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E3 Notebook: Let the Games Begin

To be fair, when I noted that Sony's PlayStation 3 is coming out this year -- a full year before Grand Theft Auto IV is coming out -- Microsoft's press representative backed off his assertion that the company is getting a next-generation exclusive on its release.

Still, leave it to Microsoft to disappoint gamers when it had such a low bar to meet.

You'd think that each company would want to play to its strengths. But one more aspect of the disappointing nature of the events so far was that each company in its own way showed off the shortcomings of its game system.

Sony's PlayStation 3 is all about amazing graphics and speed, thanks to its cell processor and top-of-the line video card from Nvidia (NVDA). The system allows for near photorealistic graphics and the display of thousands of intelligent objects on a screen at any one time.

Last year, the company in its presentations showed off the machine's power to dramatic effect with scenes from under the ocean with thousands of fish or the ability to show thousands of video feeds on the screen at once.

This year Sony gave special place in its presentation to ... SingStar, a karaoke game that's seen modest success in Europe. Needless to say, the game did little to show off the PlayStation 3's high-end graphics. Nor is the game likely to appeal much to the hard- core gamers who will have to shell out $500 or $600 to get a PlayStation 3 when it launches this fall.

But Sony wasn't the only company playing to its weaknesses. Nintendo has made a big point of trying to distinguish the Wii from the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 by emphasizing that there's more to games than just graphics. The point, it says, is not how the games look, but how fun they are to play.

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