- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Let the battle for the digital den begin — again.

Nintendo Co. yesterday was the last of the three major video game console makers to preview its next-generation system, called Revolution. The Japanese company had a tiny surprise, too.

Revolution will face stiff competition from Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3 as the manufacturers vie to attract a more diverse audience with products that serve as digital entertainment hubs instead of just serving up video games.

After years of promoting their existing consoles with big-budget games, the three companies touted sleek new technology this week on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, an annual industry meeting that begins today.

The ability to play older games on existing systems was addressed by all three makers, with backward compatibility meaning owners of the new systems will be able to play games for the existing Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2.

Nintendo went a step further, announcing yesterday to applause and cheers that Revolution’s built-in wireless Internet will provide downloadable access to the thousands of games in the company’s 20-year-old library, going back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

Saturo Iwata, Nintendo’s president, did not provide many details on the Revolution but he showed an enthusiastic audience a black prototype box with a blue, front-loading disk drive as well as a picture of several potential color schemes, ranging from silver to bright yellow.

He said the final box will be about the size of a stack of three DVD cases.

Details on Revolution’s high-tech innards were less specific than what is being provided by Microsoft and Sony.

Aside from the included Wi-Fi networking, the Revolution will have wireless controllers, two USB 2.0 ports and slots for DS memory cards.

Nintendo did not say anything about the processor or graphics chips that will be used to power the machine, other than they are being developed by IBM Corp. and ATI Technologies Inc.

“This is the console where the big idea can prevail over big budgets,” Mr. Iwata said.

With Xbox 360 and PS3, meanwhile, snazzy technology able to deliver cinema-quality graphics and sound has been the center attraction.

Xbox 360 will have three speedy processors and custom graphics chip from ATI, a removable 20-gigabyte hard drive and wireless capability for cable-free access to the company’s Xbox Live online multiplayer service.

PS3 is to boast Cell processors, jointly developed by Sony with IBM and Toshiba Corp., that are purportedly 10 times faster than current-generation computer processors.

In 2004, the PlayStation 2 led the U.S. console wars with 43 percent of the market, according to Jupiter Research. The original Xbox was a distant No. 2 with 19 percent, followed by Nintendo’s GameCube at 14 percent. The remainder included handheld game systems.

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