STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

E3 - Microsoft Press Conference

NOTE: This is typed live as I watch, so I'll clean it up later. Feel free to look though my draft though.


1:15pm - Waiting for live streaming to go live.

1:32pm - Some guy just announced that the event is about to begin. Nice. I've been looking at Xbox advertising for the last little while...

1:36pm - a 5 piece playing the Halo theme while game scenes display on screen. Nice effect. The violinist is particularly impressive, as she's playing the guitar lead. Decent music. Supposedly a display of inspiration provided by Halo.

1:37pm - Peter Moore takes the stage. Talks a bit about the band - apparently they love Halo. Who would have thought?

1:39pm - Every demo seen is a game that will be coming this year. Makes a point of saying "every exclusive" and that they have "all the games you want to play - right here, right now"

Harmonix hit the stage with Rock Band. Nice.
Rock band actually looks really good. But the woman doing the singing is kinda poor. For those who haven't seen, Rock Band has 4 parts - the vocal part looks similar to SingStar and displays across the top quarter of the screen. The other 3 parts (guitar, drums and bass) display across the bottom in that order using the familiar Guitar Hero format. Drums consists of 4 drum pads and a pedal. Horizontal bars across the four note columns seem to indicate where the kick drum goes. Nice system - looks smart, and the guys on stage (which includes Peter Moore on guitar) seem to be doing fairly well.

Pete accidentally pauses the game mid song. Ha, well done. Eventually works it out, and they pick up where they left off.

Not 20 seconds later, and he pauses it again... Oh gosh, you would think he'd learn.

1:43pm - Petey gives Rock Band the PR plug. Then introduces what looks to be a Viva Pinata sequel for 360. I know a lot of Gamespot editors will be really excited. Title is "Viva Pinata: Party Animals". Looks like mini game type setup, using creatures from Viva Pinata

1:45pm - Mass Effect now. Won best RPG at last years E3, apparently. The trailer looks... OK. And there's not exactly an abundance of sci-fi RPGs, so it looks kind of good. Seems to borrow a bit from Halo though...
Pete is back - says it will be on shelves in November 07.

Peter talks about growth - Xbox leading growth across not just hardware, but right across the whole market. Showing graphs of the install base. And of sales since launch of PS3/Wii. And now of games since launch. These last numbers seem a bit misleading, as they're for the period beginning November 06 to present and show games per system - however, Wii and PS3 were both kicking off their game libraries, and 360's was well established. Given that, Wii and Ps3 appear to be competing much better then they're given credit for.

$2.4 billion spent at retail since November > Wii+PS3. "Xbox360 driving this generation."

Top 5 best selling games came from 2 francises last generation - GTA and Halo. 75 million units sold end of year 2004 - GTA, Madden and Halo 2. Same 3 games this holiday season. IGN reported drive a 3rd of sales this holiday season.

Games list - about time.
Project Gotham 4
Dynasty Warriors: GUNDAM
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Guitar Hero 3
Beautiful Katamari
Lost Odyssey
NBA Live 08
Mass Effect
Fatal Inertia
Medal of Honor Airborne
Tiger Woods PGA
Ace Combat 6
NHL 08
Assassin's Creed
Spider Man
The Simpsons Game
Splinter Cell
Eternal Sonata
Madden NFL 08
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground
Crash of the Titans
Harry Potter
The Orange Box
Bee Movie Game
Rock Band
Naruto: Rise of a Ninja

All done - Jeff Bell gets on stage.

Selling the idea of Xbox being good right now. Announcing a new game now...
SceneIt? - selling to the casual gamer/family demographic.

Oh my goodness... It's a Wiimote! They're announcing a controller that looks like a cross between the Buzz controllers, and a Wiimote. That is so, so wrong.

Re announcing Naruto now. Raving about it's popularity, and that it's exclusive. Time for a trailer...

1:58pm - Trailer for Naruto. Cell shaded graphics suit it well. Looks quite quick... lots of running. Dodgy Japanese rock, but I'm quite the fan, so I can't complain. Fight mechanics look good. Lots of anime stylings - big hits with power flashes and pauses for effect. Looks interesting.

Peter is back - about to announce a sports game, because he's talking about their partnership with EA Sports. Announcing that the 08 range will run twice as smooth as the last run of games. You can tell he's trying to take a roundabout dig at PS3, which is slated to run Madden at 30fps. Anyway - Reggie Bush now on stage. Obviously an NHL player.

2:01pm - Reggie and Pete play some Madden. Lolz - Reggie comments that he'll have to be careful because he knows how "you Microsoft guys like to cheat".
I have no interest in Madden - but the graphics look nice.
Pete gets schooled, then tries to talk gansta, but can't pull it off.

2:03pm - Xbox Live PR time. 7 million users registered. New member every 8 seconds. Wow. Forecasting 10 mil signed up by next E3.
Xbox Live arcade selling... 45 million game downloads... 100 games by the end of the year.
Arcade game list:
Bomberman Live!
Hexic 2 (I have to laugh...)
Sonic the Hedgehog
War World
Sensible World of Soccer
Wing Commander
Feeding Frenzy 2
Track & Field
Spyglass Board Games
Golden Axe
Space Giraffe
Super Puzzle Fighter
Word Puzzle
Poker Smash
Tetris Splash
Puzzle Quest
Boku Sudoku

2 new games available as of now - Sonic and Golden Axe.

