E3 2004: Microsoft

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Electronic Theatre ImageThis years Microsoft pre-E3 press conference, held May 10th, was noted for its confident outlook, positive nature, and aggressive attacks against Sony. Presented by J. Allard, Robbie Bach and Peter Moore, the presentation was split into three sections, entitled: Software and Services, Games and Partnerships.

XboxLIVE! got the big push again this year, with the show beginning with video demonstrations of six big titles, including a fantastic looking Terminator parody by Rare, with Conker as the leader of the rebellion (of course with the customary British humour Rare have become known for), hailing the success of XboxLIVE! as dominating the leadership of the online console race, touting subscriptions as quickly approaching the one million mark, although to my understanding this would clearly put the Xbox is second place, behind the PlayStation2’s current figure of two million subscriptions. Microsoft then, for some reason which will never be known to anyone other than the guys themselves, decided to show a pre-filmed spoof of The Apprentice which they had made, entitled The Novice. Using actors to present the comical interpretations of Kaz Hirai and Ken Kutaragi from Sony, and Andrew House from Microsoft competing to create the world’s first true massively-multiplayer-online-role-playing-game (MMORPG). Obviously, Microsoft won and, even stranger still, the award was presented by Donald Trump…?

The demonstration featured several new advances in the field of online gaming, including Video Messaging for up to five users, voicemail, icon messaging, music exchanges and, in future titles, the possibility of using video conferencing within gameplay. This feature in particular is very interesting and will spice up any co-operative play no end.

These extended LIVE! features where then followed by the announcement of XboxLIVE! Arcade, due in the Autumn. LIVE! Arcade will allow Xbox online subscribers to download casual software (including titles such as Trivial Pursuit) and arcade classics such as Galaxian and DigDug from licensed companies such as Namco and Atari. After an all-to-brief discussion about the availability and cost of this service worldwide, Microsoft reiterated its recent GDC presentation of the XNA development platform. However, in contrary to the GDC presentation, Microsoft did not state that this was the development platform for the XboxNEXT, as the last announcement seemed to cause much confusion as to whether this was actually the first public showing of Microsoft’s next home console offering or not.

Of course, Microsoft weren’t about to let this opportunity go without giving the hardcore a glimpse of what they all really came to see, Halo 2. Two team members from Bungie were on hand to demonstrate the new physics system, weapons, damage system and the fantastic new Covenant Elite’s Plasma Sword. Loads of new vehicles to pilot, lock-on missiles and enemy dismounting, read and about all this and more in the Halo 2 preview article below. US gamers – November 9th, 2004 – remember it.

Four other new exciting properties where then showcased, Dead Or Alive Ultimate, Doom 3, Jade Empire and the first showing of the new IP, Forza Motorsports.

Lastly, Electronic Arts executive Don Mattrick took the stage to present the exhibition seemingly stolen last year by Nintendo. EA on XboxLIVE!, finally. Microsoft’s attempts to convince EA that a partnership would significantly bolster the companies Xbox software sales have been well documented, and it seems that finally an agreement has been met. EA have promised to bring fifteen titles to XboxLIVE! before the years end, including many of their successful sports franchises, and GoldenEye: Rogue Agent amongst others. This announcement clarifies Microsoft’s recent decision to cease development of it’s rather lack-lustre in-house software sports franchise, XSN Sports. EA insisted on having several professional athletes on stage to present this feature, including Muhammad Ali.

Xbox gamers won’t necessarily be too moved by the new LIVE! Arcade feature, nor EA’s sudden-found Xbox faith. What’ll really get the gamers going this year is, ironically, the games! With a plethora of new exclusive Xbox titles demonstrated and some fantastic new video features soon to be available on XboxLIVE!, check out the features below for the really exciting news!







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