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Sony-Microsoft Battle For Sales is Center Stage at E3

Gun-toting fighters take a back seat to Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. this week as the console makers battle to show they’ve got the best plan for selling pricey machines in the age of cheap play on phones and tablets.

Both present today at E3, the video-game industry’s annual conference running through June 13 in Los Angeles, with the $67 billion game market in the grip of two-year slump. Consumers have cut purchases of consoles and costly packaged games for inexpensive Web-delivered titles like Rovio Entertainment Oy’s “Angry Birds,” defined as more casual, mobile and social.

Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4, set to be in stores for the U.S. holidays, tackle the shift differently. Sony is trying to coax casual and hard-core gamers to line up early for blockbuster titles and smaller exclusives that can develop into hits.

Microsoft positioned Xbox One as the center of living-room entertainment, with programming from director Steven Spielberg, ESPN and Hollywood studios — leaving gamers to question whether it’s their best console choice.

“They’re having to resell to their consumer base again,” said David Cole, an analyst at industry research firm DFC Intelligence. “It’s going to be very much a challenge for both of those companies to capture a casual consumer who is on the fence about replacing their console and buying a new system.”

With Nintendo’s Wii U player, introduced last November, selling below company expectations, Sony and Microsoft’s plans for console prices, game resales and recharging sales have broad implications for the industry.

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