Microsoft at E3 - GoW2, Netflix, and Final Fantasy?

Microsoft Highlights from E3

Microsoft was first up to bat at the annual E3 gaming conference this year. They like being first, having been the first to the newest generation of consoles with the Xbox 360, and used this opportunity to make some announcements about exclusive games, non-exclusive games with exclusive content, and games that come, yes, first to the 360. Here are the highlights from the first big press conference of the show.

Fallout 3 is one of those multi-platform games. However, Xbox360 and Windows players will have exclusive downloadable content. The whole game can be played stealth OR aggressive FPS and weapons shown include EMP Grenade and “Fatman”, a portable catapult-launched Nuke.

Resident Evil 5 is another multi-platform game, and a curious inclusion in the Microsoft keynote. Bright scenery is a highlighted first for the series; Online co-op campaign mode is confirmed; out worldwide March 13th, 2009 (yes, Friday the 13th. How cute).

Fable 2 , however, is an in-house 360 exclusive. It promises to take Online Co-op to a new level; your customized character can be transported to a friend’s customized world for a visit, can participate in battles, missions, or just have a beer at the local tavern. It’s due out this October.

Gears of War 2, another exclusive, looks to be basically a prettier version of the first game, with new levels and weapons. A new survival mode, “Horde”, where 5 players take on constant waves of Locusts that get harder with each wave highlights the multiplayer portion. Worldwide release is set for November 7, 2008.

Xbox LIVE Marketplace sees some changes immediately, and some in the fall. NBC/Universal joins the XBLM in the US, providing both TV and movie content, including The Office, Battlestar Galactica, 12 Monkeys, and Bourne Supremacy.

Netflix also joins Microsoft as an exclusive content deliverer this fall, bringing their “watch now” function, which allows subscribers to stream movies on their PCs, to the Xbox360. This will only be available to Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers.

Xbox LIVE Arcade sees major changes with the aforementioned fall update, as well. An all-new dashboard appears, along with Avatars, 3D representations of players (see: Nintendo’s Miis). Dashboard panes are in 3D, similar to Windows Vista’s rolodex-style window-scrolling. Your Avatars can interact together in the Community channel, but it will be limited, and not as robust as Sony’s upcoming Home. In addition, the update will allow users to install full games to their hard drives. No word yet on how this will affect copy protection (i.e., how often the game has to be put in to make sure you don’t rent and dump).

1 vs. 100, an interactive Massively Multiplayer Game Show will be one of the first to use your new Avatars through new “Xbox LIVE Primetime.” The games will feature real prizes.

Portal: Still Alive is the official sequel to Portal coming to XBLA in the fall, but may come to other platforms in the spring; Uno, Geometry Wars, and an official sequel to 1981’s Galaga also coming to XBLA.

Xbox LIVE Community Games, made through the independent developer kit, will start showing up later this year.

The original Banjo Kazooie will be coming to XBLA this holiday season.

Nothing too new on the new Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts or Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise besides that they’re still on their way.

Scene It: Box Office Smash will use Avatars; the quiz show game will be the first retail game to use them.

You’re in the Movies is a new 360 exclusive that allows you to record yourself, then insinuate the footage into movie clips. The game ships with a Live Vision camera this holiday season.

Guitar Hero: World Tour over 85 master tracks ship on disc.

Lips is a new Karaoke game, similar to Sony’s Singstar. It includes support for Zune and, important to more than 5 people, iPod tracks. The mic will feature lights and motion controls (so you can bling while you sing).

Rock Band 2 is a timed exclusive, coming to 360 in September, and PS3 a month or two later. 84 master tracks on disc, 20 free downloads nearly immediately after. Almost all Rock Band 1 tracks from the disc and all downloaded tracks are forwards compatible with the new game.

Square Enix started by going over previous announcements. They seemed at the end of their presentation, and suddenly, the bomb was dropped:

Final Fantasy XIII has been touted by Sony fans as a major reason to own their current console. However, it is now the newest type of exclusive: a regional one. In Japan, the seminal RPG will be available only for the Sony PS3. In the US and Europe, however, the game will ship for both PS3 and 360 simultaneously.

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