E3 2008: Microsoft Media Press Conference
July 14, 2008
E3 2008: Microsoft Media Briefing
Microsoft starts the party off with a bang with a surprise-filled press conference
As the first of the major players in the game industry to host a press conference, Microsoft’s E3 2008 Media Briefing was one with several surprises, be they simple added features to long-awaited titles or some pretty huge revelations. Held in the LA Convention Center, the venue for E3 as a whole, didn’t reveal any info on hardware changes or price drop, but rather had some huge info on the Fall System Update, new titles for retail and Xbox Live Arcade, and one particular former “PS3-exclusive” that has jumped the ship to the Xbox 360.
First speaker to hit the stage is Don Mattrick, senior VP for Xbox and emcee of sorts for the event, who started off the show by iterating last year’s success. Referencing titles like Assassin’s Creed, BioShock, Call of Duty 4, and so on, Mattrick emphasized the console’s loyal fanbase as well as spoke of the need to unleash more creativity within the industry in order for it to grow. He then spoke of four titles that would help bring about more success for the system this fall, namely Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Fable 2, and Gears of War 2.
The next speaker on the stage was Todd Howard, Game Director from Bethesda Softworks, who demoed part of a new Fallout 3 trailer and showed off some of the gameplay elements. The game is looking like a true sandbox-style game, offering different ways to play and build up your character. One cool feature allows you to play the game in real-time like a normal FPS, or you can pause the action and attack your opponent by selecting their weakest body part and attacking them with your weapon of choice. One weapon on display was the “Fatman”, which catapults a bomb into your enemies for some pretty effective crowd dispersal. Howard also revealed that the game would have substantial exclusive downloadable content for both the Xbox 360 and PC.
Next up was Jun Takeuchi, producer on Resident Evil 5. Takeuchi revealed that the avidly-anticipated entry to the beloved franchise would be available on March 13, 2009 (Friday the 13th), and would feature a new online co-op mode that would allow two players to make their way through the game together. In the gameplay demo, the mechanics were very reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, from the camera angles to the gunplay. The co-op elements were very impressive, and should add a great mechanic to the series. The segment concluded with a short reveal of a new take on the dreaded chainsaw wielding psycho from RE4, who can possibly be taken down this time with a buddy.
Peter Molyneux then took to the stage to discuss the progress of Fable 2, which he proclaimed “is finished”. After a short, but funny opening where a bird soars over the epic-scoped world into a town and, erm, poops on your head, a few announcements on new game features where announced. Your friends will play an important part in the game, as their single-player exploits will be shown on the screen as blue orbs, and should you want to play cooperatively with them for a little while, you simply walk up to their orb and invite them along for the ride. Other elements allow you to get married, have children who age, form a companionship with a dog, and several other new open-ended features that should make the game a blast to play. Fable 2 will launch this October.
Next up was Cliff Blezinski to display what he referred to as “the most anticipated game for this or any platform”, Gears of War 2. After a short trailer that revealed the latest ability in Marcus’s repertoire, shields (both Locust and otherwise), Blezinski jumped into a stage that featured a bunch of buildings collapsing into lava. Marcus and Don took a choppy ride to the bottom, busting through building floors and riding a collapsed elevator to a Burmak (which you can also ride this time around), as well as one of the new weapons in the game, the flamethrower. Also announced by Blezinski was a new multiplayer mode, Horde, which works as a 5-player co-op mode where the players take on a non-stop onslaught of Locust troops and hold out as long as possible, and the game’s release date, which is November 7, 2008 worldwide.
After Blezinski’s presentation, Don Mattrick returned to the stage and talked up some sales figures from Xbox LIVE, including the 1 billion dollars spent by consumers for the service since 2005. They announced the addition of NBC Universal to the group of content providers for their video download service, bringing TV Shows like Heroes and The Office as well as feature films like The Fast and the Furious and The Mummy to Xbox 360 gamers everywhere. On the other side of the pond, they also announced a deal with MGM International and Constantin Films, bringing their films to European Xbox 360 gamers.
Next, John Schappert took to the stage and announced a complete overhaul to the Xbox LIVE experience with a brand new Dashboard launching this fall. Among the additions to the system are Avatars, which function quite similar to Miis on the Nintendo Wii, with a bit more added functionality in that you can have LIVE Parties and share your gameplay experience with your friends and play new game show games via Primetime. Primetime allows you to bring your friends together online in order to play games like 1 vs. 100 with your respective Avatars.
Next up, Schappert revealed some great new titles slated to hit the Xbox LIVE Arcade, including UNO Rush, Geometry Wars 2: Retro Evolved, Galaga Legions (a straight sequel to the original Galaga debuting next month), Portal: Still Alive, and a new South Park title slated for 2009. Finally, before leaving the stage, Schappert announced that Netflix’s Watch Now features should be coming to Xbox LIVE subscribers, effectively buffing up their video catalog quite a bit.
Shane Kim took the stage next and revealed some of Microsoft’s plans for family gaming on their system. After a short trailer for Rare’s upcoming Banjo-Kazooie game, Nuts & Bolts, Kim revealed that the original Banjo-Kazooie will be coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade. They also touched a bit on another Rare offering, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, and how the game will make use of the Xbox LIVE Vision Camera in order to scan special cards that will allow you to unlock new piatas in the game.
Kim next revealed a new Scene It game called Scene It! Box Office Smash, as well as a title being developed by Zoe Mode for Codemasters called You’re In the Movies. You’re In the Movies has you and your friends playing a variety of camera-based minigames, which are then applied into a campy B-movie. You also have the ability to edit your films yourself or simply let the game take over. You’re in the Movies ships this holiday with an Xbox LIVE Vision Camera in the box.
Next up, Kai Huang, founder of Red Octane, got onstage to reveal some new info on Guitar Hero: World Tour. Huang announced an exclusive new 8-player band battle mode, a new REM track pack that would make its worldwide debut on Guitar Hero World Tour, and the next Metallica album, which will be available for download in the game.
Microsoft then revealed Lips, which is effectively their answer to Sony’s popular SingStar franchise. Lips is a karaoke game with a full soundtrack, but also will give you the ability to plug your Zune into your Xbox 360 and sing along to your own music collection. After the initial presentation, Keichii Yano from iNiS brought out recording artist Duffy to perform her single “Mercy” within the game. Lips will be out this holiday season.
Next up, Alex Rigopulos from Harmonix took to the stage to announce the deets on Rock Band 2, which will be out with a short exclusivity window for the Xbox 360 this September. Among the revelations were the complete setlist, which is a bit too long to list here but features some great new tracks from AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses (Schackler’s Revenge from ‘Chinese Democracy’), and a song by Bob Dylan. Also revealed was Rock Band 2’s ability to import tracks from the first game and use all downloadable content for Rock Band, effectively bringing the tracklist up to 500 songs before the end of the year.
Finally, Yoichi Wada from Square-Enix took to the stage, announcing release dates for their upcoming three titles: Infinite Undiscovery (Sept. 2nd), Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Spring 09), and The Last Remnant (Nov. 20th). Also revealed was The Last Remnant for PC, which will be revealed more later down the line.
Finally, as the show was winding down, Wada drops a bombshell, announcing that Final Fantasy XIII would be available for the Xbox 360 at launch. While not much else was divulged, this was a major announcement for Microsoft, as the title was previously a PS3-exclusive (as well as the last major exclusive for the system.
All in all, Microsoft brought out some big new announcements for their system, and should help to further cement it not only as a game console, but as a media platform and entertainment system for anyone’s living room.