Gamasutra is pleased to present live coverage of the Microsoft pre-E3 press conference at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA.
11.19am PST - Before the press conference, a 3D visualization of gamer names of those who press registered (Xbox Live gamer name was an optional field) is flashing around onscreen, and both Gamasutra editors present are featured - though everyone now knows that we've been playing Ridge Racer 6
11.39am - The press conference starts with a trailer for Gears Of War
, showing impressive footage from Epic's Unreal Engine 3 title, and announcing it for release on 'Emergence Day 2006'. Cliff Bleszinski then appears on stage to start demonstrating a live version of the game, looking extremely impressive and running very smoothly indeed on the Xbox 360 - lots of heat, blood, and smoke effects, and some neat grenade throwing.
The demo is showing an entire level of the game not previously seen, and includes the enemy cutting through the door, followed by extreme carnage - lots of spurting blood, and incredibly impressive action sequences with lots of ducking for cover, and an ending showcasing a giant spider bursting out to attack the marines.
11.46am - CliffyB now introduces Peter Moore, who discusses "the second generation of next generation games", and mentions that all of the gaming resources at Microsoft are under a single organizational whole. He also discusses the "rather unique challenges" of a global launch, dispelling the rumors that Xbox 360s were hidden in the desert (next to the E.T. cartridges, according to a caption!). He discusses the "bumps and potholes" of Xbox 360 launch, but notes that the console is off to the fastest start in history, and mentions the company will have sold more than 5 million Xbox 360s by the end of next month.
11.50am - Moore is now discussing how the Xbox 360 has changed the market, suggesting that it's a "gateway to new worlds of high definition content". He then discusses Xbox Live's success, including real-life implementations - he also reveals that by this time next year, Microsoft predicts 6 million members by E3 2007. He also suggests: "We're expanding beyond the early adopters", referencing a 57% attach rate for Xbox Live on Xbox 360 hardware units.
11.53am - The future of Xbox Live Arcade is demonstrated - Pac-Man, Contra, and Frogger
from Konami, Galaga
from Namco, Sonic The Hedgehog
from Sega, Defender
from Midway, Time Pilot
from Konami, Ultra Mortal Kombat 3
from Midway, and Scramble
from Konami. There are other new announcements that include many additional titles from these partners - all updated with high definition, adding online multiplayer, leaderboards, and so on.
11.56pm - Moore introduces a surprise new Arcade-specific announcement: Lumines Live
for Xbox Live Arcade, including Warner Music Group deals to get Madonna songs and videos, among others, integrated into the gameplay seamlessly.
11.59pm - A highlights reel of next gen Xbox 360 titles is cued, including Rockstar Table Tennis, Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway
, new footage from Mass Effect
from BioWare, NHL 2K7
, the Xbox 360 version of F.E.A.R
, footage of Too Human
, the ubercute Viva Pinata
, Battle For Middle-Earth II, Sonic
, and many others, including World Series Of Poker
, THQ's Saint's Row
, the new WWE
title, Midway's Stranglehold
, Atari's Test Drive Unlimited
, Capcom's droolworthy Dead Rising
, a new DDR
title, named DDR Universe
, the Xbox 360 version of Prey
, Superman Returns
, and Ninety-Nine Nights
12.01pm - It's mentioned that there will be more than 160 Xbox 360 titles for this holiday season, and also referenced is the more than 825 games for the original Xbox. Moore then cues a new, sinister-looking Lionhead title, announced for the first time, Fable 2
, featuring impressive-looking CG, and the tagline: "Every choice leads to a different destiny - choose yours."
12.04pm - Moore introduces another new title, Forza Motorsport 2
, indicating: "We're shifting this franchise into fifth gear". The video shows extensive car customization, and the apparent name of the team developing it within Microsoft Game Studios, Turn10. You can pick from 300 cars, and play up to 11 other people online. The company also announced the Xbox 360 Wireless Steering Wheel, with force feedback, to ship at the same time the game debuts.
Moore also announced a new headset, and Xbox Live Vision, a camera allowing gamer picture customization and other in-game usage - all available this year.
12.08pm - Hironobu Sakaguchi is pointed out in the audience, and a trailer is run for the new title produced by him, Blue Dragon
, featuring a kid in a small spaceship and almost Miyazaki-like art direction. He also revealed that Blue Dragon
will be available in Japan this holiday season. Also announced was Dead Or Alive Extreme 2
from Team Ninja. Moore said that he "does not underestimate" the challenges of the Japanese market, nonetheless.
12.13pm - A trailer for Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent
, debuting on Xbox 360 this fall, is shown. Moore then reappears to introduce Viva Pinata
from Rare, handing to a Microsoft producer demonstrating the game, showing "breakthrough entertainment for the entire family".
