Friday, May 26, 2006

Xbox Live downloads get queuing, background functionality

One of my major pet peeves with the new Xbox Live is going to be fixed in an upcoming updated.

Right now, when you download something, you have find it, start the download, and you can't do anything else while it's downloading. If it stalls or you kill it, you have to remember to go find it again, and restart it (and remembering is important, because the currently bad usability shows a checkmark if you start to download something, not if you successfully download it).

According to TeamXbox.com, an update is coming "in the next week" that will add "Active Download" -- where "you’ll be able to set up a series of downloads and have them complete in the background" (up to 6 queued up).The download will resume automatically if interrupted, and will pause when you play an Xbox Live multiplayer game, and resume when you finish.

About, freaking, time. This would have been nice to have during the E3 free week, and I suspect it was supposed to be ready for it.

I wish they'd give you the option to pause or not if you're playing a Live game (as long as you're not hosting).

Other improvements include a whole Xbox Marketplace refresh, which will make it easier to sort and find content (thank you thank you thank you). There'll also be new camera-related content, even though the camera itself won't be available until this fall(ish).

And they're adding the ability to fast forward and rewind through video downloads (thank you thank you thank you), and tweaks to DVD and music playback.

Microsoft is doing an awesome job listening to users with this service. So go buy an Xbox 360 to show your appreciation ... ;-)

Monday, May 22, 2006

I made Cliffy B laugh!

I made Cliffy B laugh!

Or, at least, I made him lol in an Email, so I'm taking him at his word.

Y'know, I'm closing on a house today, but in some ways, this is probably
going to be the high point of my week.

lol ...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Stream "Gears of War: The Race to E3" from MTV.com

If you couldn't watch "Gears of War: The Race to E3", on MTV2 yesterday (there's an MTV2?) you can now stream it from MTV.com. Not only can you get the whole show, you get a bunch o'bonus material.I particulary liked the MoCap inside scoop with Epic Games art director Jeremiah (Jerry) O'Flaherty, and I think Mike Capps (Epic Games' President) is similar to me as a people manager. But he looks to be better at foosball. And "your mom" jokes.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Halo 3 nuggets

The E3 Halo 3 teaser trailer obviously generated a lot of buzz, and there are some cool analyses and tidbits out on the Web (some factual; some a wee bit speculative).

A couple of the better ones:

On Frank O'Connor piece, while being typically coy (that guy has a tough job), Frank drops some nuggets o' goodness, and rewards some of the questions of the faithful.

Some of the more interesting (to me):

  • The trailer was a real-time (non pre-rendered) trailer.
  • Master Chief's gun isn't the current assault rifle -- or is it? ("Who says it's the standard Assault Rifle? Doesn't look identical to me").
  • Frank is "party to some graphical features that you haven't seen yet, that sort of blow [the E3 trailer] stuff away".
  • The trailer takes place in the ruins of New Mombasa (on earth), the mountain in the background is Kilimanjaro, and the wreckage is of a fallen "tether" (space elevator).
  • The landscape looks pretty bleak. Remember that space jump the Covenant Capital Ship made in Halo 2? "A Slipspace jump in-atmosphere would have a devastating effect on an environment, don't you think?"
  • The Covenant vehicle group "is an excavation force. Its makeup is purely practical."
  • The uprooted roadsign shows a Covenant Grunt, evidently due to New Mombasa's dedicated public works department.
  • There was a closed-door showing to select industry folks after the trailer showing. Bungie flew around the trailer environment, showing the "a close-up of the Chief to show the realtime reflection of the visor (you could see the ammo counter running down in his faceplate) and showed off the unified lighting model we're using - particularly how other surfaces, such as sand, reflect light back up onto his armor. Frame rate was silky smooth, but to be fair, that was basically an empty environment with the Chief in it." I hate them. All of them.
  • "The sand, dust, smoke and other effects are all from the game engine. They will be used in the game. The landscape you saw is real geometry - the mountains and city in the distance are not a skybox - they are actual geometry that you can go to. Our cut scenes and our gameplay will be very comparable."
  • "A lot of detail is achieved using a combination of lighting, textures, normals and bump-maps. We're saving our polygon budget for other things…"
  • "[The game and the movie] will not affect each other in terms of release dates" (I don't believe this at all; Marketing 101 says different channel releases for the same IP need to be evaluated for positive/negative timing impacts).
  • The game and soundtrack will have a decidedly darker feel than the first two showings.
  • Marty O'Donnell has "Ninja Music Skillz". We knew this, Frank.

