Special: The only large-scale ?2? announcement this Xbox conference contained surrounded a release date of Halo 2. Not that that's a bad thing...
Nintendo and Sony have announced new portable gaming platforms, but Microsoft isn't thinking outside of the Xbox just yet. Instead, its annual E3 press conference concentrated on the console front where the company claimed the lead in software, services, and celebrity surprises. Donald Trump was the first to approve of the online gaming strategy of Team Xbox in "The Novice," an amusing video presentation that spoofed "The Apprentice." On the other hand, he fired Team Sony for having nothing to show in the boardroom. Sony execs were sent down to the street only to have Bill Gates jump into their cab. I'm sure The Donald would agree that it was quite a classy way to begin this all-important conference.
Jenny McCarthy was the second big non-game name to jump into the picture via Live's upcoming video chat and current voice message services. The video chat is expected to support up to five Xbox Live players and be put to the test in both social and multiplayer gaming settings. It's unclear how the gaming end of this will work, but it's definitely the proper evolution for the "It's good to play together" community.
As Microsoft evolves the online gaming experience through video chat integration, it's also taking a few steps back. Xbox Live Arcade will bring about gaming classics such as Dig Dug, Galaxian, Feeding Frenzy, and Bejeweled. Although a price wasn't announced at the conference, early indicators show $10 as the amount you'll pay for each classic game come fall.
For those that anticipated an official announcement about Xbox 2, it didn't happen. However, what came to light instead was XNA. This new developer kit allows games to be created for both the Xbox and PC with even easier compatibility. XNA is great news for developers as well as gamers given the fact that more time can be spent on improving graphics, audio, and online play between the two platforms. Judging from the Saleen S7 crash demo from Pseudo Interactive, the benefits could be endless.
The first concrete XNA title has already taken shape at Sigil Online Games where EverQuest veterans are preparing their next MMORPG. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is going to be a Microsoft exclusive in which gamers are inserted into the same online universe whether they're using the Xbox console or a Windows PC. Plus, the option of using an Xbox controller in addition to the standard keyboard and mouse should make this online game more versatile than any MMORPG before it.
The future of XNA and Live extras is impressive and so is the lineup of upcoming Xbox games, many of them Xbox console exclusives: Star Wars Republic Commando, Sudeki, OutRun 2, Kameo: Elements of Power, Jade Empire, MechAssault: Lone Wolf, Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict, Advent Rising, Conler: Live and Reloaded, Fable, Men of Valor, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords, Dead or Alive: Ultimate, and Doom 3.
While the footage seemed to display game after game after game, it didn't depict a single second of Halo 2. That demonstration was saved for Peter Moore, Xbox Vice President of Marketing and Publishing, who unveiling November 9 as the release date for this anticipated sequel. To ensure that everyone took him seriously, Moore was confident enough to "tattoo" the date onto his arm. Not the most convincing stunt, but hopefully November in the month Bungie completes Halo 2 and hopefully that November occurs in 2004.
Following the Halo 2 multiplayer presentation, even more videos were shown, this time for Dead or Alive Ultimate, Doom 3, and Jade Empire. However we've seen these titles before and Microsoft knows that. So, the company announced its own racing simulation: Forza Motorsport. With all of the automobile manufacturer licenses and vehicle customizations you can think of, Microsoft may have found a Gran Turismo killer with Forza.
Just because Forza Motorsport is a super-slick racing simulation that was previously unannounced, it didn't cap off the night. Instead, one last surprise was still waiting in the wings: EA Games and EA Sports titles will be playable over Xbox Live. NCAA Football 2005 will be the first Live-enabled EA Sports game in July followed by Madden NFL 2005 the next month. NBA Live 2005, FIFA Soccer 2005, NHL 2005, NASCAR 2005, Tiger Woods PGA World Tour 2005 round out the remaining EA Sports franchises set to receive the same treatment. EA Games including Burnout 3, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, GoldenEye: Rouge Agent, Need for Speed Underground 2, and Battlefield: Modern Combat are all bound for Xbox Live as well. This announcement was somewhat predictable given the many rumors about it before the actual press conference. The real surprise was to see the EA Sports cover athletes take the stage including Marshall Falk and even Muhammad Ali, who received a standing ovation.
The Xbox press conference was packed with exciting footage of upcoming games for the console and the entire event was full of surprises and celebrities. So, while Sony and Nintendo can battle it out over the handheld market, Microsoft is still making a significant amount of progress with its Xbox lineup and Xbox Live service. This is something that'll attract both hardcore and casual gamers who are going to feel that's "it's good to play together," which should make gaming all the more better.