E3: The Microsoft press conference - full report

Games lead entertainment spending

Microsoft always likes to roll out impressive hardware sales figures and stats at E3, with Don Mattrick, senior vice president of the entertainment biz telling the assembled games journos:

'Today, our industry belongs to everyone. As the popularity of games spreads fast around the globe, we're registering our biggest year ever. According to a PWC forecast... games are now the leading driver of ALL entertainment spending. This is a breathtaking achievement, all of us are thriving. Especially those who love to play games... let's take a look at this growth, and how Xbox 360 is fueling it.'

'When it comes to hardware, we're in fantastic shape. According to NPD, we're leading the market with the largest install base in the US, more than 5m ahead of PS3; in software, ahead as well, 2.7b in the last 12 months. In the last year, 3rd party revenue outpaced the Wii and PS3 combined.

Mattrick adds: 'I'm willing to declare here, today, that Xbox 360 will sell more consoles worldwide than PS3 and Wii. We'll offer an array of consoles with prices for everyone... A year ago, 6m people were connected to Xbox live, and it's doubled, a new member joining every five seconds.'

Mattrick goes on to announce a new partner for Xbox Live video marketplace – NBC and Universal, providing shows like Monk, The Office and Battlestar and movies such as 12 Monkeys, The Bourne Supremacy, The Mummy and The Chronicles of Riddick. The European Xbox Live video marketplace gets a new partner in MGM and Constantin Film.

Design your own pants and hats

John Schappert, head of Live services is up next to demo a new interface for the 360 dashboard featuring those Rare-developed Mii-style avatars, describing it thus:

'The new look and feel is more fun, more social, and simpler to use. You'll have a Gamercard, but there's also something new... it'll be more personal with avatars. Express your personality and style, share it with your community and friends... pants, shirts, hats... everything you need, it's all here.'

A rep from Rare adds: 'Create, share, and have fun with all of your friends... but avatars are just the beginning. The new Xbox is tailored for the living room. Here we are at the community channel – instead of a list of friends, you actually see them. You can chat with or send messages to your friends, but there's something new: create a Live party, private groups of up to eight people, always connected and chatting as a party.'

Real world prizes

Microsoft next announces a partnership with TV company Endemol (of Big Brother fame) in the XBL 'primetime' channel, which is set to feature a massive multiplayer game show coming to Xbox Live later this year in which players will be able to win real prizes.

An MS rep describes it as follows: 'XBL primetime combines the best of TV and of games to provide an entirely new gaming experience... and the best part, you'll all be able to win real prizes. This is opening the next frontier in entertainment. Developers are flocking to XBL Primetime asking: How can we play?'

Intriguing stuff and we should have more on XBL 'primetime' in the coming days. Stay tuned for full reports on both Nintendo and Sony's E3 'pressers' at around the same time tomorrow evening.