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Console crunch: Microsoft, Nintendo tout new gear

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Microsoft is promoting the built-in hard disk in Xbox, which it says will allow for richer graphics


By Rick Lockridge
CNN Technology Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, California -- (CNN) Just a few blocks and a few minutes apart in downtown Los Angeles, Microsoft and Nintendo gave people a first good look at their new video game consoles Wednesday, setting the stage for an all-out war with Sony's PlayStation 2 beginning this November.

Nintendo's GameCube ships in the United States on November 5, with Microsoft's Xbox rolling out three days later.

Both Nintendo and Microsoft expect their booths to be packed with onlookers as the massive Electronic Entertainment Expo begins today at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Both say they will have numerous playable games on display. And if you think some video games are savage, just wait until November when all three of the big 64-bit consoles are on the market.

Amid an army of mock-serious security personnel clad in black-and-neon-green Xbox t-shirts, Microsoft rolled out the Xbox Wednesday at a splashy morning "press event" at the Los Angeles Entertainment Center.

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At a press briefing later, executives showed off some of the games under development, including "Dead or Alive 3," "Mad Dash Racing," "Pirates of Skull Cove," and one called "Munch's Oddyssey."

Reporters trying to play this game soon found out that Munch was named that way because "munch" was the sound most often heard when hungry alien predators consumed him.

The Xbox's graphics are just as impressive as the product's specs suggested they should be. The Xbox comes with a Pentium III microprocessor, a 250-mHz custom-built graphics chip, 64 megabytes of memory, and 6.4 gigabytes of memory bandwidth (twice as much as the PlayStation 2).

"You can kind of think of the Xbox as being sort of like a Ferrari when some of the other consoles out there are like a Volkswagen or minivan," said Microsoft's John O'Rourke, director of Xbox Marketing. "Clearly, there has never been a better time to be a gamer."

The Xbox can draw pictures faster than any other console, so textures like clouds and water look more realistic than ever. The Xbox is also the first video game console to be HDTV ready, and is capable of displaying its stunning pictures at resolutions up to 1920 X 1024.

GameCube is for games -- period

On the other hand, the Nintendo GameCube (its working title was "Dolphin") doesn't have the computer muscle power of its rivals. Its processor and graphics chips, though a big advance over the Nintendo 64, is not as fast as those of its competitors.

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Nintendo's popular games like 'Pokemon,' 'Super Mario Bros.,' and 'Donkey Kong' can be played on the newly announced GameCube  

But that doesn't worry Nintendo Vice President Perrin Kaplan.

"Nintendo is a gaming company, that's all we do," she told CNN. "We're not interested in showing movies, having movies, or surfing the Internet, our focus is gaming."

Kaplan says she believes Nintendo's crop of popular game titles ("Pokemon," "Donkey Kong," "Super Mario Bros.,") will not only survive but flourish on the GameCube.

"It's like a car," she says. "People don't care about what's on the outside, they only care how it performs."

Speaking of appearances, the blue GameCube is quite a bit smaller (and more portable and rugged-looking) than the Xbox. Wireless controllers for the GameCube will also be available, and will work a distances up to 30 feet from the console. It has ports for four players, and Nintendo's new GameBoy Advance handheld games will be able to function as controllers for the GameCube, a bit of cross-pollination that may result in more sales.







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