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Five Video-Game Developments for 2010

Stocks in this article: SNE MSFT ATVI

2. PS3 and Xbox motion controllers: Casual gamers would rather use Wii controllers to bowl or box than nest with a 12-pack of Mountain Dew and a giant bag of Cheetos while shooting at their online "friends" for 20 hours. It took months of staring at Nintendo's console sales numbers for Sony and Microsoft to figure this out, but both are planning to introduce motion-based control devices by the middle of next year. The Xbox's "Project Natal" is by far the most ambitious, with a camera that captures a player's full range of motion and eliminates the need for a hand-held controller. It's already been named one of Time magazine's "50 Best Inventions of 2009" and is expected to cost $50 to $85 when it hits the market. The more Wii-like "PlayStation Motion Controller" (a working title for the rumored "Sphere" device), meanwhile, looks like an orb-topped wizard's staff in its early appearances and has a rumored cost of nearly $100. Think they're kidding? Ubisoft and Capcom are among the software companies already committed to making games for each device. Nintendo, with a 51 million motion-controller lead, doesn't seem fazed, but don't be surprised if this contributes to ...

... 3. A winnowing Wii market share: The Wii is the industry's anomaly, attracting casual gamers with its first-party games and without offering perks like Wi-Fi or Blu-ray players. That said, it's been plagued by problems with its third-party offerings since its inception. According to NPD Group's monthly sales numbers, anticipated releases like Madden NFL 2010, Ghostbusters and Sega's Madworld failed to crack the Top 10 in sales. This, and the fact that porting a game to the low-powered Wii is far more difficult than for the hard drive-heavy Xbox or PS3, have moved companies like Ubisoft and EA to announce that they'll be scaling back Wii offerings. Meanwhile, the other consoles are starting to catch up. Nintendo's reported 550,000 Wii sales during Black Friday week are impressive, but so were Sony's 440,000 PS3 sales during the same period. Considering the Wii outsold the second-place PS3 by 180,000 for all of October, the gap between the two is narrowing. "Even now, Nintendo's Wii games are starting to look bad," GameTrailers.com's Satterfield says. "The games for the PlayStation 3 look stunning, while the Wii looks like an old piece of hardware bolstered by its controls."

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