Microsoft has outlined its plans for the future of hardcore and casual gaming on the Xbox 360 at its E3 press conference in Los Angeles, following its earlier announcements at an MTV-sponsored event over the weekend of plans for its new 'Kinect' motion-controlled gaming technology.
Microsoft followed its earlier reveal of its motion-controlled Kinect technology and games with an E3 show that was clearly pitched to appeal to both the hardcore gamer (with glimpses of Halo Reach, Gears of War 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops and an exclusive first look at a new Metal Gear Solid title from Konami's Hideo Kojima) and the casual, mainstream family gamer, with lots of focus on forthcoming Kinect titles due for release this Christmas.
Black Ops for the hardcore
It is telling that the Xbox team chose to kick off this year's E3 press conference with a trailer for one of the most highly-anticipated gamer's games of the year - Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Mark Lamia, studio head of Treyarch, kicks off this year's Xbox 360 E3-stravaganza with a demo of his new game. Black Ops - perhaps one of the most highly-anticipated games of 2010. And it looks beautifully polished, as you would imagine. It is a cold-war based action shooter and the set pieces that Treyarch show off today (and other set-pieces we have seen at Activision's pre-E3 event) show off a game that promises to take the series to an entirely new and different and (we hope) more interesting setting when it releases later this year.
It is an interesting demo to kick off the E3 2010 conference with, and we soon find out the reason why it was chosen as the gamer's game of choice, as Microsoft Xbox boss Don Mattrick takes the stage to announce all game download add-ons and map packs for Call of Duty games exclusively on Xbox 360.
Mattrick then introduces Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima to show off a little demo about Konami's next hugely-anticipated title, MGS Rising. Kojima comes on stage and "passes the torch" to Shigenobu Matsuyama, the producer of the game, who tells us that the game is themed around the Japanese phrase "zan-datsu," or "cut and take."
The new Metal Gear game looks incredible – of course, this is an E3 staple – although there is no word on any kind of exclusive deal with Konami and Microsoft, so we can only assume that the new game is being developed for PlayStation 3 as well as the Xbox 360.
Gears of War 3
Cliffy 'Bleszinski' B is next up, to show the crowd more of what they want, with a glimpse of Epic's latest Gears of War 3 demo. Epic's latest Xbox 360 blockbuster looks predictably gory and awesome. Surely the hardcore are satiated with the level of gamer gore-porn on show from Epic?
Next up, it's time for legendary Britsoft developer Peter Molyneux to take to the stage to show off Fable III, announcing that the game ships October 26.
Following that, Microsoft's Phil Spencer takes the stage to tease us with the line: "We are constantly looking to partner with talented independent developers."
"Who could it be?" we wonder, for around three seconds? Oh, it's Crytek! (Microsoft tells us, ruining our building sense of anticipation). Making a game that looks a lot very much like Sony's God of War. But it's called Kingdoms.
Bungie reps then take to the stage to show us more of Halo Reach, which will ship in September. Again, this is a gamer's game. It looks (and from what we've played, plays) beautiful. Although by this point there is a growing sense amongst the gamer sin the audience that nothing 'big' or 'new' is about to be announced. And they are right.
Next up, we move onto Kinect. In addition to the camera control, a rep shows us that Kinect has both facial –recognition and voice-control, so you can say thing s like "Zune" or "stop" or "pause" or "play" or whatnot, to control you music via the console. It is interesting, for sure, plus, it also has Windows Phone 7 integration, so it will be good to see how games developers make use of that, although we are not really given any glimpses of how this might work at E3, unfortunately.
Nest up, Microsoft Xbox Video Kinect – which is essentially a videochat-style Skype-like service for Xbox Live, which is going to be rolled out via Microsoft's Live Messenger Network. In addition to video chatting, US gamers and sports fans will also get ESPN, so they can keep up to date with college football and basketball, NBA, MLB and football (soccer, to our US readers!).
Next up, Don Mattrick finally reveals the new Xbox 360 console, what we knew was already on the way, this, "sleeker, smaller, whisper quiet with a 250GB hard drive and Wi-FI N… all of this in your new 360 for the same price." $299.
Then back to the gamers and petrolheads, with a glimpse of the next Forza game, due at some point in 2011 - "Welcome to the future of racing," says Microsoft, showing off the new Kinect-controlled Forza game and then a little more of the new Kinect-controlled Star Wars game that will launch next year.
Microsoft finally reveals that Kinect will launch worldwide November 4th, while showing off a dance-based game from Harmonix called Dance Central. Following this is a keep-fit game called Your Shape: Fitness Evolved from Ubisoft.