At E3, video games shift their aim to casual players

Of the three system makers, Sony steered the most traditional course, balancing action games such as Resistance 2 (October) and Killzone 2 (February) with quirky games such as the side-scrolling, user-generated Little Big Planet (October) and casual games such as Buzz! Quiz TV(September). An in-development multiplayer fighting game from the makers of SOCOM, MAG (Massive Action Game) allows 256 players organized in eight-member squads.

New to the PlayStation Network is a movie/TV download service operational now with movies, some HD, for sale and rent ($10-$14 purchase, $3-$6 rentals) from Fox (Jumper), MGM (3:10 to Yuma), Warner (10,000 B.C.) and, of course, Sony (Spider-Man). Disney films such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest are for rent. Purchased movies can be downloaded to handheld PSP game systems.

Also announced: a new PS3 with an 80-gigabyte hard drive, due in September, priced at $399, the same price as the current 40GB model. That leaves the PS3 high-priced, but Sony's Jack Tretton would not apologize for the company's stance. (The PS3 has sold about 5 million units in about 11/2 years.) "If our competitors are the tricycle and training wheels for the PS3 when they grow up, we have no problem with that," he says. "Anything that gets people interested in games we think gives us an opportunity to compete with consumers."

Games: Rumble of the rock 'n' rollers — and controllers

The battle of the music games is getting cranked up. In addition to Wii Music, two new band-based games from Disney (Ultimate Band) and Konami (Rock Revolution) are in the works for later this year.

Both hope to steal some of the spotlight from Rock Band and the upcoming Guitar Hero World Tour (due this fall, no price set), which cuts into Rock Band's territory by expanding the guitar-only game into a four-piece combo (two guitars, drums and vocals).

World Tour adds new twists, including a music studio that lets you lay down instrumental tracks that can be posted to a new "GH Tunes" site. "I can record my drums, you record your bass, she records the guitar. We can all be in different states and we can record music and put a real song on there," says Travis Barker, ex-Blink 182 drummer who is an adviser and character in the game. (His remix of Flo Rida's Low will be in the game, too.) The World Tour drum kit has three drum pads and two cymbals, and a guitar with a slide on the neck for virtuoso performance. No list yet, but 85 songs are included.

Rock Band 2, exclusive to Xbox 360 for a few months after its September release, promises almost as many songs (84) but will kick the total up to 100 via free downloads. Players can also create and buy photos, T-shirts, posters and figurines of their "band" via rockband.com. A more realistic Fender guitar and larger, livelier drum sets (with cymbals) are due, too, as are add-ons such as a real electronic drum set from Ion ($299 for Xbox, Sept. 14) that works as a game controller. The new game has a drum trainer that gives players "an opportunity to actually study the basics, everything from simple patterns to how to do fills well," says Harmonix chief Alex Rigopulos.

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