Video store fastest growing area. Xbox the only console with this available - on demand video/movies/etc. $125 million on D/L content since launch.
Announced an agreement with Disney. Disney video content on Xbox Live.

Showreel of Disney shows - while this plays, let me speculate that their agreement includes an exclusivity clause. Sony is rumored to have a video service in development, so this might undercut them.

2:09pm - This is all available from tonight. Future releases from Disney will also be added to the content available.
By the end of the year, the service will extend to Canada and Europe, and they're looking to extend to the rest of the world. Xbox 360 Elite package will launch in Europe in August, to support the new service.

2:11pm - Shane Kim takes the stage. VP of MS Game studios.
PR talk. Talks about the success of previous games.
Demoing Project Gotham Racing 4. Bikes are being added, and we see some shots of them racing. Reflections in this game are quite impressive - water effects on the road are particularly nice. Includes the ability to share photos/videos of your races with friends.

Trailer showing now - not as nice as what we've seen of GT-HD on PS3, but still very nice graphics. Weather simulation is obviously a big focus - some shots of sliding through snow, etc.

(Note: I've now been watching for an hour.)

Talks about providing the resources for game developers. (Like that $50mil they paid for exclusive GTA episodic content.)

(Re)Announces Alan Wake, Too Human, Fable 2 and Halo Wars. Focuses on Lost Odyssey - shows the trailer. Looks quite epic - but some in game shots show less-than-stellar graphics.

The guy says that "if you're an RPG gamer, Xbox 360 is the place to be this holiday season". I'd really have to dispute that.But hey, what would I know? These guys are in PR for goodness sakes! Any RPG gamer would probably be best to pick up a PS2 if they didn't have one already... Anyway, moving on.

Games for Windows time: Viva Pinata, Gears of War (acknowledges this leaked early). Invites Gears of War creator Cliffy B to the stage.
Forgive me if I don't blog this, but this stuff is all old - GFWL was shown last year.
Oh - but they've actually added to the Gears of War story for the PC. This is interesting because it's commonly held that the story is quite lacking on the 360, although certain game sites (*cough* Gamespot *cough*) still saw fit to rate it extremely high on all counts.
Graphics are lovely, but you'd expect that on a PC. From the graphics, it's obviously DirectX 10 and some crazy high-end hardware. Like - crazy.

Peter takes a poke at PS3 by mentioning the fact that XBox Live interface is consistent across titles. Announces partners for Games for Windows Live. One of the outcomes of this is that the Unreal Engine 3 will have XBox Live connectivity built in. Which, if I can give my opinion, is crazy for a graphics engine.

GFWL games now being listed:
Flight Simulator X
Thrillville: Off the Rails
Bee Movie Game
Hellgate London
Age of Empires 3
Gears of War
Universe at War: Earth Assault
BlackSite Area 51
World in Conflict
Age of Conan
Lost Planet
Kane & Lynch
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
Zoo Tycoon 2
Juiced 2
Viva Pinata
Spider Man: Friend or Foe

All done.
Shows off Call of Duty 4. Actual gameplay footage entirely. Graphics are pretty good. Some of it looks touched up to be honest, but my graphics view is limited - I'm watching this in 320x240.
Some guys come on stage to play COD4. Lighting and foliage is done well. To be honest, movement seems a little too fluid for realtime. I might be wrong.
Beta exclusive to Xbox Live. Recruiting as of now.

Peter is back - announces new Splinter Cell for Xbox 360 only. Turns focus to GTA4. Announces the trailer was rendered in real time on an Xbox 360. Shows Trailer 2. Talks about those 2x$25mil episodic updates.

Talks about Japanese 3rd party support - Virtua Fighter 5 exclusive online, Eternal Sonata and Devil May Cry 4. And now announces Resident Evil 5 coming next year. Still no MGS4, thank goodness. Now Assassin's Creed. My brother points out that the characters have American accents, which goes against the environment setting of ancient Jerusalem.

Live action Halo 3 trailer developed by WETA and Bungie. Obviously they didn't have anything else to do with all those assets! :) Looks great.

Halo 3 launching September and they're launching a Halo 3 themed Xbox and accesories.

2:55pm - Wrapping up - reiterates they're driving this generation. Relists the big titles. Says goodbye and throws to a Halo 3 trailer. Looks impressive - I did enjoy Halo.

And that about wraps up the press conference. All in all, it was pretty much what I was expecting. There were a few happy digs at the PS3 install base, the games catalogue today, the consistency of the online experience, etc. However, I think the biggest news was probably the agreement with Disney. That speaks volumes for families looking to get a console. The furfie of the press conference goes to the Wiimote/Buzz controller. That really is a bad idea. People are going to call it for being a clone, which it is. I suppose they're bargaining on the target audience not caring, but I think at this point a Playstation 2 with Buzz is going to be a better purchase option, especially price wise.

Basically - gloating about sales, showing of ridiculous peripherals (and money-grabbing themed console SKUs), and some more gloating, this time about exclusives. The only variation from this was the Disney announcement, which from a business perspective I would suggest Sony should see as a serious point of competition.

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