NEWS - Thursday, January 8, 2009

Microsoft Talks Halo, Xbox at CES

Bach, Microsoft’s president of the Entertainment & Devices Division, reiterated Xbox 360’s 28 million unit-sold milestone and said that momentum will accelerate in 2009 due to new software, features and a competitive sub-$200 price tag.

“[The $199.99 price point] is where the majority of consoles get sold in a generation of consoles," he said.

Bach also revealed that Microsoft’s prime entertainment franchise, Halo, has sold over 25 million units across all three titles.

"An average Halo player across all 25 million of those people plays 150 hours of Halo on Xbox Live," he claimed. "It really is the defining application for social gaming."

The soon-to-be-closed Ensemble Studios strategy game Halo Wars, which launches in late February, will have a downloadable demo released on February 5, he revealed.

Bach also confirmed that Bungie’s shooter Halo 3: ODST is still slated to release this year.

Xbox Live Activity

Following the November 19 launch of the Xbox Live revamp dubbed the "New Xbox Experience," Bach said that downloads on the console have shot up 60 percent. Recently, Microsoft announced that 17 million people are registered for Xbox Live.

Since launching, Xbox Live, he said, has hosted 10 billion hours of gameplay and social interactions.

Bach also claimed that Xbox 360 is "winning" in the music genre with first- and third-party offerings including Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Lips. Citing data from business partners, he added that Xbox Live delivers 80 percent of all song downloads across all gaming platforms.

Community Games

The exec revisited the Community Games Channel on Xbox Live, which is aimed at aspiring game developers who want to create and sell their own games. Related to that is a new product shipping this year called Kodu, which started out as a way to help kids learn to program games. Kodu now also lets them share and distribute their creations with other people via Xbox Live.

During the demo of Kodu, a 12-year-old girl, who appeared to be quite adept with Kodu, made use of the product’s array of radial menus to set up and edit her own game, in which she beat Bach.

Primetime Still Coming

Originally announced last year, Bach said Xbox Live Primetime, an entertainment service revolving around live, interactive scheduled events, is slated for a spring launch. He demoed the previously seen 1 vs. 100 game show.

In Other News

Console gaming wasn’t the only focus of Microsoft’s presentation. CEO Steve "I’m a PC" Ballmer was on hand to announce that the Windows 7 Beta would be available worldwide beginning Friday.

“We’re working hard to get it right and get it ready," he said. Microsoft is working on improvements in entertainment access, connectivity and speed. A demo of the OS’ features exhibited better organization, streamlining of applications and easier networking, as well as a greater emphasis on touch functionality.

Ballmer preached about convergence between the PC, TV and phone saying they’re "evolving together. He stated, "The lynchpin for bringing all this together for you should be Windows.”

And despite the current state of the economy, Ballmer expressed optimism about the future Microsoft and the electronics industry overall. But it will be the companies that make heavy investments in R&D and innovation that will emerge from the storm relatively unscathed, he said.

“No matter what happens with this economy… I believe our digital lives will only get richer," he said.


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