Sony unveils Harry Potter game, 2nd Vita screen at E3

Sony Corp. has breathed new life into its handheld video game console Vita by adding second-screen capacity and launched a new Harry Potter-inspired spell-casting game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which began in L.A. Tuesday.
Sony demonstrates Wonderbook: Book of Spells, a Harry Potter-inspired video game, at a June 4 news conference ahead of the start of E3, the world's largest video game expo, in Los Angeles. (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

Sony Corp. has breathed new life into its handheld video game console Vita and announced a partnership with children's author J.K. Rowling that will have players casting spells with the help of a PlayStation Move motion controller that doubles as a magic wand.

The Japanese console maker indicated Monday it could be years before it comes up with new version of its PlayStation. But at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, which began Tuesday in Los Angeles, it announced plenty to keep gamers busy this coming holiday season.

Sony unveiled plans for a second-screen function for the Vita that keeps it in step with Nintendo's new tablet-controller-equipped console, Wii U. It also presented a Harry Potter-inspired book game called Wonderbook: Book of Spells, which turns the Move motion controller into a magic wand.

Jack Tretton, the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, suggested it may be a few more years before a new PlayStation console is due.

He told the audience packed into Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena for the world's biggest video game expo that Sony's six-year-old machine "continues to shatter expectations" and called it "the industry's most powerful palate" for game-makers.

"Back to the original PlayStation, we always thought in 10-year product life cycles," he said in an interview with The Associated Press after Sony's E3 news conference. "I think you're seeing those generations be longer and longer, because the technology is so great, it's difficult to surpass it."

Game sales slumping

A few games did appear to defy expectations even on the aging console.

Beyond, which Sony showcased to kick off its 75-minute presentation, depicts Juno film star Ellen Page in much more authentic animated acting scenes than were seen in its 2010 predecessor, Heavy Rain, which was also from game studio Quantic Dream.

Sony also demonstrated a raft of first-person shooter games that are very violent but could please hard-core gamers, including The Last of Us by studio Naughty Dog.

"Technically, there's some really impressive stuff," said John Davison, vice-president of programming for "We're seeing all publishers really stretching out this generation of hardware."

The video-game industry is seeking to reverse a five-month slump in U.S. sales dragged down mainly by a lack of new hardware.

Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s Wii is five years old. Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 is six. Only Nintendo is coming out with a new console this year.

Second screens a must for mobile consoles

All three console makers sought to use mobile devices with another screen in tandem with their consoles.

Sony unveiled plans to bolster the Vita's use with PlayStation 3 consoles by making use of its front and back touch screens and giving players several different perspectives in the same game.

Sony's PlayStation Vita handheld gaming device will soon have a second-screen function, the company announced Tuesday at the E3 expo. (Kim Kyung-Hoon /Reuters)

New game PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale allows PS Vita players to fight PlayStation 3 players over the internet in real time.

Sony has sold 1.8 million PS Vitas worldwide since the handheld was launched in December 2011 in Japan and February 2012 in North America. That's relatively small when considering there are 65 million PlayStation 3s in the world and 13 million Move controllers sold.

"We realize that it's a marathon and not a sprint," Tretton said. "I'll stack up our success against other four-month-old platforms."

The use of a second screen with a controller mimics plans by Nintendo Co. Ltd. to sell a tablet-like touchscreen controller with its Wii U, which is expected to launch later this year.

It also resembles Microsoft Corp.'s SmartGlass feature, unveiled earlier Monday, which makes use of smartphones to control video content.

Sony also announced that Taiwan's HTC will be the first smartphone maker to use its newly named PlayStation Mobile platform for Android-based games.

Controller is wand in Rowling-inspired game

Sony's dark horse announcement was its partnership with author J.K. Rowling.

Wonderbook: Book of Spells turns its PlayStation Move motion controller into a magic wand and comes with a book of spells, presented as if written by fictional spellbook writer Miranda Goshawk over 200 years ago.

Gamers wave the wand in prescribed patterns as if they are a Hogwarts student on their way to becoming a witch or wizard and learn how to cast spells that make fire, unlock gates and move through new stories written by Rowling.

"Wonderbook: Book of Spells is the closest a Muggle can come to a real spellbook," Rowling said in a statement.