ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
For the last year or so, the contest among three big video game consoles was all about the consoles themselves - Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. So far, the Wii is winning by appealing to families and casual players as opposed to dedicated gamers. Well, next month, Microsoft hopes to change the focus to the games with the release of the latest version of its enormously popular game "Halo."
NPR's Laura Sydell reports, you can only play "Halo 3" on an Xbox 360 and Microsoft thinks more people will buy an Xbox because they want to play the game.
LAURA SYDELL: When players reached the end of "Halo 2," they are taunted with this…
(Soundbite of game "Halo 2")
Unidentified Man #1: Master Chief, do you mind telling me what you're doing on that ship?
Unidentified Man #2: Sure. Finishing this fight.
SYDELL: To finish that fight to protect the human race against aliens, players have had to wait almost three years for the release of "Halo 3." And they can only play it on the Xbox 360.
Richard Torres is editorial director of GameSpot.com, a Web site that reviews video games.
Mr. RICHARD TORRES (Editorial director, GameSpot.com): People want a "Halo" game on their Microsoft console. For those who haven't been impressed by what's been on a 360, this is what's going to get them to buy one.
SYDELL: And "Halo" has a lot of fans. Microsoft sold 15 million copies of the first two episodes. One million units of "Halo 3" have been pre-ordered, more than any other game in history.
(Soundbite of game "Halo 3")
Unidentified Man #3: (Unintelligible) on its surface (unintelligible).
SYDELL: But Microsoft just had to deal with more obstacles than "Halo's" Master Chief. The company recalled 230,000 Xbox steering wheels after complaints that they overheat and smoke. They also had to set aside more than $1 billion to repair a problem users called the three rings of death. When the console dies, three lights on the front blink red.
These problems put a smile on the face of Dave Karraker, communications director at Sony Computer Entertainment. He points to Sony's previous game consoles - the original PlayStation and the PS2, which have dominated the market for almost two decades.
Mr. DAVE KARRAKER (Communications Director, Sony Computer Entertainment): The technology that we have put in the PS3 is 10-year technology. No other console manufacturer to date has ever had a console live longer than five years except Sony.
SYDELL: Sony doesn't have one-killer game like "Halo," but they do have a similar strategy. They have a lot of exclusive titles coming out this fall to entice more people to buy a PS3.
Torres of GameSpot says, even though the PS3 has been slow out of the gate, he wouldn't underestimate Sony.
Mr. TORRES: They've always been a bit more of like the marathon runner because once they start going, they don't really lose steam. It's just kind of like this unyielding force that keeps on going.
SYDELL: There are more than 180 million people who own PlayStation 2s, that's more than any other game console - new or old. But of the three new consoles, it's the Wii that's winning.
(Soundbite of Nintendo Wii ad)
Unidentified Man #4: Give your family a degree in fun. Big Brain Academy. Wii degree. Rated E for everyone.
SYDELL: Nintendo's Wii doesn't have the detailed graphics and computer power of its competitors. The company has put the emphasis on creating games that are fun but easy to play says Perrin Kaplan, Nintendo's vice president of marketing.
Ms. PERRIN KAPLAN (Vice President, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Nintendo): The control mechanisms for these games started getting really complex. You have to memorize XY button, plus D, plus A. Quite frankly, some people are going to say, I don't have the energy to do that after a long day. So we began to create something that was more simple, more entertaining, and that you literally could pick up for 20 minutes and put back down.
SYDELL: There are also a lot of games for the Wii because its less detailed graphics make it cheaper to produce them. Many fans have been disappointed to discover that the console is sold out at their local store. Despite that, in the month of July, Nintendo sold more of its consoles than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 combined.
Sony and Microsoft are responding by trying to make games for their consoles that appeal to more than just hardcore gamers. For consumers, this is all good news. Analysts say, this fall, they are likely to have a bigger variety of games than they've had for many years.
Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.
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