Portable Systems Highlighted at E320 May, 2004 By: John Gaudiosi
Both Sony and Nintendo prepared for battle in the portable game space at the E3 show in Los Angeles.
Nintendo has dominated the handheld market for 15 years, defeating myriad portable contenders, but Sony is a formidable opponent with its Portable PlayStation (PSP).
Nintendo plans to ship its new handheld system, Nintendo DS, before the end of this year in both the United States and Japan. Interacting with characters on the dual screens opens up new gaming possibilities and developers are having a field day with innovation in this department. Voice recognition will also play a role in games developed for Nintendo DS. The device will support free wireless connectivity for up to 16 players in distances within 100 feet. Wi-Fi will allow for online gaming over greater distances. With an expected price in the $149 range, Nintendo's new portable device also should attract the mass market audience. Backward compatibility gives gamers access to a library of more than 500 titles. Majesco's Game Boy Video technology also is expected to be used for the DS.
With a higher price point expected in the $249 to $299 range, Sony's portable PSP is a multimedia device that plays music, videos, movies and games. Sony's CEO and president Kaz Hirai outlined the wireless “interoperability” between PSP and PS2s, PCs and other PSPs. When PlayStation 3 launches, PSP is expected to connect to that platform as well.
Electronic Arts will support the launch with NBA Street, NFL Street, Tiger Woods and Need for Speed: Underground.
“Both PSP and Nintendo DS fared very well at E3,” said John Taylor, analyst, Arcadia Research. “PSP will be a sellout regardless of price to early adopters. The screen resolution is excellent, and the software support will be extensive. Nintendo DS received lots of design kudos.”
International Development Group forecasts that Nintendo will sell 5 million DS units in 2005, along with 3 million GBAs; while Sony will sell 3 million PSPs. Mike Sabine, analyst, International Development Group, said that Nintendo has consistently sold at least 7 million handheld hardware units every year in the United States since 1989.
Newcomers to the gaming space also were on the show floor. Tiger Telematics' Gizmondo device ships this fall for between $299 and $399. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company plans on shipping between 3 million to 5 million devices by the end of 2005. The portable gaming device comes with a built-in GPS device and a digital camera. It also plays movies, music, videos and games on memory cards. Gizmondo, which operates on Windows CE, will ship with 10 games and 10 movies this fall. Games will sell for $20 to $58 depending on different bundling opportunities. A movie-based game could be packaged with the movie and soundtrack in one box for a higher price point.
Infinium Labs had a huge presence at E3 with its Phantom Gaming Service, a broadband games-on-demand system. The start-up will ship the hardware for free with a two-year commitment to the service at $30 per month. Every two years, the hardware can be swapped out to allow newer PC games to be played on the device, which is essentially a PC in a box. There will be no CD-ROM drive. A hard disc drive will store all games for the device.
The DISCover systems are another attempt to broaden the PC gaming experience to the living room. Unlike Phantom, the DISCover systems like the ApeXtreme, which ships this June for $499, will have a CD-ROM drive and allow for plug-and-play functionality for mass market consumers to play the latest PC games in the living room. Alienware will be offering more high-end systems that blend the media PC and gaming together for technophiles and gamers.