Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft wage war

Electronics hardware makers yesterday showed off snazzy new devices enabling motion-sensing play and 3D effects, intensifying a battle to introduce video-gaming to a new generation of casual users.

Hot on the heels of Microsoft's full-body motion-sensing Kinect, Japan's Nintendo on Tuesday took the wraps off a new version of its DS handheld device that can play games and show movies in 3D without glasses.

And Sony Corp introduced the "Move" - which like Nintendo's popular Wii employs a wand-like controller to double as everything from a tennis racket to a baseball bat in games - and promised up to a score of 3D titles soon for its PlayStation 3 console.

The launches and demonstrations from the triumvirate of gaming hardware makers at this week's E3 expo in Los Angeles - the gaming industry's most important annual showcase - set the stage for a pitched battle to bring players beyond the hard-core fanbase into the fold.

Analysts said Microsoft made the biggest splash with a seemingly revolutionary platform that employs no controller, and a clear mandate to target casual players. And Nintendo's move to add a third dimension to its market-leading DS mobile handled device will shore up its market position.

The triumvirate that rules the market for gaming devices is stepping up their battle just as the industry is beginning to recover from a two-year slump. Analysts say laggard Sony, the erstwhile consumer electronics leader that has seen Nintendo surge ahead with the well-received Wii, has a potential winner in Move but that the jury was still out.

Sony's Move appeared to mimic a gaming system that Nintendo pioneered with the controller-operated Wii a couple years ago, but Sony argued the precision of its technology -- which captures every twist and contortion of arm actions -- and the ability to employ combinations of buttons will continue to please hard-core players.

"It may well be more versatile than Kinect, but the challenge there is demoing it. Sony does have the biggest challenge ahead of them - they have the furthest to go," said M2 Research analyst Billy Pidgeon.

"It's still possible that Sony could knock them off, but they didn't make the case for doing that this year."

Another innovative technology highlighted was cloud gaming - the hosting and playing of games on servers without the need to buy and store a game from a home device.

Cloud service OnLive announced titles including Ubisoft Entertainment SA's Assassin's Creed and Electronic Arts Inc's Mass Effect 2, stored on Dell Inc servers and played - via AT&T connections on computers and eventually TVs.

"It's a very ambitious project. We will see how it goes," Take Two Interactive Chairman Strauss Zelnick said. "You are talking about a very complex situation, where even small amounts of latency or incompatibility will create a problem. They feel they have solved these problems."