LOS ANGELES – Consumers will have two new gaming options over the next year. Both Sony and Nintendo debuted new hardware at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this week at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Sony will kick things off this fall with its PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) portable gaming device, which was previously called NGP (Next Generation Portable).

Next year, Nintendo will launch Wii U, the successor to its popular Wii console. These new devices open up new opportunities for local game companies like Epic Games, Insomniac Games, and Electronic Arts.

Sony’s PS Vita will come in two variations, a $250 Wi-Fi version and a $300 AT&T 3G model also with Wi-Fi. Pricing on Nintendo’s new console will not be announced until next year, but Nintendo has traditionally kept its hardware at competitive prices aimed at the mainstream market. Wii launched as the most affordable of the game consoles.

Because the Wii U introduces high definition gaming to a Nintendo console for the first time, it opens the door for game developers to use Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3 game technology. Two of the games Nintendo announced for Wii U, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s Batman: Arkham City and Sega’s Aliens: Colonial Marines, run on Unreal technology.

E3 coverage:

Read about the Vita here.

Read about the Wii U here.

Epic to power Kinect version of Fable. Read here.

Epic hypes launch of next Gears title. Read here.

Insomniac teams with EA for new titles. Read here.

Both games will also be released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Wii U versions of these titles will take advantage of the new control options for Nintendo’s console.

Epic has never released a game on a Nintendo console.

Epic’ success in portable space

Epic has already been active in the portable space, although not with Sony’s PSP devices. Instead, Epic has focused on Apple’s iOS platform as well as Google’s Android. Unreal runs on smartphones and tablets powered by those platforms.

Epic’s had early success with Apple. Epic-owned Chair Entertainment’s first iOS game, Infinity Blade, has sold over $10 million worth of downloads in its first six months of release. The game, which is featured in Apple commercials, has created significant licensing interest in Unreal technology. Chair continues to support the sword-fighting game with new free updates like Infinity Blade: Deathless Kings, a major expansion of the popular single-player experience, and Infinity Blade: Arena, a large add-on that includes the new Multiplayer and Survival modes.

“Infinity Blade’s success proves that triple-A gaming experiences can be hugely successful on iOS and that there is a valuable, pent up demand for premium content like this,” said Mark Rein, vice president and co-founder of Epic Games. “We have been licensing Unreal Engine 3 very affordably to developers large and small for all kinds of games and applications and we’re looking forward to our licensees achieving spectacular results of their own.”

In addition to an uptick in Unreal Engine 3 licenses for commercial iOS games, Epic’s community behind the Unreal Development Kit (UDK), the free edition of Unreal Engine 3, dramatically surged upon the release of UDK with iOS support in December 2010. In less than six months, unique installations of UDK more than doubled, rising from 400,000 to more than 800,000. All of these developers will now be able to create content for Sony’s new portable device. Like the Wii U, the new Sony device will require developers to create specific controls to take advantage of the new gameplay functionality.

EA’s Triangle connection

During the Nintendo press conference, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello announced an unprecedented partnership between Nintendo and EA around the Wii U.

“Over the years I’ve made E3 appearances with console partners but never with Nintendo,” said Riccitiello. “What Nintendo’s new console delivers speaks directly to players of EA Sports and EA Game. “We look forward to seeing great new content like Madden NFL Football on the device, where all that data and play calling takes place off the big screen, allowing for a sharper experience on the field.”

Electronic Arts’ North Carolina studio developed Madden NFL Football for Nintendo 3Ds.

Insomniac going multi-platform

And with Insomniac Games, which has a studio in Durham, going multi-platform with its new Cover Strike game for EA, there are opportunities for both Wii U and PS Vita there.

Both Sony and Nintendo talked about widening the gaming audience beyond its current size, which ultimately will help all game makers. Nintendo has also traditionally supported multiple platforms like the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DSi, and Nintendo DSi XL. That means there will be more consoles for game developers to create content for once the new hardware launches.

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