Posts Tagged ‘Xbox’

First Bonus Round of 2011 Live on GTNo Comments

Yes, the Bonus Round is back on GT as well for 2011. In this first episode I discuss Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo’s plans for 2011 with Michael Pachter, Garnett Lee and Michael McWhertor. Part 1 is all about the Nintendo 3DS and the possibility of a Wii 2. Later this month we will get into Sony’s NGP, Microsoft’s Kinect, and the biggest third party games of the year.

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E3: My Thoughts on the Xbox Briefing13 Comments

xboxbriefingHow did Xbox 360 do at E3 2009? By all accounts the Xbox briefing generated the most headlines and chatter at the show. With no games announcements since Halo 3 ODST at TGS 2008, Microsoft spent the better part of 8 months saving up news for its star-studded briefing. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were on stage, plus Steven Spielberg who introduced the biggest mainstream buzz-getter at the show: The tech demo for Project Natal, a 3D depth-sensing camera.

Xbox did what it needed to do at E3. It showcased a solid lineup of software, made a few platform announcements, and captured everyone’s imagination with Project Natal. But here’s the challenge: With Natal not likely to debut until late 2010 at the earliest, how does Xbox battle the Wii for the next 18 months?

Here are some of my thoughts on the Xbox briefing:

STAGECRAFT: While it ran longer than Nintendo’s 75 minute briefing, Microsoft had the best production of all the E3 showcases. Some groaned that E3 briefings shouldn’t include celebrities, but there’s no denying The Beatles and Spielberg helped Xbox grab major headlines. Still, Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach would have been a better closer than Molyneux’s Milo video.

STRATEGY SHIFT: At E3 2007 and 2008, Xbox made a point to focus its briefing almost entirely on games coming out within 6 months of the briefing (the same year). In 2009, however, at least half of what was shown is due in 2010, including Project Natal, Alan Wake, Crackdown 2, and Halo Reach.

FIRST PARTY DROUGHT: The truth is that only two first party games are due out in the back-half of 2009: Halo 3: ODST and Forza 3. (I guess three if you count Lips).

THIRD-PARTY CRUTCH: With little in the way of first party software due in 2009, Xbox spent the first third of the briefing showcasing games that are coming to the PS3 as well as 360: Beatles Rock Band, Modern Warfare 2, and Tony Hawk Ride.

NOTABLE OMISSION: Mass Effect 2 was nowhere to be found at the briefing. Which is strange, since it is announced as only coming to the Xbox 360 and PC at launch. If it is indeed a 360 exclusive, wouldn’t Microsoft do more to hype it up?

ANNOUNCEMENT THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE: What about a search function for Xbox Live? Microsoft is hyping its new search engine Bing this week, but we still can’t search through Xbox Marketplace? C’mon!

BEST LIVE DEMO: A tie between Modern Warfare 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction.

BEST MOMENT: The Beatles arriving on stage to introduce BEATLES ROCK BAND.

WORST KEPT SECRET: A tie. Hideo Kojima’s appearance and the Xbox motion sensing camera.

FACT CHECK: At one point in the presentation Schappert said all the games, demos, and experiences from that point forward would be available “Only on Xbox 360″ as exclusives. Yet Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Rising, which debuted near the end of the show, is also coming to PlayStation 3.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Left 4 Dead 2 and Crackdown 2 were two of the biggest announcements at the showcase. But both were treated like throwaways, running as short trailers with no introductions or demos.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Xbox ran a video promoting user-generated cars in Forza 3. Whatever happened to the “Forza Mobile Garage” paintshop, which Bill Gates promised “by this time next year” in May 2006? Xbox Live Anywhere still has not materialized.

KARMA’S A BITCH: Last year Microsoft slammed Sony for showcasing God of War 3 and M.A.G. via CG trailers with no gameplay. This year the tables were turned: Microsoft debuted Crackdown 2 and Halo Reach via CG trailers. All of Sony’s first party games, meanwhile, were shown with real gameplay.

CONVENIENTLY DELETED: With rows of seats at the Galen Center reserved for “retail partners,” it’s no wonder that Xbox conveniently decided to leave downloadable on-demand Xbox 360 games out of the briefing. Still, on August 30 games like BioShock, Mass Effect and Oblivion will be available to download on Xbox Live.

QUOTE THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN RE-WRITTEN: “By the end of the year Xbox 360 will deliver more choices, better quality and more social entertainment experiences than any other device in the world,” said John Schappert. Um, what about the PC?