The demonstration explained the game as having the player growing pinatas from a worm to a animal whole - you can then acquire accessories via Xbox Live for your Pinatas, and then trade them with other people on Xbox Live. The graphics for the game are impressive, if a tiny bit jerky in places, but the rendering is extremely impressive. Also demonstrated was the 'Romance Dance' with tiny worm Pinatas. The game will ship this holiday for Xbox 360.
12.20pm - Moore is now discussing Xbox Live Marketplace - and reveals new TV content downloadable, including the HD TV program Gears Of War: Road To E3
, which will start in downloadable form, and finish on MTV next week.
Moore now demonstrates the Xbox 360 HD DVD player add-on, which looks somewhat like an add-on CD-ROM drive. It will be available this holiday season, and "a better bargain" than rivals, Moore indicates.
12.22pm - Moore says: "Some guys do rubber ducks, some guys do tattoos", showing his apparently real Halo 2
tattoo, and then, showing a presumably not real tattoo on his other arm, reveals that Microsoft and Rockstar Games are bringing Grand Theft Auto IV
to Xbox 360 on October 16th 2007 in North America, and October 19th in Europe. There's also an agreement to provide unspecified episodic content with Rockstar via Xbox Live.
12.26pm - Chris Donahue appears onstage to showcase Games For Windows, and is showing a video of Crysis
from Crytek, an impressive-looking Windows-exclusive title involving aliens attacking some kind of Navy vessel - Moore re-appears to discuss Windows Vista and DirectX 10, cuting titles including Age Of Conan
, an impressive looking Microsoft Flight Simulator X
, and further footage from Crysis
12.32pm - Moore discusses joint release titles between PC and Xbox 360, referencing Oblivion
, which sold 1.7 million copies in 3 weeks. He then cues a video of Shadowrun
from FASA Studio, revealed as a joint Windows PC and Xbox 360 title melding magic and technology. Moore discusses multiplayer play in the first-person shooter, and it'll launch next January alongside Windows Vista.
Moore cues another video revealing that Remedy's Alan Wake
, one of the hits of last year's E3, is now to be published by Microsoft Game Studios, and will be a joint Windows PC and Xbox 360 release, showcasing the excellent visuals from the creators of Max Payne
12.37pm - Moore introduces Bill Gates onstage, a significant surprise - he says he's excited to be here, and a "heavy Xbox 360 user" - he likes Project Gotham Racing 3
, and his family loves Xbox Live Arcade titles such as Zuma
and Marble Blast Ultra
He discusses "making gaming attractive to people of every age", and driving the industry to a new size. He discusses Xbox 360, noting that they're "driving things to a whole new level" - and is adding 8 new countries to the Xbox 360 distribution, including South Africa, India, Brazil, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
He quipped about the Xbox 360 launch shortage: "All of us at Microsoft found we had friends that we never knew before" - and reveals that, before PS3 enters the market, Microsoft will have a 10 million unit Xbox 360 installed base, according to now official company predictions.
12.45pm: Discussing the connection between Xbox 360, Messenger, and PC, Gates indicates that they will now be sharing MSN Messenger and Xbox Live messaging - the concept is called Live Anywhere, and will be part of Windows Vista. This means that you have "one online community", Gates suggested.
He discusses Windows Mobile - indicating that the richness of mobile games is just beginning - suggesting that you can start games on Xbox 360 and continue them from your phone, set up downloads on Xbox 360 from a phone, and so on. He suggested that "Microsoft is the only company that can pull this off".
12.48pm - Gates introduces Microsoft's Scott Hanson, showing the start-up of a game of Shadowrun
, and showing a friends list popup that includes Xbox 360, Windows, and Windows Mobile connectivity and state. He showed an invitation to Major Nelson to play the game, even though Nelson is currently on Vista.
The view changed to Windows Vista, and shows Major Nelson's screen, which includes his gamer profile, and allows play on Windows vs. Xbox 360, and real-time voice chat across platforms. Thus, Nelson started Shadowrun
on his Vista PC and was able to play easily.
Windows Mobile was then shown, and Hanson showed that you can resume Xbox 360 Zuma
games on Windows Mobile, and the achievement list was viewable and workable on, even on a Motorola Q phone - extremely impressive.
12.54pm - The final practical demonstration was of racing Forza
on Xbox 360, painting your car on the Windows, and tweaking your car's stats on Windows Mobile, all using Live Anywhere.
Moore returns to the stage for his conclusion, discussing a "ten million unit head start", with more than 160 games on Xbox 360 this holiday season, and 6 million Xbox Live members by next May. He re-iterated the importance of Live Anywhere.
12.57pm - The entire conference ended with a trailer of Bungie's Halo 3
, with a ruined environment and gorgeous visuals, and a massive chasm opening up to reveal... a white-out and the Halo 3
logo - and the words: "Finish The Fight - 2007".