Xbox Live "Free(w)eek" numbers

Last week's Verizon/Microsoft free week of Xbox Live Gold is over, and initial numbers are in.

Sure, I own an Xbox (and a 360), but these numbers are interesting to me in a broader sense because the online component of the console space is hugely important to revenue potential and market dominance -- between 20-45%, depending on what analysts you tend to believe.

Anyway, here are the numbers, and don't forget to check out my recommendations for downloads -- many of them are still available.
  • 5 million -- The number of pieces of gaming and entertainment content downloaded during the 7 days
  • 600 terabytes -- The combined size of all downloads
  • 20 terabytes -- Estimated size of all content in the Library of Congress
  • 24 -- The of countries to which E3 content was downloaded

Top Ten Downloads:

  1. Halo 3 Game Trailer (Microsoft Game Studios)
  2. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Game Demo (Capcom)
  3. Test Drive Unlimited Game Demo (Atari)
  4. MotoGP '06 Game Demo (THQ)
  5. X-Men: The Last Stand Pack (20th Century Fox)
  6. Gears of War GameTrailer (Microsoft Game Studios)
  7. Call of Duty 2: Skirmish Map Pack (Activision)
  8. Spiderman 3 Game Trailer (Activision)
  9. Fable 2 Game Trailer (Microsoft Game Studios)
  10. Uno Xbox Live Arcade Game (Microsoft Game Studios)

Get the full story at GameInformer.com.

"Free(w)eek" and all reasonable derivations (c) and (TM) 2006 Adam Creighton. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

E3 announcements and happenings

Sure, E3 has come and gone, but that won't keep me from talking about it...

  1. Frame City Killer canceled (with silver lining)
  2. Game announcements/showings of notes
  3. Best E3 Coverage
  4. Games missing from E3


NEWS:

1. Frame City Killer canceled (with silver lining)

Namco Bandai announced they've canceled Frame City Killer, the stylish, Unreal Engine 3-powered action game:

"We are sorry to say that we have decided that Frame City--the Xbox 360 game
which our company had planned for a spring 2006 release--will not be released,"
the company said. "Our apologies to everyone who was looking forward to the
game's release."

Explains why the game was missing from E3, and it's a bummer, because I was looking forward to it.

On the upside, buried in the cancelation was a commitment from Namco Bandai to "continue to develop high quality software for the Xbox 360 next-gen console, from a new RPG to others". This is the first time the company's rumored next-gen RPG has been confirmed.

2. Game announcements/showings of notes

I'm obviously going to miss some things, but here's a few of the titles that were announce/shown that I find pretty exciting:

