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The three-way war for the living room is in a lull. Skirmishes continue but, as the computer gaming industry gathers in Los Angeles for its annual shindig, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, they are unlikely to change the status quo. New hardware is expected to concentrate on extensions to existing technology rather than radical innovation. And the release schedule is crowded with sequels: the next iterations of karaoke, shoot-’em-up and skateboarding games franchises.
Take the recent sales numbers for Nintendo’s Wii. The Japanese company has had its initials inscribed on the high-score board since it launched the popular games console in late 2006. It has sold more than 50m Wiis worldwide, compared with 23m for Sony’s PlayStation 3 and 30m for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. But, due in part to a lack of exciting new games, the pace faltered in April, according to market research group NPD, as US sales dropped by more than half from the year before.
Microsoft has an opportunity to catch up on Nintendo. The US software giant has the cheapest console on the market at $199 in the US, for something that is more capable than Nintendo’s $250 machine. Microsoft also demonstrated a new control interface yesterday with a camera that can track a player’s movement. Gamers will not be able to get their hands on the kit for another 18 months, though, by which time Nintendo may have updated its own hardware and Sony instituted a timely price cut.
Now that the three consoles have established their respective user bases, however, too fast a pace of innovation is not desirable. Computer games publishers that have invested in adapting to the current technology will want to reap the benefits before the hardware cycle revolves once again.
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