E3 Press Day Roundup: Nintendo vs. Microsoft

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Annual gaming mega-event E3 officially kicks off tomorrow at the L.A. Convention Center, but press junkets are in full swing with Nintendo and Microsoft already making a splash. We've been following the news remotely via Twitter and the tech blogs, and have stitched together an early recap:

Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata, released more detail about its next generation tablet-based console--originally dubbed the Wii U, now the "NES Gamepad"--that aims to create a second-screen in-game experience, and the Mii-verse, a social gaming network with a more family friendly twist to those of its competitors. The gamepad will sport NFC, can be used to control your TV itself and will be complemented by another new controller, the "Pro," which looks an awful like the standard Xbox controller.

The general reaction in the blogosphere seems to be ambivalence, with the tech crowd as unenthused as I am Nintendo's business model has traditionally been based on only releasing games for its own proprietary devices, but after taking a write-down of over $531 million just a few months ago, I'm still mystified by the adherence to such an outdated philosophy when they could easily develop and sell Android and iOS version of the many, iconic, games in its repertoire for $.99 and recoup some of those losses using existing assets. That said, it's worth noting that the Gamepad and Mii-verse come with their own revenue generating potential, as this Kotaku writer points out.

The real excitement came from Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB), otherwise known as the Xbox group, which has stolen the pre-show. Though the new Gears of War and Halo previews have titillated gamers everywhere, the more significant news comes in a series of announcements outlining Xbox's ever-expanding living room dominance:

Enter Smart Glass, a novel technology that enables wireless communication and interoperability between XBOX, and Windows 8 PCs, phone, and tablets, similar to Apple's Airplay. The ramifications here extend beyond just pushing video from one device to another, as it turns "that second screen into an information window giving you data of the content you're watching. Plus, it updates the info on your mobile device as the content on the TV changes," Engadget reports. This means that while you're watching Game of Thrones, your phone will become an interactive map of Westeros that evolves with the plot of the show.

Other features of Smart Glass include the addition of Internet Explorer on Xbox, and with it, Kinect-enabled web browsing on your TV, as well as Xbox Music, a new music streaming and subscription service, because, well, why not?

Building on its impressive line of content partnerships, which already range from HBO Go and Netflix to Comcast, Xbox Live will begin to offer NBA and NHL packages. According to the IEB's CMO, Yusuf Mehdi, the plan is to double the amount of content users can access on XBOX over the next year.

Oh, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone announced their game "South Park : Stick of Truth," for Xbox.

Given the ambition and innovation coming out of Microsoft's IEB, it's no surprise to see that the Xbox is now the top selling gaming console in the world. The big question now is if that market dominance coupled with the new ability to browse will finally force people to start "Binging," things. I can only hope it's still "no."

David Teicher is Ad Age's social media and event content manager. Follow him on Twitter @Aerocles.
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