On smaller units and family units

Sony touts slimmer PSP; Nintendo eyes broader base

Sony Computer Entertainment America on Wednesday unveiled a slimmer version of its Play- Station Portable at the E3 Media and Business Summit, with a new feature that allows video to be ported to bigger screens.

Also making news at E3 was Nintendo, which pledged to compete with traditional entertainment outlets for consumer leisure time.

Kaz Hirai, president and group CEO of global entertainment at Sony, unveiled the enhanced PSP model at a soundstage at the corporation's Culver City complex. Available in September in North America, Europe and Japan, the new PSP is 33% lighter, 19% slimmer and more efficient with battery power, not to mention quicker-loading games.

"When you have it in your hand, the difference becomes quite clear," Hirai said.

Perhaps the most innovative new feature on the new PSP is a video-out port that will migrate video, games and photos for display on larger sets. That enables Universal Media Discs with movies and TV programs to move off the PSP's 4.3-inch LCD screen.

The new PSP also will be packaged in entertainment packs each priced at $199, one with a "Family Guy" UMD and another "Star Wars"-themed pack featuring the game "Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron." The new PSP also will come in different colors.

SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton credited April's decision to drop the price on PSP to $169 as a key in getting the device off the shelves, reporting a 90% increase in sales since the decrease was instituted. "Our goal this year is to build a strong momentum on our recent price move," said Tretton, projecting Sony will ship 9 million PSPs this year.

Sony also devoted time to its latest console, the PlayStation 3, which this week received a price reduction as well as the introduction of an 80GB model. Tretton said PS3 benefits from the capacity of its Blu-ray Disc DVD drive but that PS3 also has helped popularize Blu-ray. "PS3's success has contributed greatly to Blu-ray's success," he added.

Also unveiled during Sony's presentation were trailers of hotly anticipated new PS3 titles, including "Battle Gear Solid 4" and "Killzone 2." In addition, innovations to Sony's virtual world, PlayStation Home, were on display, including the ability to access Home from select mobile phones. Home goes into open beta in the fall.

During its pre-E3 news briefing, Nintendo seemed intent on not only solidifying its surprising position as the hot console and portable system in video gaming but also on broadening its appeal and to take on other forms of entertainment content.

Nintendo of America president Reginald Fils-Aime said that video gaming as a whole faces a battle for consumer leisure time with not only traditional entertainment but also blogs, such social networking sites as MySpace and Facebook and other online content outlets like YouTube.

"We may have increased our market share within our industry, but that's just a secondary goal," Fils-Aime said at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. "Only a small amount of time is available every day for leisure entertainment, and minute by minute we intend to steal more of that time for video games."

Nintendo showcased a list of upcoming internally developed titles for its Wii home console, including "Super Mario Galaxy," "Metroid Prime 3: Corruption," "Mario Kart Wii" and "Super Smash Bros. Brawl."

The company also unveiled a list of upcoming third-party tiles for the Wii and Nintendo DS portable system that include games based on such properties as "High School Musical," "Hannah Montana" and three upcoming films: "Bratz: The Movie," "Balls of Fury" and "Bee Movie."

But having successfully captured the mass-market, more casual gamer with the Wii, Nintendo appears poised to try to win over the player's family as well. Included in that group are such Ubisoft games as "My Word Coach," "My Life Coach," "My French Coach" and "My Spanish Coach." Nintendo also showcased internally developed DS games "Brain Age 2: More Puzzles in Minutes a Day" and "Flash Focus: Vision Training in Minutes a Day" that seem as much about self-improvement as they are about entertainment.

Even more surprising is the Japanese company's plan to turn the Wii console into a full-fledged family exercise device with its new title, "Wii Fit." The game, which will come with its own Wii Balance Board, features 40 challenges that focus on aerobics, muscle conditioning and yoga in addition to traditional game play. "Wii Fit" is set to debut in 2008 in the U.S.

Nintendo brought out legendary developer Shigeru Miyamoto, who said that players will be able to monitor their Body Mass Index as they continue the "Wii Fit" challenges for weeks and months and then compare their progress to other members of the house.

"They are definitely going after parents," IDC gaming analyst Billy Pidgeon said after the event.
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