E3 08: Microsoft roundup

In the run-up to E3

some analysts were predicting that Xbox 360 has had its day

and that the path was clear for PS3 to overtake Microsoft’s machine – but an announcement-packed E3 conference has proved that the US firm still has plenty of energy to invest in its machine.

Spearheaded by claims from the company’s Shane Kim that Xbox 360 will boast a software catalogue numbering over 1000 titles before the end of the year, Microsoft made up for the absence of the expected motion-controller (though some new joypad designs were shown off) or new Halo title with a radical dashboard update and Wii-style gamer avatars and a host of exclusivity deals.

So bullish was the firm that entertainment boss Don Mattrick found time to claim that former PlayStation darlings were now finding their way to 360 – just look for the surprise news that Final Fantasy XIII is no longer a PS3 exclusive for proof of that. The firm also reaffirmed that it would not be beaten by Sony this generation.

Mirroring the firm’s GTAIV exclusivity deal, Xbox 360 (alongside PC) will enjoy exclusive access to DLC for Bethesda’s much-wanted Fallout 3. There were also exclusivity deals on EA’s Rockband 2 and Valve’s Portal 2. We were also treated to release dates for Peter Molyneux’s Fable 2 and Epic’s Gears of War 2.

There was also plenty of info on Microsoft’s answer to Sony’s EyeToy and SingStar revolution. The first title, dubbed Lips, is being developed by the minds behind cult DS rhythm-action outing Elite Beat Angents and cult PS2 classic Gitaroo man. Coming bundled with motion-sensing microphones, the title will also be the first karaoke outing to work with gamer’s personal music collections, and is fully compatible with both the iPod and Microsoft’s Zune. Lips was joined by Codemasters’ You’re in the Movies.

There’s also the radical revamp to Microsoft’s dashboard that is due to arrive in the autumn – bringing with it Mii-style avatars and a new multiplayer feature dubbed Xbox Prime Time which will allow avatars to compete in game shows across Xbox Live. Add to this the new deal with movie rental firm Netflix and Microsoft has a very appealing multimedia package.

A host of new Xbox Live Arcade titles were also confirmed, including the amazing looking Geometry Wars 2, a modern sequel to arcade classic Galaga and a new South Park title. It was also announced that XBLA has to date generated over $1 billion in revenue.

On the down side, Halo Wars will now not be released until 2009, and whilst Microsoft were granted the chance to confirm the March 2009 release date for Resident Evil 5, the long wait will sadden many.

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