NEWS - Wednesday, July 11, 2007

E3: Microsoft’s Pre-E3 Press Conference

Peter Moore has unveiled a new Halo 3 Special Edition Xbox 360 at the company's pre-E3 conference, backed with a plethora of new software announcements. Games took center stage at the press briefing, with Xbox boss Peter Moore boasting that, "This is the first E3 briefing in which every demo you see will be coming this year." Setting the scene, Moore stated that the Xbox 360 has the largest install base of the next-generation home consoles, with 5.6 million units sold in the US. "Xbox 360 is driving this industry," he said. "We're in a tight race with Wii, and outselling PS3 two to one," said Moore. "Xbox 360 is selling more games than anyone else." Game demo's, rolling footage and clips of some of the most highly-anticipated titles were on display, including Halo 3, Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty 4, and Project Gotham Racing 4. The Halo 3 Special Edition console was left until last, with Moore declaring, "We're announcing a new console for the Halo nation." It is expected to go on sale around the same time as the release of Bungie's shooter, due September 25. But first-party offerings weren't just about content for the dedicated 360 fan, Microsoft's VP of marketing Jeff Bell came on stage to talk about the company's focus on the family audience. Central to this was a spin-off from Rare's Viva Piñata, and a collaboration with DVD boardgame company Screenlife. Viva Piñata: Party Animals is a mini-game compilation in development at Krome Studios, while Screenlife's Scene It? movie trivia game will make the jump to 360, complete with a specially-tailored buzzer peripheral. Blockbuster gaming brands were on full show at the event – Activision's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare may be a multiformat title, but Microsoft has managed to tie-up an exclusive online beta test for Xbox consumers. Games for Windows will benefit from new titles, including Viva Piñata and top-seller Gears of War, complete with new content and features. Games for Windows Live technology will also now be built into Epic's leading Unreal Engine 3 middleware. Another first-party title, BioWare's Mass Effect, has been dated for November in the US, while EA Sports have promised that every title in its portfolio will now run at twice previous speeds on the Xbox 360. Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV was shown, with Microsoft claiming the footage was captured on a Xbox 360, and Moore referring to 360's exclusive episodic content by stating, "Where the GTA IV experience stops on other platforms, it continues on Xbox 360." A brief trailer was shown for Capcom's Resident Evil 5, “The only game that won't launch this year,” said Moore, with an full trailer promised for July 26. Microsoft has also revealed that the Xbox 360 Elite will be coming to Europe and Canada August 24, with the Xbox Live Video Marketplace set to launch in the regions before the end of the year. The Xbox 360's Live service now boasts over 7 million users, and is expected to reach around 10 million in the next 12 months.

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