If Nintendo and Sony have anything to say about it, 3-D is going to be the next big thing in gaming.
At the Electronic Entertainment Exposition, better known as E3, the two giant Japanese game makers last week touted their own visions of the 3-D future. The longtime rivals agreed that 3-D is about to go mainstream, with numerous 3-D games from top developers in the works, but each had its own vision for the technology.
Sony is focusing on the big-screen televisions in consumers' living rooms. Its PlayStation 3 console is capable of playing 3-D games on those TVs, thanks to a software upgrade the company made available in April.
"This is a whole other dimension for the PlayStation 3 and the industry," said Kaz Hirai, president and group CEO for Sony Computer Entertainment.
Nintendo is concentrating on a much smaller screen. The company plans to release a new version of its DS hand-held dubbed the 3DS that will play 3-D games.
"We think there's a better way, where you can take 3-D with you wherever you go," said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America.
Each company's version of 3-D has its own quirks. Sony's doesn't require consumers to buy a new game machine, but they will have to own (or buy) one of the new 3-D-capable televisions and the 3-D glasses that help produce the stereoscopic images. That kind of investment could easily run to more than $2,500.
Sony promises a lineup of some 20 3-D games by next March, including titles sure to please core gamers, such as "Killzone 3," "Gran Turismo 5" and "Crysis 2."
While Nintendo's version of 3-D will require consumers to buy a new game machine, it will likely be much more economical than Sony's. Nintendo hasn't announced a price yet for the 3DS, which will come out sometime before April next year. But consumers will be able to play the 3-D games on the device itself, rather than needing to buy a new TV, and they won't need to wear any special glasses to see the 3-D effect.
"Man, those glasses; that sort of fashion-forward statement doesn't come cheap," Fils-Aime noted in a dig at living-room 3-D technologies.
Among the 3-D titles in the works for the 3DS are "Madden NFL" from Electronic Arts, "Saints Row" from THQ, and "Resident Evil" from Capcom.
E3 finds both of the Japanese console makers -- and the industry as a whole -- at something of a crossroads.
Nintendo has had unrivaled success in recent years with its Wii and DS devices. But the company's sales last year plunged 22 percent as sales of the Wii cooled off and Nintendo cut prices.
And the company faces increasing competition. Sales of Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 have been picking up, and both companies are working on new motion-sensing accessories that will potentially rival the Wii's controllers. On the hand-held side, Apple's iPhone and iPod touch devices have become popular game machines.
Sony, meanwhile, still finds itself mired in third place behind Nintendo and Microsoft. And while sales are ramping up, they still are anemic compared with what the company was able to achieve with its PlayStation 2.
Boosting sales of the PlayStation 3 is going to be crucial for the company, because sales of its predecessor are finally starting to tail off and sales of its PlayStation Portable hand-held system have fallen off a cliff.
Given that, the two companies' events earlier this month were as notable for what the companies didn't discuss as for what they did.
Nintendo, for instance, spent little time talking about the Wii beyond highlighting some of the new games for the platform. It may have been a bit much to expect the company to introduce a high-definition version of the game console -- as some analysts have been calling for -- but it didn't even discuss its so-called Vitality Sensor, which it unveiled at E3 last year.
The company last year touted the accessory, which is a glorified pulse meter, as a gadget that will enable whole new styles of games, much as the Wii Balance Board has. But none of those were on display.
As for Sony, some analysts had predicted that the company would unveil a successor to the PSP. Instead, all Sony announced was a new selection of games for the PSP and a new marketing campaign to try to reinvigorate sales of the hand-held.
Sony did talk about its new Move motion controller. The controller is set to hit store shelves in the United States on Sept. 19, but at a price of $50, which is likely to disappoint consumers and analysts.
For the system to work, consumers will have to have not only a Move controller but also an Eye Web camera, which costs about $40. And they'll likely want the navigation controller, which attaches to the Move controller and costs another $30.
Sony plans to offer a new PlayStation 3 bundle that includes a Move controller, a console, the Eye camera and "Sports Champions," a Move-compatible game, for $400. That's double the price Nintendo charges for the Wii.