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Business Digest

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

GAMING

Microsoft and Sony Take Aim at Nintendo

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this week may have been a gratifying one for Nintendo, so far. Microsoft and Sony have each revealed strategies to gain traction in the video game market by introducing movement-detecting controllers, in which hand and arm gestures replace button mashing. In other words, Nintendo's biggest competitors will both soon be offering technologies that make their products a little more like the company's Wii.

Sony yesterday showed off a new controller for its PlayStation 3 that converts a user's hand movements into onscreen action. The technology features a camera that tracks the controller's movements. The new device is scheduled to become available next spring.

Microsoft showed off its technology, called Project Natal, on Monday. So advanced is Microsoft's take on this technology that users don't even need to hold a controller in their hands, thanks to a camera that "sees" how players are tilting their hands as they, for example, steer a virtual car in a racing game.

The announcements came on the eve of the industry's major annual trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Meanwhile, Nintendo announced that it is pushing its pioneering motion-sensing technology to a new level. The company will soon sell a tiny box that attaches to the Wii's controller to provide a more accurate onscreen reading of a player's arm movements.

Sony also revealed a new version of its mobile gaming device, the PlayStation Portable. The latest version, called the PSP Go, is a bit smaller than its predecessors, as it discards a slot for game discs; PSP Go users will directly download games from an online Sony store.

-- Mike Musgrove

INSURANCE

Life Insurers Press For Regulatory Choice

The life insurance industry issued a plea yesterday for giving insurers the ability to choose whether they are supervised by state or federal regulators. Life insurers are currently regulated at the state level, making it hard for the federal government to monitor their financial health. The American Council of Life Insurers, an industry lobby, says that a federal overseer is needed, but it wants insurers to be able to choose whether to submit to its oversight.

Consumer advocates, state regulators and some members of Congress have argued that making federal regulation optional would allow insurers to play one regulator off another and shop for the most accommodating overseer in a race to the bottom, much as occurred in the banking world.

-- David S. Hilzenrath

REGULATORS

GOP Member of FCC Tapped for New Term

President Obama yesterday nominated Robert M. McDowell, a Republican commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, to serve another term at the watchdog agency.

The nomination leaves one remaining open seat among the five-member FCC, which is expected to be filled by former Commerce Department official Meredith Atwell Baker, a Republican. The Senate is expected to hold a hearing on Obama's pick to lead the agency, Julius Genachowski, later this month along with McDowell.

-- Cecilia Kang

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