Microsoft Prepares for Gigantic E3 Showing

Microsoft Corp. today kicked off the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with a bang as it previewed some of the 200 games that will be available worldwide this holiday season for the Xboxâ„¢ video game system. Showing its vision for the future of the industry, the company also detailed its plans for Xbox Live, the first online console gaming service fully dedicated to fast-action, always-connected broadband gaming experiences. Microsoft also announced a $2 billion commitment for Xbox Live, next-generation content and ongoing innovation of the platform.

“Xbox is driving the future of interactive entertainment,” said Robbie Bach, senior vice president and chief Xbox officer at Microsoft. “With so many great Xbox games from our partners, the right global vision for online games, and an irresistible price for Xbox around the world, the real fun starts now.”
Coming Soon: Tons of Great Xbox Games

Ed Fries, vice president of Xbox game content at Microsoft, provided an overview of the potent Xbox games lineup. The great holiday exclusives include:

  • “Star Wars®: Knights of the Old Republicâ„¢” (LucasArts Entertainment Company) presents a deep, engaging story-/character-driven role-playing game (RPG) set long before the Galactic Empire. The era, unexplored in any previous “Star Wars” game, is dominated by an enduring conflict between the Jedi and the Sith. Developed in conjunction with BioWare Corp., the game will feature customizable male or female heroes and evolving playable characters, as well as dynamic lightsaber combat.
  • “Brute Force” (Microsoft Game Studios) is an action-packed sci-fi squad-based shooter that lets gamers experience the intensity of a shooter game with the cunning strategies of team-based tactical combat.
  • “Panzer Dragoonâ„¢ ORTA” (SEGA® of America, Inc.) empowers gamers to take command of a powerful dragon and experience intense aerial combat in the most visually breathtaking game on Xbox.
  • “NFL Fever 2003” (Microsoft Game Studios) continues the award-winning football game series for Xbox. Easy to pick up and start playing, “NFL Fever 2003” delivers all the action and excitement of the National Football League, allowing gamers to create, play and control their ultimate NFL team.
  • “Unreal Championship” (Infogrames) is built from the ground up by Digital Extremes, part of the team responsible for “Unreal” and “Unreal Tournament, Unreal Championship.” The latest addition to the “Unreal” universe will provide console gamers with an adrenaline-packed, first-person action experience designed specifically for Xbox and the Xbox controller.

“The pipeline of Xbox games is jammed with new titles in every category,” Fries said. “With 300 Xbox games in development and 200 games slated for the holiday season, gamers will have a mountain of quality titles to choose from this year. No other console has ever accomplished these types of numbers in its first year.”

After showcasing many of the 200 games that will be on the market by the end of the year, Fries previewed two future Xbox games that demonstrate how Xbox game designers are reaching for the stars:

  • “Ninja Gaiden®” (Tecmo®, Inc.) was announced as an Xbox exclusive game. Created by legendary game designer Tomonobu Itagaki and his team at Team Ninja in Japan, Ryu Hayabusa returns as the famous, deadly Ninja assassin in the new “Ninja Gaiden,” coming in the spring of 2003. This neo-classic adventure will feature extraordinary new worlds, deadly new weapons, Hollywood-style movies, and interactive 3-D environments, creating the most action-packed adventure of all time.
  • “Project Ego” (Microsoft Game Studios) is Peter Molyneux’s ground-breaking, role-playing adventure game in which players’ actions determine their skills, appearance and morality. Gamers can create their life story from childhood to death. They can grow from an inexperienced child into the most powerful being in the world. Players can choose the path of righteousness or dedicate their lives to evil.

Microsoft Unveils Xbox Live — The Next Frontier in Video Games

J Allard, general manager of the Xbox platform, detailed Microsoft’s plans to lead the way in online gaming with Xbox Live. Leveraging the Xbox system’s built-in hard drive and Ethernet port to facilitate online play right out of the box, Xbox Live is a game universe where gamers can find their friends easily; where they can talk to other players through the Xbox Communicator headset; where gamers can download new statistics, levels and characters to their Xbox hard drive; and where game players have fun together. The standard Xbox Live game features that work across all Xbox Live multiplayer games include the following:

  • Gamertag. Gamertag is a player’s unique online ID for all games across the global gaming service.
  • Friends list. This feature allows gamers to find friends online and invite them to a game no matter which Xbox Live game they’re playing.
  • Xbox Communicator. Voice communication is integrated with all Xbox Live multiplayer games, enabling voice interaction with teammates and opponent. Key elements of this feature exclusive to Xbox include voice-masking, global muting and parental control.
  • Matchmaking. QuickMatch is the ability to enter a multiplay experience with a single button click, and OptiMatch, an Xbox Live exclusive, helps players select games and opponents based on similar skill levels.
  • High-speed content downloads to the Xbox hard disk. Only Xbox offers console gamers the ability to download and permanently store both free and for-a-fee content, including new levels, characters, missions and statistics.

“Online capabilities will change video games in more profound ways than 3-D technology has so far,” Allard said. “We built Xbox Live to allow game creators to focus purely on making the next great games. As the artists create, Xbox Live will do the heavy lifting where cross-game services, technology, customer service and billing are concerned.”

Xbox Live launches in North America, Europe, and Japan this fall and begins its steady rollout this summer with a consumer beta program in North America. Allard said Xbox Live will support five Xbox Live exclusive games this year, including “Unreal Championship” (Infogrames) as well as “MechAssaultâ„¢,” “Whacked!â„¢,” “NFL Fever 2003” and “Midtown Madness® 3” (Microsoft Games Studio). By the end of 2003, at least 50 Xbox Live-enabled games are scheduled to be available worldwide.

At launch, U.S. consumers can purchase a starter kit for $49.95. For the estimated retail price of a single game, the consumer receives a year’s subscription to Xbox Live, an Xbox Communicator that plugs into the Xbox controller and facilitates all voice communication with other players, and “ReVolt,” a fun, online racing game from Acclaim Entertainment. Pricing and specific offers in regions outside of North America will be announced locally at a later date.

As the grand finale to the Xbox Live unveiling, Allard announced a lineup of games in the works for the future of the service, including “Star Wars Galaxiesâ„¢” (LucasArts Entertainment), “Counterstrike” (Valve Software for Microsoft Games Studios), and future versions of Xbox original blockbusters such as “Haloâ„¢,” “RalliSport Challenge,” “Ampedâ„¢” and “Project Gotham Racingâ„¢.”

Stay tuned to FunXbox for more from E3 2002!

–Press Release