Microsoft opened their annual E3 briefing with a band of 5 Halo fans performing the Halo theme. This helped to establish the tone of Microsoft’s public relations campaign as of late – the community is where the effort is being placed. Blogs are king and where the traditional media may have a place, it is no longer number one on the priority list. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, so long as Microsoft understands and still appreciates what we do and have to offer.

Peter Moore came out to talk about the games that are coming out this year – makes you wonder what is on the way in the early part of next year.

The first game demonstrated was Rock Band, where three of the developers from Harmonix game out and demonstrated the game with Peter Moore on guitar. It appeared the microphone was also used as a tambourine. The game was a full band working very well, except when Moore accidentally paused the game.

Then a video of Viva Pinata Party Animals – a party game with over 50 minigames was shown. A video of Mass Effect was also shown. November was the announced month for the game to ship out to retail.

Peter Moore touted Madden, GTA4, & Halo 3 the corner stone of the holiday lineup for the Xbox 360. He then presented a clip reel of a number of other games headed to the platform:

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam
Call of Duty 4
Project Gotham Racing 4
Guitar Hero 3
Beautiful Katamari
Lost Odyssey
NBA Live 08
Mass Effect
Fatal Inertia
Medal of Honor Airborne
Tiger Woods PGA 08
Ace Combat 6 Fires of Liberation
NHL 08
Assassin’s Creed
The Simpsons Game
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction
Eternal Sonata
Madden NFL 08
Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground
Crash of the Titans
Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix
The Orange Box
Bee Movie Game
Rock Band
Naruto: Rise of Ninja

Then Jeff Bell, VP of Global Marketing came out to talk about the whole family and how it fits into Microsoft’s vision for the Xbox 360. Hit board game Scene It is coming to the Xbox 360 as an exclusive title with new trivia questions and new controllers. Then he showed a trailer for Naruto: Rise of the Ninja, an Xbox 360 exclusive from UbiSoft that marks the “next-gen” debut of the hit franchise.

Reggie Bush New Orleans Saint’s and Heissmann trophy winner came out to play a few minutes of Madden. One play later and he was off the stage. Then he announced that 7 million members have joined Xbox Live, and 10 million are projected to be signed up by next July. Then he showed a series of games coming to Xbox Live Arcade.

Bomberman Live
Hexic 2
Sonic the Hedgehog
War World
Sensible World Soccer
Extend Every Extra Extreme
Wing Commander Arena
Feeding Frenzy 2
Track & Field by Konami
Spyglass Board games
Golden Axe
Space Giraffe
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
Word Puzzle
Marathon Durandel
Poker Smash
Tetris Splash
Puzzle Quest
Buko Sudoku

Sonic & Golden Axe are now available now

Then he mentioned that over 2,000 hours of entertainment content is now available to download. Disney was announced to join the lineup of companies offering content to download. This included not only Walt Disney Pictures, but Miramax, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures. A massive clip reel of movies was shown including:

Pooh’s Hefalump Movie
The Huntchback of Notre Dame
Jungle Book 2
The Emperor’s New Groove
Sky High
The Wwaterboy
Bad Company
The Brothers Grimm
Bringing Down the House
Déjà Vu
The Queen

Even more interesting was the news that all films in theaters today from Disney would be coming to Xbox Live Marketplace.

Perhaps the best news was that Canada and Europe would finally be getting the full Xbox online service this fall. August 24 was announced as the date the 360 Elite would arrive in Europe.

He then introduced Shane Kim, VP and head of MS Games Studios who introduced Brian Woodhose and Craig Howard of Bizarre to show off Project Gotham Racing 4. The main focus of their demonstration was a motorcycle, with the rider performing a couple of stunts.

After showing a new trailer for Lost Odyssey, he talked about the Games for Windows brand, and announced that Viva Pinata and Gears of War were coming to PC – both this year. Cliffy B, the lead designer of Gears came out to talk about the game. The PC version will feature 5 new single player chapters and a new multiplayer mode.

Peter Moore then came back out to announce more news that Sega, Eidos and THQ have signed on to incorporate the Live service into their PC titles. The Unreal Engine 3 is to incorporate Xbox Live for Windows in the tool set. Then another video montage was shown:

Flight Simulator X: Acceleration
Thrillville: Off the Rails
Bee Movie Game
Hellgate London
Age of Emprires 3: the Asian Dynasty
Gears of War
Universe at War: Earth Assult
BlackSite Area 51
World in Conflict
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
Kane & Lynch dead Men
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
Zoo Tycoon 2 Extinct Animals
Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights
Viva Pinata
Spider Man Friend or Foe

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was shown in an “actual gameplay” trailer set in the Ukraine. Various quick clips that never really established the gameplay or story other than it appeared some local warlord was building up an army. The visuals were very impressive with lots of effects and details.

Grant Collier & Jason West from developer Infinity Ward came out to show more of the game. Starting 15 years ago with LT. Price on some operation in the Ukraine,. There are pockets of radiation to watch for, ant it appears that he is being led by Scottish Cpt. McMillan. The visuals had an almost sepia tone, rather devoid of color. Individual blades of grass, leaves blowing through the air – all sorts of neat visual trickery. Then they announced that the Xbox 360 multiplayer beta would be commencing (go check for more details).

A few other various bits of game information came out as well. Splinter Cell Conviction was confirmed to be an Xbox 360 exclusive. Xbox 360 will have two exclusive episodes of GTA 4 – the “complete” Grand Theft Auto experience as Peter Moore called it. Coming next year is Resident Evil 5 – a very detailed looking game, apparently set in Africa, and of a similar taste in gameplay to Resident Evil 4. A full trailer will be available July 26 on Xbox Live Marketplace.

Jade Raymond and Patrice Desilets from UbiSoft Montreal the developers of Assassin’s Creed came out to show their game, specifically the city of Jerusalem. Every building on the screen is interactive, and players will need to avoid bumping into people and attracting attention. Climbing buildings, tossing rooftop guards to the ground to create a diversion could be helpfu. Counterattacks and combos, using the enemy to time moves will be essential in combat, and there will be 4 different weapons to choose from, including throwing knives and a short sword.

Thet talked about the “chase AI” and how it will be different every time, as each character in the game is to have different personalities. We were shown one person using the crowd as an obstacle as well as throwing objects. Then some “free runnig” above the crowd (pipes, chandeliers, etc) to catch up to the target, and the deed was done.

Peter Moore then presented a live action short about Halo 3 and announced a Halo 3 Special Edition Xbox 360 to launch alongside the game. The latest halo 3 trailer was then shown.

No price drop in response to Sony, which was a little bit of a surprise. Last holiday Microsoft lost a lot of momentum, and while there are a lot of great games coming to the platform, something needs to be done to increase hardware sales and the general profile. Even a $50 cut would be a major benefit for the company.

By Daniel “Monk” Pel… – 07/11/07

Screenshots for E3 2007: Microsoft Press Conference