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What Is Microsoft Up To With Natal?14 Comments

Games E3 MicrosoftSteven Spielberg introduced it. It has its own YouTube page. And yes, it even made it onto Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. So what exactly is Microsoft’s “go to market” strategy with Project Natal? It’s a question worth considering, since I’ve never seen such a large consumer media push for a tech demo with no firm release date, price or even a final name. If my sources are to be believed, the hardware behind Natal isn’t even final, and a release probably won’t happen until late 2010 at the earliest. Or will it come sooner?

There are certainly elements to Natal that don’t add up for me. Why would Xbox aggressively build equity in the “Project Natal” name unless it plans to actually use it at launch? There’s also the photo of the Natal sensor. In its final form it will supposedly be all black, which definitely clashes with the 360’s white color scheme for Arcade and Pro units (the target market for Natal). In addition, why would Xbox spend so much time talking about a “controller free gaming platform,” only to say you first need to buy an Xbox with a controller and then purchase Natal on top of it? That’s not the way to court the Wii consumer. (And let’s face it — Natal is a directly response to the Wii).

Here’s one theory: In 2010 Xbox will launch a “new” re-branded console at $199 that includes the Natal sensor in the box, a new and simplier Xbox dashboard interface, and is aimed at directly competing with the Wii. Perhaps the rumored “Xbox Fluid” code-name will be used, and “Fluid” will be a slimmed down Xbox 360 arcade unit with Natal packed into the box. (The big question: Will it include a controller in the box or not?) Of course Microsoft will still make the Natal camera available for existing 360s, but the consumer push will be focused on converting the Wii audience to this “new” console.

At least I hope that’s Microsoft’s strategy. Convincing new consumers to buy a 360 and then purchase Natal on top of it is a messy and complicated proposition — especially for Xbox, which has never quite nailed the platform marketing. The fact that Xbox is still using a “code name” for the platform makes me think they haven’t yet decided on a go to market strategy.

Meantime, what does Xbox do for the next 18 months to compete with the Wii? The E3 briefing lacked any new mainstream games like You’re In The Movies, Scene-It or even a new Viva Pinata, which makes me wonder what Xbox’s strategy is to court mainstream consumers through the holidays.

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The Origins of Molyneux’s Milo11 Comments

molyneuxMost of the world met Milo for the first time last Monday at E3. I first encountered him about five years ago at GDC. That’s when Peter Molyneux introduced me to Dimitri, a young boy who was furiously working on his math homework in Peter’s hotel room. “Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” the young lad said before turning his eyes back to a ruled notebook.

Little did I know that half a decade later I’d meet Dimitri again — albeit this time in virtual form.

Molyneux is a big idea guy. And Milo (renamed from Dimitri for legal reasons) is his most ambitious and riskiest concept to date. It’s a natural outgrowth of the artificial intelligence-driven creatures in Black & White and the dog in Fable II. But those AIs were supporting characters in a larger game world. Milo (or Milly if you select a female) is the game.

What inspired Molyneux to build Milo? Dimitri, who’s now in college, sees Peter as a role-model. Over the years, as Peter spent more and more time with Dimitri, he began to reflect on his own childhood and the choices he made growing up. How would Peter’s life have changed if he made different choices? It’s a question we all ponder at some point.

Milo, I expect, will give us a chance to re-examine our own choices by guiding a young avatar through life. He will ask questions, seek advice, and, if the technology works, form a bond with the user.  And when I refer to the technology, I’m talking about the AI – not the Natal camera.  Milo has been in development for years and the camera support was only just added in the past 5 months.

Here’s what makes me the most curious about Milo: What limits will Peter place on the game’s choices and the character’s actions? It’s one thing to slap around a creature in Black & White to condition him, but what will the tolerance be for such extremes in a game like Milo? Peter has already said there will be limits.  But could your Milo end up being a criminal?  Could he mistakenly drown in that beautiful fish pond?  Or, will Milo go off and meet a girl (or boy) at school, live happily ever after, and forget to come back and visit you?

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Bonus Round E3 Recap3 Comments

On the last day of E3 we filmed a special Bonus Round episode to recap the presentations from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Guests were Michael Pachter from Wedbush Morgan Securities and Dan Shoe from BitMob. You can watch part 1 below, and stay tuned for the other parts to go online this weekend.

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