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X06: Microsoft Announces New Halo Releases, Partnerships

Microsoft has revealed new details surrounding a string of new partnerships, including a Peter Jackson-produced entry into the world of Halo, as well as new information concerning the company's upcoming Xbox 360 HD-DVD peripheral.
In the run up to Microsoft's Amsterdam-based X06 press event, Microsoft has revealed details surrounding a string of new partnerships and games, as well as new information concerning the company's upcoming Xbox 360 HD-DVD peripheral. Specifically, Microsoft Game Studios announced that it has signed a deal with acclaimed film writer, director, and producer Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong), as well as screenwriter Fran Walsh, to develop a pair of new series exclusively for the Xbox 360 and its accompanying Xbox Live online service. According to Microsoft, the goal of the partnership is to “create new stories and redefine the way they are told.” Jackson Does Halo The first game to come out of this new arrangement will be a collaborative effort with Bungie Studios to co-create a completely new and original chapter in the Halo franchise. The project was explicitly mentioned to not be Halo 3, but a completely separate series set in the Halo universe, hoping to capture more filmic properties in an interactive form. The second project will be an unspecified original property from the team in New Zealand that Microsoft notes will be targeted at drawing in new audiences. In addition, Microsoft Game Studios also announced that the company will partner with Jackson and Walsh to establish Wingnut Interactive, a New Zealand studio dedicated to the creation of “world-class interactive entertainment”. Peter Jackson himself is, of course, no stranger to the Halo universe, having recently been secured as the executive producer on the upcoming video game to film adaptation. The movie will be directed by Neill Blomkamp, a largely unknown short film and commercial director, who will make his feature film debut with the movie, which is currently targeted for a Summer 2008 worldwide release. Said Jackson on the partnership, "Microsoft has built an amazing living canvas with Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, which allows the storytellers of our time to express themselves in a new medium. They have fundamentally changed how people think about games. My vision, together with Microsoft Game Studios, is to push the boundaries of game development and the future of interactive entertainment. From a movie-maker's point of view, it is clear to me that the Xbox 360 platform is the stage where storytellers can work their craft in the same way they do today with movies and books but taking it further with interactivity." In other Halo-related news from the X06 event, Microsoft also announced, via a trailer, a new development titled Halo Wars, a real-time strategy game based on Bungie's Halo universe and designed exclusively for Xbox 360 by Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires), making more sense of Microsoft's recent cease and desist of Slipstream Productions's fan-based Halo-themed Command and Conquer Generals mod Halogen. Exclusive News In addition to the expansion of its Halo universe, Microsoft also revealed not only new titles, but exclusivity and special features to titles already known. As previously announced at E3, Rockstar's next chapter in its Grand Theft Auto series, Grand Theft Auto IV, will feature new Xbox Live content, including two "epic" downloadable episodes offering "hours of additional gameplay" available months after the release of the title. Similarly, Microsoft highlighted additional exclusive titles including the next Splinter Cell installment after the forthcoming Double Agent, the new iteration in Ubisoft and Tom Clancy's renowned series, Irrational's forthcoming System Shock spiritual successor BioShock, Project Gotham Racing 4, a new console sequel set in the Banjo-Kazooie universe, and a new MMO set in the Marvel Comics universe, Marvel Universe Online, developed by City of Heroes and City of Villains developers Cryptic Studios. In addition to the previously covered line up of titles like Lumines Live, Contra, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Small Arms, Gyruss, Mutant Storm Empires, Totemball and Defender, Xbox Live Arcade is also set to receive a revival of classic franchises, including a version of id's 1993 original FPS DOOM, including the original four-episode single-player game, four-player split screen multiplayer, both co-op and deathmatch, and four player co-op and deathmatch over the Xbox Live service. Also, classic Amiga franchise Sensible World of Soccer, recently revived by Codemasters for PC and console release, will be receiving the Xbox Live treatment with similar updated graphics as recent arcade ports. HD DVD Priced and Dated Finally breaking full details on the console's upcoming HD DVD Player, Microsoft revealed that the add-on, to be put on sale in mid-November 2006 in North America for $199.99, and in the U.K., France and Germany for €199.99 (£129.99), would be released with a further partnership with filmmaker Peter Jackson, with an HD DVD release of his King Kong film coming bundled with the player. Microsoft expects 150 additional HD DVD titles will be available to consumers by the holidays. More added that the add-on will be the "most affordable" HD DVD player on the market, and will include the Media Center remote. In all, Microsoft said it remains on track to deliver 10 million consoles worldwide by the end of the year, having sold 5 million consoles since its launch last year -- and with upcoming worldwide launches set for South Africa, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland -- with a library of 160 games.

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