Sure, piles of new games are being unveiled at the E3 video game show in Los Angeles -- “Call of Duty” (“Advanced Warfare”), “Grand Theft Auto” (“5”) and “Lara Croft” (“Rise of the Tomb Raider”), etc. -- but some notable hardware announcements and entertainment-focused news are being made, too.
Some highlights so far:
A cheaper Xbox
At E3 in 2013, Sony executives and gaming fans ragged on Microsoft for announcing a $499 price for the Xbox One and the cheers at the Los Angeles Sports Arena were thunderous when Sony set the PlayStation 4 price at $399.
After the consoles started shipping last fall, consumers spoke with their wallets. Sony has sold about 7 million units of the Playstation while Microsoft has shipped about 5 million units of the Xbox One.
On Monday, Microsoft officially began selling the Xbox One for $399 by stripping out the Kinect sensor system. Without Kinect, users lose the ability to control gameplay and features with their voice and body movements.
The Kinect features, along with the non-gaming features of the Xbox, had been centerpieces of the original marketing plan for the One. Microsoft has said it would eventually sell the Kinect by itself for those who later realize they want those features.
"Halo’s" big disc
Fans of "Halo," one of Microsoft’s most popular games and a franchise worth several billion dollars, can get the entire four-game series on one high-definition disc starting in November.
Why on Earth would gamers want to pay $60 for games they probably already have?
Besides getting the games in better quality, owners of “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” will also have first access to the beta release of the multiplayer version of the fifth game, “Halo 5: Guardians.” The official release comes out in 2015.
The collection also buys access to the fall “television” series “Halo: Nightfall.” The weekly series exclusive to the Xbox is expected to serve as a lead-in for the fifth game and is being produced by Ridley Scott of “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator” fame.
Sony’s new streaming TV box is coming to the U.S. for $99. Similar to a Roku or Apple TV, the tiny PlayStation TV box streams movies, TV shows and music that can be bought or rented from the PlayStation Store.
But the PlayStation TV, of course, also has a gaming component. Users who have PlayStation One in one room can attach their PlayStation TV to a television in another room and continue playing the same game through Sony’s Remote Play feature.
The PlayStation TV can also store games, which can be downloaded through the PlayStation Store or a PS Vita game card. The company said more than 1,000 games should be accessible.
The incentive for early adopters of PlayStation TV is beta access to PlayStation Now, a service that for now enables online rentals of about 100 PlayStation 3 games. The beta launches July 31 with varied rental prices and periods as Sony tests out what works and what doesn’t. Sony said most of the prices will be about $2.99 to $19.99.
Sony wants to bring PlayStation Now to its Internet-connected televisions and other devices in the months to come with a stated goal of introducing PlayStation games to a wider audience than just those willing to buy a console or portable Vita device.
YouTube on the PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4 is getting a YouTube app. Gamers will be able to record their gameplay and upload the footage with one click from some controllers. They’ll also have access to other YouTube videos.
As part of its video announcements Monday, Sony also unveiled a television show that will air exclusively on PlayStation. “Powers” is based off of a graphic novel and features a pair of police detectives investigating people with superhero powers. The show is expected to be quickly followed up by several movies and shows that will be exclusive to to PlayStation.
Nintendo’s big announcement Tuesday was a doll.
Called an Amiibo, the action-figure is meant to be tapped on the screen of a Wii U controller.
“While they look like normal figures, they actually hold a secret within,” Nintendo said.
The figures will be launched alongside the new Super Mash Brothers game coming this “holiday season.” Analysts are keeping a close eye on the rollout of the game to see whether it can boost sales of the Wii U. The console, released two years ago, has shipped about 6 million units.
When touched to a screen, the character comes alive in the screen thanks to near-field communication chips in the controller and the Amiibo. The characters can be customized and built up in strength through more usage. The data is stored inside the Amiibo. An Amiibo character can be used as your “alter-ego, partner or rival,” according to Nintendo.
Amiibos will work with Nintendo 3DS portable devices sometime next year with the help of an extra Wi-Fi router-like device.
The Amiibo toys are similar to the figurines that helped propel Skylanders into one of the bestselling video game franchises. The character packs, sold at stores such as Toys R Us, are among the most popular Christmas presents for children.
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