  • Transformers (Activision) -- I'm an old-school Transformers fan, and with next year's Michael Bay Transformers movie and and Activision's (not Atari's) handling of the license, I'm pretty stoked.
  • HAZE (Ubisoft/Free Radical) -- I mentioned before how excited I was about this announcement from Free Radical Design. But the game trailer has got me even more excited, since (to me) it's one of the more compelling (and teasing) trailers at this year's show (check it out at TeamXbox.com).
  • Rayman next-gen -- Franchise creator Michel Ancel is back on task!
  • Blizzard Entertainment -- The Warcraft- and PC-centric Blizzard is branching out, with COO Paul Sams saying, "We have multiple games in development, currently, they are just not announced... to the outside world ... there's a ton of additional focus being put toward these other [games] that are in development," and the "Diablo and Starcraft franchises are of the utmost importance to us as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see a new franchise from us at some time in the future." A PR rep later said Blizzard is considering "multiple platforms". Starcraft Ghost was finally canceled, so I wonder if they'll resurrect it, or if they're talking something else. Next-Gen Diablo would rock, but they'd have to be careful to diffentiate it from Overlord.
  • Alone in the Dark -- This next-gen resusciation of this creepville franchise could be just what gets me into creepy games. Check out the trailer on TeamXbox.com -- velly inellesting. I wonder if Atari will actually publish it, or if they'll sell that franchise, too ...
  • Huxley -- I keep getting stoked about this game. You should, too. Go watch the extended trailer at TeamXbox.com.
  • The Darkness -- I like good, comic book games (and there aren't many). Starbreeze Studios (Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay) is an amazing group. This game looks to be amazing, and has some cool, totally unique features -- like the in-game TVs being able to show full, TV-quality video, full-length movies, "and more" -- pulled from a large bank of public-domain content. Cool technical gimmick, and one that'll be obvious to cry foul if someone copies.
  • Hellgate: London -- I want this RPG/FPS hybrid that looks to creep me out and fire me up. PC's a shoe-in, but the Xbox 360 version (which was) is now TBD ...
  • Assassin's Creed -- Ooh, this is a PS3 exclusive from Ubisoft that by itself will make the PS3 launch more compelling than the 360's (not that it has to) -- "a medieval GTA with fantastic art direction" (GameSpot.com) from the kids that brough us the Prince of Persia.
  • More PC games on Xbox 360 -- Though XNA has kind of fallen off the radar, Microsoft is still adamant developers can easily develop for both the Xbox 360 and PC. Mythic Entertainment shocked folks when it had a closed-door showing of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning running on an Xbox 360.
  • Cross-Playable(TM) games -- This is my new term for games playable across one or more platforms. We've got Final Fantasy XI (mheh) that can be played across Xbox 360, PS2, and PC, but upcoming Xbox 360/Windows Vista titles look to make this amazing.

    At E3, Microsoft announced Shadowrun will be Cross-Playable(TM).

    Though not officially announced for the Xbox 360, Mythic Entertainment's Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning was running on an Xbox 360 at E3, evidently porting in a month's time as a technical exercise. According to IGN.com, "On a PC nearby, they demonstrated how console and PC players could interact, as they two were displayed on the same screen running around each other. Mythic also told us they'd been using the Xbox 360 character to jump into their PC playable demos running outside the private room. Nobody playing seemed to notice."

    Huxley looks to be really cool, with this tidbit from IGN.com: "What isn't hazy, however, is multiplayer transparency between the 360 and PC. Using a magical flatscreen TV, producer Kijong Kang showed us a picture-in-picture display of the 360 version on one side and the PC version on the other. I watched him boot up the 360 and have the display pop up, then his 360 character was standing in front of the version connected to the server via PC. Not too shabby! And it doesn't require Messenger Live or Windows Vista, apparently."

    (Also CrossPlayable(TM), Crossplayable(TM), crossPlayable(TM), crossplayable(TM), Cross-playable(TM), cross-Playable(TM), cross-playable(TM), Cross-Playable(TM), and any reasonable derivation thereof.)
  • The New Hotness(TM) -- Online-Co-op is the New Hotness(TM). Online-Co-op where co-op matters is the New Hotness(TM); Cross-Playable is the New Hotness(TM); Adam is the New Hotness(TM).

3. Best E3 Coverage

  • Best overall E3 coverage (GameSpot.com)
  • Best source for Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo press conferences (GameSpot.com)
  • Best one-stop shop for game title updates (IGN.com)
  • Best place for high-definition videos for free (TeamXbox.com and Xbox Live-- but only Xbox and Xbox 360-related videos)
  • Most Timely E3 coverage (GameSpot.com)
  • Least Timely E3 coverage (TeamXbox.com -- I love you guys, but when GameSpot.com scoops the Halo 3 trailer announcement? C'Mon!)

