was no way they would be able to see the console before the convention center closed three hours later.

The enduring image of the show might end up being the enormous line, which snakes completely around Nintendo's floor space. A security guard estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 people have been in the line at any given time.

Although Nintendo has managed to attract the interest of the audience at E3, what's left to see is whether its aggressive price will also attract buyers. Availability of game titles for the Wii platform is expected to be a major factor for its market success, although analysts believe that the Wii cannnot directly compete Sony's and Microsoft's devices.

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