Battle for video game market escalates at convention

Gamers attending the show got to play the “Super Smash Bros.” video game Tuesday at the Nintendo booth.
Gamers attending the show got to play the “Super Smash Bros.” video game Tuesday at the Nintendo booth. The Associated Press

For Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, it’s game on in the battle for the hearts and wallets of video game players.

An estimated 45,000 people are in Los Angeles this week for the Electronic Entertainment Expo to get a sneak peek at the latest games for the Xbox and PlayStation, which each released new consoles just eight months ago, and for the Wii U, which is playing catchup.

Microsoft, which by one estimate has sold 5 million Xbox One units in the past six months, kicked off the presentations Monday. It showed off its in-house shooting game “Sunset Overdrive,” the exclusive “Forza 2,” exclusive content for the popular “Call of Duty” and a package of the first four re-released Halo titles, all on sale by the holidays.

“Our biggest focus right now is on the 85 million Xbox 360 customers, to give them enough to make them want to buy Xbox One this holiday,” Yusuf Mehdi, vice president for Xbox marketing and strategy, said in an interview. “I feel we delivered on the holiday and on the exclusives.”

Sony, which has sold 7 million PlayStation One units in six months, countered a few hours later with early access to “Destiny,” its highly anticipated action title, and exclusives including “Little Big Planet 3.”

With Sony’s PS4 in the lead since its introduction, Microsoft used its entire 90 minutes to focus on hard-core players, whom the company alienated with an Xbox One debut last year focused on non-game entertainment. Sony, building on the momentum it has established, landed heavier blows, offering surprises from a white console to be bundled with Destiny to the lush science fiction title “No Man’s Sky” that the PS4 will offer first.

“Sony wins on quantity of exclusives, but they both performed flawlessly,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. “Seriously, gamers won today.”

On Tuesday, Nintendo told the conference not to count it out, though it has sold only 6 million consoles since the Wii U was released in 2012.

It hyped several games due out later this year for the Wii U and 3DS, including “The Legend of Zelda” battle game “Hyrule Warriors,” hack-and-slash sequel “Bayonetta 2” and the “Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire” installments of the “Pokemon” series.

And Nintendo unveiled a toy figure line called Amiibo that will work in tandem with its video games like the toys-meet-games franchises from Activision Blizzard Inc. and the Walt Disney Co.

Similar to Activision’s “Skylanders” and “Disney Infinity,” the characters’ virtual histories will be stored on the plastic figures and transmitted through the Wii U GamePad, the controller for its Wii U console that features a touch screen and NFC capabilities.

The company said the figures would be compatible with the upcoming Wii U fighting game “Super Smash Bros.” and would eventually work with other games, including the recently released racing title “Mario Kart 8” and the forthcoming platformers “Yoshi’s Woolly World” and “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.”