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Gamers Converge On LA For Electronic Entertainment Expo


The biggest players in the video gaming are gathered here in Los Angeles this week for E3, the industry's annual trade show. Gamers have been anticipating the unveiling of new products from Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and other companies.

NPR's Laura Sydell has spent the past few days with zombies, assassins and one little plumber. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: We're going to have to find out about that plumber in a couple of minutes because really the biggest story coming out of E3 is about the consoles - that physical box through which many games are played.


MONTAGNE: And the war is between Microsoft and Sony. Laura, tell us.

SYDELL: Yeah. Well, you know, the whole thing ticked off with Microsoft's press conference and they announced a price of $499 for their new Xbox One. That is a high price. So I think the way they're justifying it is that if it works as advertised, it's kind of an amazing technological device. So it includes the Kinect, which is their gesture-based system. So you can literally just use your hands, and it's been extremely popular.

It's gotten even better. It also has voice recognition. It has Skype, so you can Skype with grandma on the TV set in the living room. It will allow you to connect directly to live TV. And so I think that's why they're justifying this 499 price.

MONTAGNE: Well, I gather on the floor of the convention center, Microsoft has a booth right next to Sony. Sparks could be flying there. And Sony also gave a press conference earlier this week - just after Microsoft dropped that $499 bomb. What did Sony have to say for itself?

SYDELL: Well, the biggest thing they said is ours is $100 cheaper. There are some people who speculated that they actually waited for Microsoft to say that before they announced their price, and that was very warmly received. Also the fact that on Sony you can absolutely use used games. Now, this is a huge market among gamers and Microsoft has been really cagey about it. So when Sony made this announcement that you could use used games, there was a standing ovation. I mean people were elated, which I know, that sounds crazy, but when I actually talked to Microsoft about this, they were really evasive to that question. They kept referring people back to their website.

I played both consoles and I enjoyed the Sony one a little more - I have to say. But we're still waiting. You know, this is going to be a slow unveil through November, when they finally hit the shelves.

MONTAGNE: And there is a third major console and that's Nintendo. How is it faring in these console wars?

SYDELL: It's a little sad because the original Wii was actually a breakthrough. It allowed you to use sort of gesture technology, where you had the controller and you can bowl with it and do all these things and it was a huge hit. But the new one - the Wii U - which came out before last Christmas, has really not been selling so well. However, you know, Nintendo has some games that people really love - like Mario, the Plumber, and Donkey Kong, and that may keep people coming back.

MONTAGNE: Well, with all that technology under one roof, what's, say, one of the cooler things that you've seen this week?

SYDELL: I would say Disney has got something called Infinity, which takes a large number of their films and there are games for all the different films...


SYDELL: And then the cool part is it's got this toy box where you can bring characters from different films and let them play together, which of course is what children actually do. And it has a real world component, so you can go and you can buy the actual physical characters, and when you buy them, you connect them to the game and they appear on your screen.

And I think, yeah, that seems like very smart for them to do this, because it is more like children play; they don't just go into one world and stay there.

MONTAGNE: E3 is wrapping up today. Thanks very much, Laura.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: Laura Sydell is NPR's digital culture correspondent. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.