The Consumer Electronics Show may be, to quote Stephen Colbert, a "high school science fair on crank," but it's nirvana for gadget geeks.
Video games are just a small part of the gigantic trade show that takes place every January in Las Vegas, but there's always the promise of some good smack talk when Sony and Microsoft are both in the house. This time it was Bill Gates' crew throwing most of the punches.
First, the Microsoft chairman dissed Sony by telling TV Tokyo, "We see Nintendo as our toughest competition."
Then Microsoft execs Peter Moore and Chris Satchell ganged up on Sony's online service in interviews with the GamesIndustry.biz Web site, with Satchell calling it a "disaster."
"It's going to take (Sony) a couple of years to get up to speed on this, and I'm not sure that they necessarily have the talent," Moore said.
Sony spokesman Dave Karraker fired back, telling GamePro, "I would argue that consumers worldwide ... have decided whether or not Sony has the DNA to deliver hardware, software and services to suit this industry."
So maybe CES isn't a science fair — it's a schoolyard brawl.
Despite all the CES hoopla, the gadget everyone was drooling over last week was introduced 600 miles away, at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco. Of course we're talking about the iPhone, Apple's music-playing, Internet-surfing cell phone. But does it play games? Not yet, but everyone who's seen the device's graphics and touchscreen technology seems to think games are inevitable.
Meanwhile, Microsoft vice president Peter Moore promised games for his company's Zune MP3 player within the next 18 months.
Here's hoping one of the companies can take cell-phone gaming beyond "Tetris" clones and solitaire card-playing. Right now, neither the iPhone nor the Zune looks like much competition for the DS; then again, no one's ruling out an iGame or an Xbox portable sometime in the future.