Xbox: Software Sells
The Three Kings: King's X

At the company's Monday night press conference, Microsoft didn't unveil any new hardware or even hint at the hardware side of things.

Instead, the company highlighted the next-generation games that shine on its system and online service.

"Software is the key to unlocking this industry," said J Allard, head of platform gaming at Microsoft.

Microsoft utilized Donald Trump in an Apprentice-esque short film pitting Microsoft versus Sony, with the winner earning the right to create an RPG based on the Donald’s life.

Allard also demonstrated new features soon to be available on Xbox Live, including voicemail, old-school arcade games, and video mail.

"Video communication is the next step that will revolutionize entertainment," he said.

Allard and company also took the opportunity to introduce an extensive list of upcoming games for Xbox, including the greatly anticipated Halo 2. In a gameplay demo, two Bungie bigwigs showed how the sequel will allow gamers to play as Covenant aliens, wield dual weapons, and lay waste to vehicles (the poor Warthog is no longer invulnerable).

Peter Moore, vice president of worldwide marketing and publishing for Xbox, promised a street date of November 9 for Halo 2. "And yes," he added, "that's 2004." There were quite a few other titles shown, including Shrek 2, Full Spectrum Warrior, MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf, and that little game known as Doom 3, available exclusively for console on Xbox—complete with cooperative play. "In case you don’t want to play it alone," said Moore.

Another major title from Microsoft Game Studios, Forza Motorsport, will let gamers create and ultimately personalize their own vehicles. "It's compelling evidence that we’re not making claims we can't back up," said Moore.

Microsoft also used numbers to back up those claims, including the fact that 14 million Xboxes have been sold to date and that Xbox Live is on a faster pace to reach one million subscribers than AOL, HBO, or TiVo.

In another example of the company’s software push, Microsoft showcased its XNA demo fresh from the Game Developers Conference. It also unveiled a tweaked version of the Saleen 57 car crash demo, with two of the vehicles slamming into each other at 200 mph and tiny pieces of the cars flying everywhere. "It's a great sign of things to come," said Moore.

To cap off the evening, Robbie Bach, Microsoft’s chief Xbox officer, hammered home the point of software. "The best-looking games, the best-playing games, the best online games are on Xbox," he said. "It takes much more than hardware to make great games." Bach was interrupted by the EA Sports voiceover guy, who jumped in to unveil the fact that EA Sports titles will soon be available on Xbox Live.

Several athletes, including Marshall Faulk, Carmelo Anthony, and living legend Muhammad Ali were brought onstage to represent their various sports genres.

"We're going to make the competition even smaller in our rearview mirror," said Moore.

Game trailers courtesy of gametrailers.com

BY JOEL STRAUCH


 
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