Real news from the virtual world:
— SONY DELIGHT: With the worrisome state of the global economy, it's not the best time for Sony's PlayStation 3 — the most expensive of the three home video-game consoles — to be playing catch-up.
But Sony executives have good reason to be optimistic about 2009, and it boils down to one word: software.
Sony has the most impressive roster of exclusive games this year (although, to be fair, Microsoft and Nintendo haven't shown all their cards yet).
The blitz begins this week with the dazzling first-person shooter "Killzone 2." After that, the PS3 release calendar blends original titles like "Infamous" and "Heavy Rain" with much anticipated sequels such as "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves."
Senior Vice President Peter Dille says Sony is planning "the most aggressive marketing year in its history," starting with a multimillion-dollar campaign for "Killzone 2."
But bigger buzz is already building around "God of War III," which is expected to get all those PlayStation 2-owning stragglers to finally make the leap.
Sony "employs more people in development than Microsoft and Nintendo combined," Dille says. "We'll put our exclusives up against anyone."
— DS EVOLVES: The four-year-old Nintendo DS is still one of the hottest products in the history of video games. In December, 3 million units of the portable system were sold in the United States.
And yet, a new model was inevitable, so the DSi will be making its U.S. debut April 5. It will cost $170, $40 more than the current DS Lite model.
The DSi debuted in Japan in November, and cracked the 1 million-sold mark in less than two months.
Its major additions are two cameras — one facing the user, the other facing away — as well as wider screens and improved audio.
The real attraction, however, is the DSiWare application that, like Nintendo's WiiWare, will allow players to download games onto the machine.
Also coming April 5 is "Rhythm Heaven," a DS music game that's been hugely popular in Japan, partly due to the involvement of pop star Tsunku. It's likely to translate very nicely for U.S. audiences.
— TUMBLIN' DICE: Developers at the annual DICE (Design Innovate Communicate Entertain) Summit in Las Vegas usually focus on past failures and triumphs. The one major new game announced at DICE this year was Electronic Arts' sequel to "American McGee's Alice," a macabre take on Lewis Carroll's Alice stories.
The summit also hosts the Annual Interactive Achievement Awards. Sony's "LittleBigPlanet" lapped the competition with eight awards, including game of the year.
— NEW IN STORES: Square Enix's space-faring role-playing series gets upgraded in "Star Ocean: The Last Hope" (for the Xbox 360). ... The Nintendo DS gets first dibs on D3's "Puzzle Quest: Galactrix." ... Let's hear it for sequels nobody wanted: THQ's "50 Cent: Blood on the Sand" and Eidos' "Shell Shock 2: Blood Trails" (both for 360, PS3).