(Click image to watch abridged version of Microsoft’s 2008 E3 press briefing)
A new Dashboard Interface for the 360: It’s coming this fall. [ Watch demo here]It’s nicer than, but seems influenced by, the PS3 ribbon. It looks like it will be easier to use than the current blade system. I question whether people will want to learn a whole new interface.
Avatars coming on 360: Looks like Microsoft is trying to bring a bit of the Wii and Playstation Home to the 360. I’m not sure if my adult friends will take the time to create their own avatars.
Integrated Netflix coming to the 360: Netflix users will be able to queue up their Internet ordered videos to be played on the 360. This probably won’t be available outside of the U.S. for years (if ever). Regrettably, it appears that movies will only be streamed through the Netflix service and not downloaded. This means (i) fastforwarding and rewinding will janky; and (ii) the quality of the picture will vary depending on your Internet connection speed.
Final Fantasy XIII Coming to the 360! The hitherto PS3 exclusive franchise is coming to the 360 on the same day and date as the PS3. Final Fantasy XIII coming to the 360 is another Microsoft coup. Other than Sony Studios first party games and Metal Gear Solid, I can’t think of any major game franchise that is a PS3 exclusive any more. Interestingly there will be no Japanese 360 version.
Live Game Shows: Microsoft announced a partnership with the Endemol U.S. subsidiary of the Dutch Endemol, a major game show producer, to create live game-show like games playable during prime time, through the Xbox with up to 100 other participants. Real world prizes will be winnable.
Exclusive Portal Something?: Coming this fall. Something related to Portal will be exclusive to the 360. I originally inferred that new levels would be available. But it really wasn’t clear what Microsoft is offering here. If its just the original Portal game split out of the entire Orange Box package I won’t be impressed. Too bad I’ll need to pay for whatever this is with Microsoft Points denominated in 2006 Canadian dollars.
New Cross-Game Party System: Just as you can party-up in Halo and play with your friends from Halo match to Halo match, soon you’ll be able to party up with your friends and move from game to game – not just within one game. I have expected this for over a year. It’ll be interesting to see how they integrate this into prior games (if possible). More interestingly, incorporating this function into the interface frees up developers from the burden of recreating the wheel every time they want to add party system functionality to a game. Fantastic!!
Sharing Movies with Friends Over XBox Live: Soon 360 users will be able to pop the popcorn, sit down and watch movies with other 360 users – across the city or across the country. Presumably users will be able to talk about the movie through the headset while watching. The implication of the announcement was that only one user needed to purchase/rent the movie for all the friends to share. If this is not the case and all users have to separately purchase/rent the movie, this will be less interesting. I’m not sure if this will be limited only to movies rented through the new Netflix feature or not. It’s also highly probable that this will not work across international borders or be available outside the U.S.
Music Games: Lot’s of new music for both Rock Band and Guitar Hero was announced. I dislike the trend of tying up bands to exclusive contracts with one game or the other. This in no way benefits the users. It keeps the purchasers of one music game from accessing music that is tied to the other game. Just like guitars that can’t be played from one game to the other, some songs/bands will be exclusive to specific games. Sad. I do like Guitar Hero’s decision to make songs purchased with prior versions being playable on future versions. That is a much needed improvement.
Games: No new blockbuster games were announced.
- Gears of War 2 (exclusive): Gears was the only game that I’m interested in. But I was interested in it already. Co-op will return and bot play is being introduced. (Nov 7, 2008)
- Fable 2 (exclusive): I didn’t like Fable I, so I’m not looking forward to Fable 2. I did like that they introduced co-op into an RPG though.
- Fallout 3 (not exclusive – by Bethesda, the same gang that brought us Oblivion). The demo was disappointing. So far I’m not seeing what all the fuss is about. But then again, I’m not an RPG fan. One thing is for sure. You’ll be able to dismember enemies in seemingly infinite gruesome ways.
- Resident Evil 5 (not exclusive): The wonky Nintendo centric control system, camera fighting and on-rails game play made the prior Resident Evils unplayable to me. This one looks like it may be playable. But killing thousands of mindless zombies doesn’t appeal. As with Fable 2 and Gears 2, I’m happy to see the inclusion of online co-op once again.
I especially like the emphasis on online coop shown in these games. After years of anticipation, online coop now seems to be a permanent feature of major game titles.