Microsoft found itself in a unique situation at this year’s E3. While Nintendo and Sony were busy showing off the first details of their new consoles, Microsoft instead put all of its focus on the second generation of Xbox 360 games, as well as delivering some industry-shaking news.
The conference began with a bang, showcasing the latest trailer for Gears of War, one of the next “big titles” for the Xbox 360. After the lights came back up, Cliffy B., the game’s producer, was standing center stage. With little introduction, Cliffy B. introduced the level of Gears of War he was about to demo by giving some of the background. While at first glance it may look like a typical 3rd person shooter, the demo showed that the game was more about finding cover – something both the main character, Marcus Phoenix, and enemies did with frequency throughout the demo.
After the demo, Cliffy B. introduced Peter Moore, who then brought Microsoft’s main goal to focus – the next generation of Xbox 360 games. As with the other companies, Moore began with a few stats and sales figures. Consoles are still hard to get, but there is a 4.5 game per console attach rate.
Moore then brought up what is perhaps the most popular aspect of Live at the moment, the Live Arcade. By E3 2007, Microsoft hopes to have over 6 million members on Live. Currently 57% of 360 users are on Live, due mainly to Live Arcade. A short video then ran, showcasing some of the new games coming to Live Arcade, including Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Super Contra, (and yes, the code still works), Sonic the Hedgehog, Galaga, Time Pilot, Rally-X and Dig Dug. Moore also revealed that many of these games will be enhanced in HD and will include other enhancements like Achievements and Online play. Lumines will also be available for download, and is part of a new deal Microsoft has with Warner Music Group, which will deliver content from their catalog into Lumines. A video then ran of Lumines Live with a Madonna video playing in the background.
A video montage began to play, this time showing off new Xbox 360 games. Among the games shown were Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, Mass Effect, Too Human, NHL 2K7, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth II, Viva Pinata, Madden 2007, NCAA 2007, Saint’s Row, Prey and Dead Rising. By the end of the year, over 160 titles will be available for the Xbox 360.
Next up was a formal announcement of Microsoft adding Lionhead Studios to its stable of first party developers and a short teaser for Fable 2. Forza Motorsport 2 was also announced, along with a wireless force-feedback steering wheel and wireless headset. A Live camera was also announced and will allow you to see people while playing online, or map your face into a game, such as in Rainbow Six Vegas. All will be available before the end of the year.
Moore then pointed to the importance of the Japanese market and how Microsoft is committed to supplying games that will appeal to Japanese gamers. He then introduced a short trailer for Blue Dragon. Pointing out the amazing support Microsoft consoles have received from Team Ninja, Moore announced that Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 was on its way and a trailer would be available on Live later this week.
A trailer for Splinter Cell: Double Agent was also shown off. Look for more in-depth coverage later this week, but judging from the trailer, it looks great.
Next up was a demo of Rare’s latest game, Viva Piñata. The game is part of Microsoft’s plan of reaching out to new types of gamers, in this case kids. The purpose of the game is to build a world and attract piñatas to come live there. Placing certain objects will attract certain piñatas to come and live there, such as Horstashio, a horse.
Moore returned, this time to talk about the Marketplace, a one-stop-shop for games and entertainment. To date, over a thousand pieces of downloadable content have been made available. Moore also pointed out that after the demo for EA’s Fight Night Round 3 was released, pre-orders for the game increased by 5 times. New items, in particular episodic content, would be available in the future.
The episode content point would come up later in the show. Moore began taking off his jacket, saying that he had a very important announcement regarding a highly popular franchise. After showing off the Halo 2 tattoo and teasing that the announcement was for Halo 3, he showed his other arm and revealed that Grand Theft Auto IV would be a timed exclusive for the Xbox 360 and would also feature episodic content. He also announced an October 16, 2007 release date for the game.
Once the applause died down, the program shifted gears to discuss Games for Windows, a new venture by Microsoft that will bring 360 and PC games, using Vista, out at the same time. A few demos were shown, including one for Crysis, the next game from Far Cry developer Crytech, and Flight Simulator X. In the future, Microsoft plans to release more “joint release titles”, pointing out the sales of Oblivion. A brief trailer for Shadowrun was shown. Both the PC (Vista) and Xbox 360 versions will be available next January.
To close out the show, Bill Gates came on stage to announce the new “Live Anywhere” program, which will tie your Gamer Tag in with other games, such as PC and cell phone games. You’ll also be able to unlock achievements over all three platforms as well as Live Arcade integration.
Moore then joined Gates on stage to make another big announcement which would feature some “in-game footage”. The lights dimmed and screen turned white. Cortana’s voice began to speak and Master Chief was shown.
“This is the way the world ends….”
And with that Halo 3 was announced for release next year. Then, the show was over.
Note: Shortly after the announcement, the Halo 3 trailer was released in the Live Marketplace.