Staff Reporter Troy Wolverton is in Los Angeles to attend the Electronic Entertainment Exposition -- better known as E3 -- which is the video-game industry's giant annual gathering. He'll file occasional dispatches on news, rumors, sights and thoughts from the show.

Tuesday

LOS ANGELES -- Nintendo's press conference this morning was the last by the three big console makers. And in terms of details on next-generation devices, it certainly had the least of the three.

Nintendo said little about the Revolution, its upcoming replacement for the company's current GameCube console. Nintendo will release the device, which will include a main processor from IBM ( IBM) and a graphics chip from ATI Technologies ( ATYT) next year. The game machine will have built-in Wi-Fi networking, and its controllers will connect wirelessly to it. As the company said earlier this year, the machine will be able to play GameCube games.

Additionally, Nintendo executives said the Revolution will be able to play games designed for previous Nintendo consoles, going back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System. However, gamers shouldn't start uncrating their old games from the attic. In terms of previous-generation games, the Revolution will be able to play only GameCube ones directly; instead of being able to plug in NES cartridges, gamers will have to download versions of NES and other system games from the Internet.

Beyond that, Nintendo said -- and showed -- little. While Sony ( SNE) and Microsoft ( MSFT) have been touting 3.2GHz processors and the memory capacity and graphics power of their new machines, Nintendo gave no details about the Revolution's processor or any other technical specifications of the device.

Similarly, Nintendo showed only a couple of still images of games apparently designed for the Revolution. In contrast, at the heart of both Microsoft's and Sony's press events on Monday were moving scenes from games designed for their new devices.

Beyond saying that it will launch the Revolution next year, Nintendo gave no date or even season for the device's debut. Like its competitors, the company also kept mum on a price for the new machine.

That's not to say that Nintendo didn't have some surprises for the audience. The company showed off a new version of its popular Game Boy handheld system. This one, called the Game Boy Micro, will go on sale this fall and is about the same size as one of Apple's ( AAPL) iPod mini music players. The Micro will be able to play all games made for the Game Boy Advance. Nintendo did not say how much it will cost.

Nintendo is also making a big push on wireless gaming, particularly using its DS handheld. The company plans to release two of its popular games, Animal Crossing and Mario Kart, in wireless-enabled versions for the DS. Using the wireless network connection, DS users can link up to the Internet and play against other game players online.

At its own press conference Monday night, Microsoft gave a few more details on its upcoming Xbox 360, including answering one big outstanding question in the affirmative: The new game machine will be able to play games designed for the original Xbox.

The company expects to have 25 to 40 Xbox 360 titles available when the new machine debuts later this year. And some 160 titles are in development, Microsoft executives said.

But the backward compatibility could prove crucial. Both Sony's PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Revolution will be able to play games designed for previous iterations of those companies' consoles. And while the number of launch titles for the 360 is significant, Microsoft is expecting 200 new titles for the original Xbox to be released just this year, on top of the hundreds of games already available. And Microsoft has yet to say anything about an Xbox 360 version of Halo, which has been the most popular franchise on the original Xbox.

Microsoft's press event on Monday immediately followed Sony's, and the two offered parallel universes. Each company showed off technical details of their machines, new games for them and displayed how users will be able to do more with them than play games, including watching movies or chatting with friends.

Interestingly, both events also included appearances from representatives of two key software publishers: Electronic Arts ( ERTS) and Square Enix. But the differences in what those representatives had to say -- and who they were -- may be telling.

At Sony's event, for instance, EA chief Larry Probst spoke on behalf of his company. Probst generally shies away from media attention, but there he was out front saying his company planned to make a "big bet" on the PlayStation 3, as it had with the PlayStation 2.

As part of EA's Sony presentation, the company showed off a version of its new Fight Night game for the PlayStation 3 that amazed in the amount of detail and realism it depicted.

In contrast, at Microsoft's event, EA was represented by Don Mattrick, president of the company's worldwide studios. He's a bigwig at the company but not someone with the same cachet as Probst. Mattrick touted the new version of Madden NFL football for the Xbox 360, bringing on stage with him Oakland Raider offensive tackle Robert Gallery. But Madden will likely be available for a wide range of consoles, and the graphics on Madden were not as eye-poppingly impressive as those on Fight Night.

Square Enix President Yoichi Wada represented his company at both the Sony and Microsoft press events. At Microsoft's he showed off a version of the company's current Final Fantasy XI game for the Xbox 360. But for Sony, Wada showed clips from Square Enix's forthcoming Final Fantasy XII as well as a rendering of how a previous version of the game -- Final Fantasy VII -- might look on the PlayStation 3.

The distinctions may mean little or nothing at all. Representatives of EA and Square Enix did not immediately return calls seeking comment. But the differences could be an indication of publishers' expectations for the coming console cycle, with the best stuff -- and most respect -- still being reserved for Sony.

Monday

I met with Activision ( ATVI) CEO Robert "Bobby" Kotick. Next week, I'll put together a question-and-answer article based on my interview, but here are some tidbits:

  • During the last console transition, Activision and other companies were surprised by the staying power of the outgoing consoles. Two to three years after Sony introduced the PlayStation 2, it was still selling significant quantities of the original PlayStation. Kotick said that Activision, EA and others left sales on the table by being too quick to abandon development for the older console.
  • Kotick is determined to not make the same mistake this time around. Activision is in a much stronger place financially than it was five years ago, Kotick noted, and the company believes that it can pursue development on both old- and new-generation platforms at the same time, with little trade-off costs.
  • Kotick has been at the forefront of talking up the potential of advertising in video games. In that vein, Activision has worked with Nielsen Interactive to research the potential advertising market. But even Kotick doesn't expect advertising to be a meaningful part of Activision's or the industry's revenue anytime soon. Indeed, it could be five years or more before advertising becomes significant to the industry, he said.
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