Reactions from Microsoft E3 ’09 Press Conference


This morning, I woke up not really expecting much from Microsoft this E3. Sure, they’d had a good year against their rival Sony, but Nintendo was dominating the market. It was pretty easy to tell that this conference was going to be less about their strategy against the PS3 and more so against the Wii.

Now that the dust has settled and the E3 Expo is now in full swing, it’s time for us here at MG to look at what Microsoft showed. Hit the break for what we liked, what we didn’t like and what we were blown away by.

Games

Normally the Xbox 360’s announcement lineup at E3 has been a pretty solid one. Past years had revelations like exclusive GTAIV DLC and Final Fantasy XIII no longer being a PS3 exclusive that blew up the gaming blogosphere. This year, I feel like Microsoft really played it safe. Instead on focusing on the wide library of games they’ll have (including exclusives), this year they spent a good portion of their conference talking about the exclusives. With the showing of Alan Wake and Halo 3: ODST (and Halo Reach), I feel that their showing of exclusives were very interesting to say the least, even if the release dates are seemingly way off in the distance.

The Beatles: Rock Band was a great way to kick off the conference, as I think it was able to set the tone for the entire thing. Here’s a band known to almost everyone on the planet and this game is going to allow the fans to be one of the Fab Four. The visual style just oozed creativity while still staying true to the different eras of the Beatles’ career. This was also a big point for me because I love to sing and the game has three-part harmonies.

I was a little surprised that Final Fantasy XIII got as little time as it did. Last year was the big reveal that Microsoft had taken the exclusivity rights away from Sony. You’d think they would have spent a little more time showing it off in all its glory through the 360. What we did get to see was cool but it would have been nice to see a little more. Maybe a little bit more of the characters?

I was also a little bothered by there already being a Left4Dead 2. It seems like there should be more time spent with additions to the current L4D, even if the new one is set in the still ravaged New Orleans.

Still, I really liked the footage of Modern Warfare 2 and I’m sure there will be many more months of insane speculation over the next Metal Gear. Not to mention Crackdown 2. I’m really excited for that one.

New features

With the additions of Last.fm, facebook and twitter to the current menu of Xbox 360’s exclusive features, it’s pretty evident that Microsoft really wants to make their box the entertainment box in the household. It’s getting pretty ridiculous how twitter’s ubiquity has even come to the gaming market but when you think about the average person who tweets, I’d say it’s a safe assumption that they’re technologically apt. Only time will tell if this will be used much or at a widespread scale though because I personally see twitter as something you can do on the go. Why would anyone want to sit in front of their TVs to watch updates when they could be in the real world, tweeting about their experiences?

I also think the instant 1080p HD movies through Netflix will be a nightmare for ISPs. I only wonder if the immediacy of the content will be delivered through streaming or will it be utilized like that OnLive service that was announced at CES. That seems like the most tangible solution to the bandwidth restrictions. Nice to see that even their current partnership with Netflix is getting upgraded. Here’s to hoping that us lowly Xbox Live Silver members will be able to use one or two of these.

Let’s not even talk about Project Natal. That whole thing could either revolutionize we play games or will become the next Seaman from Dreamcast. Either way, it’s amazing and I personally hope it will be utilized to its fullest.

Overall show

Microsoft’s conference was pretty much not what I’d expected going into it. I expected them to be all about how they were beating Sony and that their new competition was the Wii, which was somewhat true. They stuck to their guns about the exclusives they were able to secure and threw around a couple of additions to extablished series. No one could have seen Project Natal coming at all. That thing is absolutely crazy and had be both excited and fearful for the eventual rise of our robot overlords.

Strengths: Strong exclusives and continuations. Splinter Cell: Conviction looks amazing and Alan Wake was pleasant. Project Natal blew my face off and the social networking partnerships is something that makes this journalism graduate excited, although I’m afraid of what stupid things people will do on Xbox Live.

Weaknesses: I would have liked to see how they’re comparing to the other companies. it’s great that they didn’t have any stuffy charts or figures but these conferences are a time for them to flex nuts and tell the average consumer/stockholder why they’re the best. I think a little more focus on new properties would have been cool too.

All in all, the conference was a very well thought out and amazing show of what Microsoft had in store, both for the future of gaming and the future of the company.

Overall grade: A-

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~ by Andrew Martins on June 1, 2009.

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