4. Games missing from E3

  • Killzone 2 -- Last year's pre-rendered E3 content for one of Sony's PS3 flagship titles caused quite a ruckus, but nary a peep was made this year from Sony, or the Sony-recently purchased Guerrilla Games.
  • Resident Evil 5 -- A trailer was shown Microsoft's X05 event in October and at E3 2005. This year? Nada.
  • Devil May Cry 4 -- Ditto.
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One -- You think with less than a month to the release of the first episodic content of one of the biggest PC games of all time Valve would have made an official showing, but ... not so much ...
  • Culdcept Saga -- This didn't show at E3, but Xbox Live members were treated to a lengthy trailer that shared quite a bit of the story and gameplay mechanics from Namco Bandai title.
  • Starcraft: Ghost -- This one's been announced dead. I was just hoping it would get resurrected. Even though I stopped caring.
  • Dragon Age -- This is BioWare's new RPG IP, and it was a no-show. Let's hope Mass Effect doesn't Halo-to-Oni little ol' Dragon Age. Some of you know what I'm talking about...
  • Bully -- What's up with Rockstar? Did the GTA "hot coffee" scandel burn them bad enough that they shelf Bully and GTA IV (othe rthan Microsoft's press announcement), leaving them with one other E3 showing -- Table Tennis?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Get yer Xbox Live Marketplace content!

Microsoft's/Verizon's free week of Xbox Live gold ends tomorrow, and we don't know how long the E3-related content is going to be up there, and downloading stuff over Xbox Live onto your Xbox 360 is dog-slow compared to a PC hooked up to the same pipe, so pick and prioritize your content.

Here are my recommendations -- hope it helps. It's what I do ...

And I'm not listing everything -- just the high/lowlites ...

Oh, and you can get a lot of these on TeamXbox.com, with many in hi-def. However, if I'm telling you to pass because it's on TeamXbox.com, but your 360 is plugged into a 42" plasma -- ignore me.

DEMOS

Get it!

Pass

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

This is far and away the best thing that came out for me during E3. This thing is 7 months from release, and the demo is polished, stylish, and so next-gen. Minor freaking annoyance of no auto-saves on the two playable levels, but the game play is good enough to keep me coming back regardless. Check out more here on my other blog.

Test Drive Unlimited

Is this demo crashing for everyone else, too?

MotoGP Demo

Yeah, this is next-gen motorcycle racing! Be wary though – this is not arcade-y – it’s more sim(ish).

GAME TRAILERS

Get it!

Pass

Bullet Witch

This has got some potential. Think filling a single-player Hunter: The Reckoning need in the absence of High Voltage Software returning any of my messages on the subject. Plus, its from Cavia and AQ Interactive (publisher for development studios Artoon, Cavia and Feel Plus).

Alan Wake

Watch this trailer – but it is also available on TeamXbox.com.

Crackdown

Think “super hero Grand Theft Auto”. With more style. By the creator of GTA. Yeah.

X-Men: The Official Game

I’m a comic book geek, and I so want this to rock. I just sense that it will suck.

Culdcept SAGA

See it. Get out of your Western-centric-gameness. Stop the hate.

Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis

This is very impressive, but is the same trailer that’s been out on Xbox Live Marketplace for some time. And it and about 15 game play trailers are at TeamXbox.com. Rockstar has never been about the mystery…

Dead or Alive Xtreme 2

Because Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2 was too long of a title. This was borderline for me, because the “girl physics” are almost out of control, which makes it laughable, rather than sexy.

Call of Duty 3

Catch it on TeamXbox.com.

Dead Rising

If you haven't seen this footage, get it. Probably not for the squeamish, but I'm looking forward to this new take on zombie mayhem.

