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 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on May 17, 2005

Event Special: Glenn gives you the scoop on the Microsoft E3 Press Conference, with all the Xbox 360 details you need to know.

The Xbox 360 was the main focus for Microsoft at their E3 2005 press conference at the Shrine Auditorium on Monday night. Robbie Bach, J Allard, and Peter Moore were truly ?center stage? as they helped spotlight the Xbox 360s expanded Xbox Live features, watermark audio and visual specs, and diverse multimedia functionality.

Touted by some pundits as more of a ?set-top box? rather than a game console, the Xbox 360 showed a good deal of its launch lineup, albeit in short clips, and provided more insights into many features that many people wanted more concrete information about.

One of the features that really needed clarification was backwards compatibility, and Microsoft provided the goods for its fans by confirming that the 360 would indeed support the entire library of Xbox games. The only confusing element, which was not elaborated on, was in regards as to why Microsoft waited to announce a decision on backwards compatibility and how they ended up implementing it in the end. The common feeling is that they had to work out some sort of emulation solution since the Xbox and Xbox 360 use different graphical chips. Further details on this will likely emerge in the near future.

Since the 360 was shown on the MTV special from May 12, much of the E3 press conference was more of a revisiting of the features rather than an introduction, but many items were impressive, nonetheless. Included in these impressive features were the HD-charged 720p minimum resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio, and 5.1 surround support. Customizable faceplates for the front of the system and a choice of placing the box horizontally and vertically are also welcome additions.

Another change for the better comes from the addition of wireless controllers, something that all of the console makers have elected to do. Of course, there will be challenges to the controller (battery life), but the freedom to play without wires and the fact the it would be first-party developed opens the possibility for success.

However, the biggest change in the 360 from its predecessor is the plethora of multimedia inputs and features that it possesses. Not only does it have USB ports for attaching cameras and I-Pods (even PSPs), but it also has memory card and SD slots for storage of XBL accounts, downloadable content, and various forms of media. However, this media will be manipulated by the elaborate interface that the 360 sports, which allows you watch movies while you voice chat, watch TV and receive game invites, and play games while listening to a custom soundtrack. While this is only a sampling of what the 360 can do with various forms of media, it can be safely said that it proposes to integrate just about every kind of media one could use currently, and probably for the next few years to come. It's really quite impressive what they're trying to do with this next system, and it seems (at the moment) that no multimedia stone has been left unturned.

However, part of this equation is the Xbox Liver service, and how it will grow. Microsoft has taken the move of putting Xbox Live ?Silver? support, free, on all Xbox 360 consoles. This ?Silver? service will allow all users with a broadband connection to make a ?CamerCard? of personal information and preferences, access downloadable content, and use features like voice and video chat. However, those wishing to play games online (Silver users can play fee-based MMORPGs and occasional free periods) must select the ?Gold? service that has a yearly/monthly fee. Apparently, the ?Gold? service will have some form of enhanced matchmaking to help keep games tailored to the style of the player.

With all these media features, it's easy to lose sight of the games that the Xbox 360 will be launching this Christmas. The heavy hitters shown were Rare's Perfect Dark Zero, the sequel to the sci-fi themed FPS; Ghost Recon 3, a third iteration of the a squad-based shooter (which now sports some amazing graphics); Project Gotham Racing 3, the third in this successful driving franchise; Gears of War, which is an amazing-looking sci-fi Halo-type game; and at least two titles from Square/Enix, including a remake of the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, and a completely new RPG. With Halo 3 waiting in the wings (to reportedly throw a sucker punch at the PS3 launch), it will be up to these main titles to sell the system to the masses, and that is the system's main hurdle as of now.

Other games shown include Kameo: Elements of Power, NBA 2K6, Need for Speed Most Wanted, Call of Duty 2, Quake 4, and several EA sports titles. Apparently there are 160 titles in development for the Xbox 360, and the plan is to have 25 to 40 available for the system's first couple of months.

The presentation itself followed the usual format, with Bach talking about the current system and bridging to the 360, Allard covering online and 360 features, and Moore covering the upcoming software. However, Don Mattrick of EA once again joined the fray to pump his company's products, and even Oakland Raider Robert Gallery helped out by promoting Madden and the 360. The entire presentation took place on a large, circular stage that had a massive video screen surrounding it, which created a striking effect when displaying titles and content.

Microsoft has fired the most detailed salvo for the next generation so far, but only time will tell if the course it has chosen will prove strong enough to take out their main rivals.

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