E3: Nintendo and Microsoft fight back

Having witnessed Sony’s PS3 revelations on Monday [story here], the E3 auditorium was last night filled with the big cheeses of Nintendo and Microsoft

Having witnessed Sony’s PS3 revelations on Monday [story here], the E3 auditorium was last night filled with the big cheeses of Nintendo and Microsoft and talk of the Wii and Xbox 360’s new weaponry.

The Wii conference was disappointingly short on exact details – the price and launch are still a mystery – and instead relied heavily on demos of the controller and new games.

Chief Exec Saturi Iwata took to the stage waving the Wii wand (pictured above left) like an orchestra conductor, before showing its merits as a tennis racquet, sword, golf club, steering wheel and drumsticks.

Ninty’s big software announcement was Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which will debut on Gamecube and the Wii at the console’s launch. Precisely when this will be is unknown, but Exec Vice President Reggie Fils-Amie said it will hit worldwide shelves in the fourth quarter – between October and December – this year.

Other minor revelations were that the Wii will have a low power ‘sleeping’ mode so you can leave it on all day to receive downloads and messages, the main controller will have a small speaker, and Opera will be the console's web browser of choice.

The existing Xbox 360 is at a disadvantage when it comes to dropping big hardware hype, so it concentrated on drawing gasps with updates on the two big gaming franchises of modern times – Halo and Grand Theft Auto.

A two-minute Halo 3 trailer was played to the delight of the Master Chief fanclub, although the only details on its launch were that it will be sometime in 2007, alongside the Peter Jackson-directed movie.

Microsoft also gazumped the PS3’s announcement of Grand Theft Auto 4 yesterday by revealing that the game would be launched simultaneously on the Xbox 360 in October 2007, shattering Sony’s previous exclusivity rights for the franchise.

Bill Gates was on hand for one final big announcement – a cross-platform online community called ‘Xbox Live Anywhere’, which will let you browse the Xbox Marketplace and communicate with friends using Windows Vista or a mobile phone.

There’s even the exciting possibility of PC users playing Xbox owners over Live, although we’re yet to clarify exactly how this will work. Stay tuned for some hands-on E3 updates over the rest of the week.

Related stories:

PS3 gets price and launch date

E3 ready to drop its gaming bombshells

Forget the Revolution, we need a Wii