Enchanted Arms

Good new trailer, with more info on the backstory. Plus, we need more Japanese-style (read: turn-based) next-gen RPGs.

BattleStation: Midway

Despite postings to the contrary, this never showed.

Fable 2

I need to tell you why? Just go and watch. Not gameplay, but the style and hints are nice.

Brother In Arms Hell's Highway

Worth seeing, but you can also get game play footage at TeamXbox.com (in slightly lower rez).

Gears of War

Yes, the trailer’s new. Go see it. Yes, you can get it (and everything else) on TeamXbox.com. But it’s Gears of War!

MotoGP '06

Download the playable Xbox Live demo instead.

Halo 3

Get this teaser trailer. We’re talking the game that could un-piss me off from the non-ending of Halo 2. This thing is cinematic and awesome. Grand Theft what?

Rainbow Six: Vegas Trailer

It looks to resurrect the franchise – but you can get all the movies on TeamXbox.com.

John Woo Presents Stranglehold

Definitely worth seeing, but you can get it, another trailer, a development video interview, and a John Woo and team interview over at TeamXbox.com.

Lost Planet Extreme Condition

Just ‘cause the game is so awesome

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance

Oh, I’m stoked about this! But you can also get it at TeamXbox.com.

Montage: Games For Windows Montage

MONTAGE! Windows Vista may push a PC-gaming revival…

Montage: Xbox 360 Games Montage

MONTAGE! Good cut of a lot of good titles.

Montage: Xbox Live Arcade Montage

MONTAGE! Get excited for old-school! Sonic! Pac-Man! Galaga! Street Fighter!

Ninety-Nine Nights

Worthwhile if you haven’t yet seen it.

Prey

Oh yeah, they keep showing better and better stuff …

Rain

I’m exited about this one. Survival horror, where something in the rain turns people into monsters? This, Condemned, Alone in the Dark, Alan Wake (maybe) and Resident Evil 5 could be the Big 5 next-gen survival horror games. Another AQ Interactive-published game.

Shadowrun

Yes, this is worth watching. It could be better than MechAssault awesome, or it may be Perfect Dark Zero sucky. Too early to tell. Let’s go with the benefit of the doubt.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Please resurrect the franchise! Please?

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent

Oh yes, watch this new trailer …

Too Human

Yes, get it. Watch it. Drool. Repeat last two steps.

Viva Pinata

This could be surprising, and a multi-generationally/gamer type cross-over. And it’s a new trailer.

MOVIE TRAILERS

Get it!

Pass

The Promise

This Asian darling could get added to my favorite movies list …

Poseidon

Uh… Why did this need to be re-made?! Tell me …

E3-SPECIFIC STUFF

Get it!

Pass

All of the “Showfloor behind the scenes” features

If you can’t be there, watch it (and blog about it; but maybe that’s just me).

Backstage Pass [Wednesday, Thursday, Friday]

I’m not real keen on the use of PMS clan members to host a backstage sequence, but I did like they fact they got to talk to some of the developers about stuff I want to know.

Crackdown Backstage Pass

This game is so going to rock, and getting a peek at the brilliance and effort that’s going into it is soooo nice.

Shadowrun Backstage Pass

This did what it was supposed to. I was “mheh” on the trailer, but this piece got me excited about the game (and appreciative of the dev folks). Plus, now I have a name. Tobin Buttram, you’ll be hearing from me …

Splinter Cell Backstage Pass

Almost any behind the scenes game making video is worthwhile to me. Add the insight to the E3 and next-gen stress? These guys are rockstars.

Xbox Press Briefing

See it from the horse’s mouth (no disrespect meant to Mr. Gates). It was faster for me to download it from here, than from GameSpot.com. That should change this week

OTHER STUFF

Get it!

Pass

Call of Duty 2 Bonus Map Pack

Hey, unlike the Skirmish Map Pack, this one is free!

