Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Microsoft’s E3 Briefing

E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) 2009 is underway and the major players are grabbing their share of the media cycle by revealing hot games and new technologies. Once the major industry show, E3's relevance has been questioned in recent years, especially since it has served more to confirm rumors than offer surprises.

It's refreshing that Microsoft has kicked off the show with an impressive E3 Briefing. Here are the three biggest announcements Microsoft revealed today for their Xbox 360.

The Beatles: Rock Band
We knew this was coming on 9.09.09 (number nine, number nine, number nine) and we could have guessed at the track list, but did anyone see vocal harmonies coming? Support for up to three vocalists shows that unlike recent Guitar Hero releases, this isn't just Rock Band with a Beatles skin. This is a multiplatform release, but the biggest surprise Microsoft pulled off was putting the two surviving Beatles onstage during the announcement. Paul and Ringo may have had an awkward two minutes in the E3 spotlight, but unless Nintendo or Sony have Elvis waiting in the wings, it would be hard to surpass this level of star power.

Social Notworking
I hope you like your couch, because Microsoft is planning to keep you on it. Announced today was integration for social networking giants Facebook and Twitter. Redesigned for your television, it will be easier to keep track of friends, share pictures and highlight your gaming excellence all through your Xbox. As if that isn't enough, Microsoft is bringing Last.FM to Xbox Live subscribers letting them create and share playlists.

Project Natal
This morning people were talking about Xbox Fluid which morphed into Project Natal during the briefing. I can only assume the pregnant Trixie 360 created this natal fluid confusion. Anyway, Project Natal is Microsoft's answer to the Wiimote. Bypassing controllers completely, Microsoft showed off the Project Natal concept which uses a camera for facial recognition and body movement tracking while a microphone picks up your voice. Examples shown included miming steering a car to play a racing game, unleashing a martial arts barrage to defeat an on-screen opponent and shouting trivia answers at the screen to win a multiplayer game. Potentially the biggest game-changer, Project Natal also faces the potential of being another gimmick like the EyeToy — or worse — the new Power Glove.