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Console makers look to reset gaming

By Tomoko Echizenya and Chihiro Nakajima
© 2014, The Yomiuri Shimbun.
NXT-OCULUSVR-OC
ANA VENEGAS - MCT

Competition is heating up between manufacturers of family video game consoles, as games played on smartphones are drastically increasing their market presence.

Console makers are targeting video game enthusiasts who want an immersion gaming experience.

This is all evident at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the world’s largest video game trade fair, commonly known as E3, which kicked off in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

The day before, Microsoft Corp. released the Xbox One console in the United States.

The console is priced at $399, $100 less than previous models. The console will go on sale in Japan on Sept. 4.

Microsoft also released 23 new games for the console, including new versions of popular series.

Phil Spencer, head of the Xbox division, said his company’s goal is to make Xbox One the best console to play games in this generation.

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., the world leader in console sales, also released new games on Tuesday.

The company announced its streaming service Playstation Now would launch in North America at the end of July. The service will also be available in Japan and Europe.

In 2008, about 89 million video game consoles were sold worldwide, according to VGChartz Ltd., a British company that provides data on the video game industry. In 2013, sales were less than half that figure.

As consumers increasingly turn to smartphones for game play, SCE and Microsoft are both looking to retain the support of hard-core gamers by offering new titles.

Japan’s video game console market is also under severe pressure from smartphone games.

According to CyberZ Inc., which deals in smartphone advertising, smartphone games went from making up about 30 percent of the domestic video game market in 2012 to about 50 percent in 2013.

Meanwhile, the console market shrank 8.1 percent to 411.3 billion yen (about $401.8 million) in fiscal 2013 compared to the previous year, according to Famitsu, a video game publication.

Still, game consoles offer superior operability compared to smartphones and allow characters to move in more complex ways. For these and other reasons, consoles retain strong support among gaming enthusiasts.

“If they can offer great software, home video game consoles could make a comeback,” one analyst said.

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