X-3 gamer pictures (multiple)

They just don’t look good as gamer picts. Sorry.

X-Men: The Last Stand Theme 1

The “younger” team members – pretty good. Gigantic faces.

Adidas Gamer pictures

I’m not a professionally endorse athlete …

X-Men: The Last Stand Theme 3

Mix of team members – best of the 4. They’re standing, so they don’t get in the way …

X-Men: The Last Stand Theme 2

The “mature” team members – They get in the way of the interface. Gigantic faces. For some reason, didn’t work like the “younger” theme.

Though released before E3, you should see all of the Jack Black Nacho Libre interstitials – they are hilarious – if you’re a Jack Black fan. But what happened to episodes 9-11?

Gold Picture Pack

Huh?

Silver Picture Pack

Ditto.

Xbox Live Silver Theme

Ditto.

Xbox Live Gold Theme

Ditto.

X-Men: The Last Stand Theme 4

Don’t know why this doesn’t work. They’re standing, and with Magneto, Mystique, Angel, and Beast, it should appeal to the Thespians, heterosexuals, gay and Cheers contingents. It just didn’t work for me …

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

E3 (Day #3)

E3 formally starts today (Monday and Tuesday were the pre-E3 press conferences) and the goodness keeps coming.
  1. New Xbox Live Marketplace content
  2. Ubisoft and Free Radical Announce HAZE
  3. Atari buys; sells
  4. Philips amBX updates
  5. Next-Gen Golden Axe!
  6. Next-gen Nintendo Zapper


NEWS:


1. New Xbox Live Marketplace content

I've added the repackaged RSS stream from MajorNelson.com as a regular part of this blog, but thought I'd pull out today's new E3 additions:

  • Game Trailers
    • Enchanted Arms
    • MotoGP '06
    • Prey
    • Call of Duty 3
    • World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions
    • X-Men: The Offical Game
    • Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2
    • Ninety-Nine Nights
    • WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007
    • (Xbox 360 Games Montage)
    • (Xbox Live Arcade Montage)
    • (Games For Windows Montage)
  • In-Game Content:
    • Call of Duty 2 Bonus Map Pack
    • Call of Duty 2 Skirmish Map Pack
  • Film Trailers
    • A Scanner Darkly
  • Theme/Gamer Pictures:
    • X-Men: The Last Stand Theme Gold Picture Pack
    • X-Men: The Last Stand Theme Silver Picture Pack
2. Ubisoft and Free Radical Announce HAZE

I mentioned I was looking forward to the next Free Radical Design game, since these guys did such a phenomenal job with the TimeSplitters franchise, and Second Sight is really underrated.

Today, Ubisoft and Free Radical announced HAZE, an "an innovative FPS game based on new intellectual property", slated for 2007 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC (though XP or Vista is TBA.

"Twenty-five years in the future. Governments have outsourced military operations to private multinational corporations. As Jake Carpenter, a newly enlisted soldier in the Mantel army, you are seeking fulfillment and thrills by fighting for a good cause.

"Thanks to their high-tech arsenal of vehicles, deadly weaponry, and performance enhancing bio-medical support, the Mantel Corporation’s ruthlessly efficient soldiers are the most feared by terrorists, dictators, and the corporation’s political enemies.

"Your conflict begins in a war-torn country in South America, where you have been sent to fight a vicious rebel faction, The Promise Hand. At first glance, all is well, but things quickly begin to look a little strange..."
3. Atari buys; sells

I've mentioned before Atari is struggling a bit (the "new" Atari; not the "real" Atari).

They already sold TimeShift to Vivendi Games. Now, they sold the Stuntman franchise to THQ, and also sold the devlopment house, Texas-based Paradigm Entertainment, to them as well.

At the same time, they've announced they've acquired the online and handheld rights to Earthworm Jim.

