The Big News at E3 From Video Gaming's 3 Giants

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Xbox Booth E3 2014
Casey Rodgers/Invision for Microsoft/AP
At this week's annual E3 conference, hardware makers and developers gave gaming fans glimpses of the future.

To be fair, it wasn't packed with the same kind of fireworks as last year's conference. That isn't a surprise. Last year, we had Sony (SNE) and Microsoft (MSFT) jockeying for position ahead of their November console launches. Now that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are here -- combining for more than 12 million in system sales so far -- the attention has turned to more mundane matters like head-turning games and nifty features.

Let's go over a few of the things that may be game changers for the the three industry giants at the annual powwow.

1. Sony Goes for the Cloud, TV

The PlayStation 4's success finds Sony leading the way in the latest generation of consoles, having sold more than 7 million systems in its first few months on the market. The undisputed star of the 2013 E3 conference is hoping to retain the crown in 2014 with new offerings.

PlayStation Now and PlayStation TV are its big introductions this time around. PlayStation Now is a cloud-based game streaming service that serves up PS games. The open beta will start at the end of next month, allowing PS4 owners the ability to pay for games that they can stream without having to download. The ultimate goal has to be to hit mainstream audiences by allowing folks to stream games without having to own a console at all if you have a Sony TV and a controller accessory.

PlayStation TV is a set-top box media player with an emphasis on gameplay. It plays the games that are available on the PS Vita handheld system, but it also plays nice with the PlayStation Now streaming service. It's out in Sony's home turf of Japan already, but now it's angling for U.S. players.

2. 'Halo' for Xbox One

Microsoft may have been the dominant platform during the last couple of years of the previous generation of consoles, but the baton wasn't handed smoothly between the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One, which gave Sony the opportunity to move ahead.

Microsoft responded with a cheaper Xbox One that hit the market on Monday. It comes at the same $399 price point as the Sony PS4, but it does so without the Kinect controller that has been the basis of the software giant's marketing strategy.

An old Xbox rock star -- "Halo" -- has been recruited to help restore Microsoft's status. It will roll out an Xbox One game that collects the first four releases. "Halo: The Master Chief Collection" will also let players have early access to the highly anticipated "Halo 5: Guardians" as well as the live-action "Halo: Nightfall" TV series.

3. Paintball Fight for Nintendo

Nintendo (NTDOY) has been a fading player on the console front. It had a year's head start, but it has already been outsold by Sony, with Microsoft likely to follow later this year.

The Japanese gaming pioneer showed clips of games -- including "Super Smash Bros" -- that will be out later this year. It also put out the first tastes of the highly anticipated "Legend of Zelda" game that will be out next year for the Wii U. A potential sleeper hit in 2015 could be "Splatoon," a multiplayer experience where folks try to douse other players with ink guns. At a time when parents are concerned about the violence in video games given the popularity of combat shooters, the family-friendly Nintendo may have a workaround in the form of game that boils down to a paint fight.

Nintendo still has a way to go, and a price cut last summer wasn't enough. So it's software that will have to save Nintendo. Developers tend to flock to the top console, leaving Microsoft and Nintendo to bet on in-house releases that are exclusive to their platforms to get back into the race.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any Motley Fool newsletter service free for 30 days.

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