Xbox 360 at E3 2006
|Event:||Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)|
|Author:||James Witherow (Toma)|
Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3 is one of the largest shows dedicated to the interactive entertainment industry. The big three players, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo were there in force showing off their latest products.
With this years event now over and the usual flood of news petering out we can take a look back on what we have learnt. It’s clearly been a boost for Nintendo this year but you have to say Microsoft will still be smiling behind closed doors. If you have followed the event at all you’ll be aware the week is split between conferences and the actual expo. Focusing on the Microsoft conference lets break down the points of interest.
Xbox Live Arcade has proved a hit for the 360 and Peter Moore revealed a list of classic arcade titles making an appearance in the future. The list includes hits from arcade heavy weights: Namco, Konami, Midway and Sega! From Namco we have Pacman, Ms Pacman, Galaga, DigDug and RallyX. Konami bring Frogger, Contra, Track and Field, TimePilot and Scramble. From Midway, Defender, Paperboy, Root Beer Tapper and Ultimate Mortal Combat. Last, and far from least we have Sega with Sonic the Hedgehog. I’m sure at least one of those will bring a smile to those of a certain age. He also told us they have over 100 independent developers now working on games for Xbox Live Arcade, so lots more to come.
Several new titles were announced during the presentation. Fable 2, successor to Fable on the Xbox1, looked impressive and quite different. Another sequel was Forza 2, now with 300 cars and 12 player online play. It then clearly gave Peter Moore great please to announce Grand Theft Auto 4 was not only coming to the 360 but exclusive episodic content will be made available using Xbox Live.
Despite all those sequels Peter Moore was quick to mention creativity and innovation being necessary in new titles. If there is one thing the 360 hasn’t delivered enough of, it’s the unique titles Nintendo usually produces. With games like Fable 2, Blue Dragon and Spore in the pipeline let’s hope it’s just the start of a more balanced line up.
Then on to hardware, the device we all know would come but Microsoft denied, was finally confirmed. Xbox 360 will get an external USB HD-DVD, allowing 360 owners the ability to play HD movies. There was a comment that they are allowing consumers the choice [unlike Sony] of when they want to enter the next generation of high definition playback.
As a driving games fan I found it just as exciting to hear we will finally be getting a steering wheel with force feedback, and not only that, it’s wireless! It’s good to see the issues with delivering a wheel with force feedback have been resolved. Other accessories mentioned include a new wireless headset and a camera.
Bill Gates was present at the conference. He spoke about the success of the console, expecting to clear 5 million sales by June, despite the initial supply problems. He is optimistic they will reach their goal of clearing 10 million before their competition even have units on the market. Xbox Live has cleared 3 million users, and he expected to have doubled that by the next E3. A total of 160 games would also be available by the holiday period. To round off the number games it was announced that the quantity downloadable content on the Marketplace has reached the 100 mark.
Bill Gates also introduced Live Anywhere, an interesting plan to link the Windows Vista platform, video games platform and mobile platform together. You really have to download videos from the conference to see quite how cool this could be. A single login will work from any of those platforms, and you can work between them. One demonstration showed how using the Xbox 360 friends list you could also see people on those other platforms. Sending an invitation to play a game to a Windows user gave them a message to join the game. With one click that Windows users had launched the game and was playing with the console user without any messing with IP addresses and firewalls. They could also make use of voice comms cross-platform as well. The awards and achievements we have got used to with Xbox 360 games will also be possible for Windows users as well, on the same gamertag. It was also shown how with this shared login it would also allow a shared Marketplace, so buying an Xbox Arcade title on the Xbox 360 would also be playable on smart phone. No doubt only select games will be playable on a smart phone.
The conference was rounded off by an impressive looking Halo 3 trailer, which was apparently in-game footage.
The Show Floor
So on to the expo itself, once you get past all the Nintendo Wii press you’ll find some impressive titles getting shown off on the Xbox 360. There were many comments at how the Playstation 3 titles didn’t blow people away, the same could be said for the early 360 titles. It takes time for the developers to get to grips with any new console but thanks to the early launch of the Xbox 360 it has had time to mature. The second generation of titles are looking impressive, games like Mass Effect, Gears of War and Bioshock are starting to really deliver what we hoped to get from next-gen consoles.
A large number of trailers were available on the web and added to Xbox Live Marketplace during the week. I won’t even attempt to a full list, just have a look yourself. As a Tony Hawk’s fan who, like many, was disappointed by the recently iteration this video is looking very nice indeed. Gears of War, Stranglehold, Prey have nice trailers to check out. Videos of Fable 2 and Halo 3 shown during the conference both look promising as well. Added to the Marketplace where two new demos, MotoGP’06 and Lost Planet. I gave both a play and considering I’m not a fan of motorbike games I shall just comment on the graphics which didn’t impress me. Lost Planet however looked great and was fun to play, so defiantly worth checking out.
So to summarise, Microsoft didn’t have so much to prove this year, unlike Sony and Nintendo they already had their new console on the market. This year was all building on from they had started, showing that the best was yet to come. Wielding the performance of these consoles takes time for developers, especially when the final hardware isn’t available early enough. Early Xbox 360 titles looked good, not great. Now the developers are getting grips with the hardware more titles are looking impressive. Now I just hope they deliver on the unique, initiative front.
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