4. Philips amBX updates

Last year, Philips announced its ambient experience technology (amBX), which is environmental technology that adds to the immersion of video games, music, film, and the Web (think heat lamps for that pesky lava level, etc.). amBX aims to empower "game developers with the ability to use light, colour, sound, vibration and even air flow" in interactive media.

Today, Philips announced more details for consumers, and some games that will use amBX this year.

  • "The amBX Visual Autoscriptor and amBX Audio Autoscriptor will enable consumers to get an amBX effect from any media they run on their PC, whether it is one of their existing PC games or their music collection. An amBX Media Player will also be launched which will play amBX-scripted music, DVDs and video."
  • "The amBX Atmosphere Controller will allow consumers to control their amBX kit directly to enable mood lighting or other effects other than through playing games and music."
  • "When consumers go online, the amBX Web Plug-in will allow peripherals to join in with web pages scripted with amBX, making surfing the World Wide Web a totally different experience. Philips amBX will also have content available for download through the amBX website at www.ambx.com."
Philips also announced SpectraVideo will be the first to launch a range of third party amBX-enabled products under its own Logic3 label. Details will be released in the coming months.

And though they'll be allegedly "will be showcasing the full potential of amBX to the media and industry on Stand 970 in the South Hall at E3", I have't seen a list of amBX developers, publishers, or titles, and the amBX Website doesn't list any specific PC of next-gen titles, either.

5. Next-Gen Golden Axe!

This is so cool!

I've been working on a list of "Games Adam wants to see", and -- I poop you not -- a next-gen Golden Axe is on that list.

The next iteration of the 1989 game will be developed for the Xbox 360 and PS3 by Sega-acquired, San Francisco-based studio Secret Level (Magic: The Gathering — Battlegrounds; Karaoke Revolution; Americas Army: Rise of a Soldier).

2007 can not come fast enough.

I seriously pumped so many quarters into this thing.

6. Next-gen Nintendo Zapper

Remember the original Nintendo light gun -- the Zapper?

An accessory at the Nintendo booth showed and unannounced Wii peripheral that combines the two pieces of the "nunchuckas" Wii controller into one gun.

Check out the pict below, which probably came from GameSpot.com (there, I've given proper attribution):
Nintendo Wii Zapper accessory

I'm playing "Lost Planet"

I'm playing the E3 Xbox 360 demo for Lost Planet: Extreme Condition.

Check out my initial impressions on my "I'm Playing" blog.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Microsoft E3 Press Conference (UPDATED)

OK, the Microsoft E3 Press Conference started on time, and was shorter, and was a hell of lot more compeling than Sony's E3 Press Conference.

UPDATED: Don't have time to watch the full hour and twenty? Catch the 10 minute highlights on Xbox.com.
10-minute version (Xbox.com)
  • GameSpot.com (click on the "Tuesday" tab)

  • The press conference started off with a much bigger bang than Sony's with Gears of War -- intro'd by Cliffy B.

    UPDATED: On the hardware front, Peter Moore announced three new Xbox 360 additions for this fall -- the wireless headset, wireless steering wheel (to be time with Forza 2), camera, and the HDVD player (to be available "this holiday").

    New upcoming Xbox Live Arcade games promo'd included the following:
    • Contra (Whoot! Holla for ol's school co-op over Xbox Live!)
    • Frogger
    • Pac-Man
    • Sonic
    • Time Pilot from Konomi
    • Ultimate Mortal Kombat
    • Rootbeer Tapper
    Xbox Live Arcade is also going to get a version of the Lumines puzzle game (Lumines Live) that includes an integration with Warner Brothers that'll let you have live music videos behind the action. Could they have picked a better example than Madonna? Please?

    And Microsoft showed a huge list of cool next-gen clips:

    • Lost Planet
    • Table Tennis
    • Mass Effect
    • NHL 2K7
    • Crysis
    • F.E.A.R. 360
    • Too Human
    • Viva Pinata
    • Moto GP 06
    • Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2
    • Sonic Next-Gen
    • Madden NFL 07
    • World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions
    • Saint's Row
    • WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007
    • John Woo Presents Stranglehold
    • Enchanted Arms
    • Test Drive Unlimited
    • NCAA Football
    • Dead Rising
    • Dance Dance Revolution Universe
    • SUPERMAN RETURNS: THE VIDEOGAME
    • Crackdown
    • N3: Ninety Nine Nights
    • Gears of War
    They announced Forza 2 (mheh; but that's just me), and (woohoo!) Fable 2 -- which would be exciting enough on its own, but it will also support (A) 12 people on Xbox Live, (B) an Xbox Live Camera attached through USB, and (C) some program called "Xbox Live Vision" (or maybe that's the name for the Xbox 360 camera experience). Looks like Eye Toy has some competition.

    There was also some cool (but pre-rendered) Blue Dragon footage, and Splinter Cell Double Agentb footage that mixed pre-rendered movies with in-game gameplay.

    This week will see the first Xbox Marketplace downloadable TV content (including a Gears of War "docudrama" that starts on Live and finishes on MTV).

    Microsoft also did show the HD-DVD player which can be plugged in to the Xbox 360, and will be available "this holiday season".

    UPDATED: And while Grand Theft Auto 4 will be available October 16th 2007 on Xbox 360, there was no mention of exclusivity -- or even if Xbox is getting it first. Peter Moore did get another tatoo, though.

    The press conference also touched on Windows Vista, demo'ing a flight sim and Age of Conan, with mention that there'll be more joint Vista/Xbox 360 titles.

    Shadowrun was officially announced for both PC and 360. Developed by Fasa Studios, it will launch with Windows Vista in January 2007.

    And the reeeeaaaallllly compelling Alan Wake -- which was supposed to be a no-show for E3 -- had an awesome trailer.

    UPDATED: One of the biggest announcements was Bill Gates' (who evidently hasn't been to E3 before) announcement of ""Live Anywhere" -- which basically extends Xbox 360 Live, Xbox 360 Marketplace, and versions of the blade interface across all Windows platforms -- your Gamertag and friend's lists will populate across any sign-in. To show the integration, Xbox Live Marketing Manager Major Nelson mailed a custom car from his phone to a PC, then customized it on the PC and put it into the Xbox 360 game. I'm trying to figure out which game (Forza 2? PGR4? Something else?

    And they ended with an amazing teaser trailer of Halo 3 -- allegedly running on the game engine --punctuated with the words, "Finish the Fight ... 2007."

    "Finish the Fight"? How about you finish the story I bought from you in 2004? How 'bout that?!

    The press conference -- and the trailer -- was shown in the Hollywood Chinese Theater, making Micorosoft's symbolism clear: "This is our Star Wars. "

    Halo 3 on Xbox Live! Grand Theft Auto an Xbox 360 exclusive?

    It's a few minutes before the Microsoft E3 press conference, and the fireworks are beginning.

    If you head over to TeamXbox.com you'll find two huge nuggets:
    • The Halo 3 104 MB trailer is available right now (for free) over Xbox Live!
      UPDATED: And from TeamXbox.com!
    • Grand Theft Auto IV for Xbox 360 will hit retail in October 2007, and "Exclusive episodic content updates via Xbox Live are promised". Dunno if just the content will be Xbox 360 exclusive, or if the whole title will.
      UPDATED: It looks like GTA IV will launch on both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. So, no exclusive, but (for the first time), not a Sony exclusive either. No word on the exclusiveness of the Xbox 360 content, though.
    Wow, the Sony press conference is already looking tame by comparison, and the official Press Conference hasn't even started ...

    Sony E3 Press Conference (Part 2) (UPDATED)

    Be sure to check out Sony E3 Press Conference (Part 1) for some background.

    I'm only going to do a short re-cap for Part 2 of the Sony Press Conference, because most of the information is out there, I need to get caught up on the Nintendo Press Conference, and the Microsoft press conference is coming up at 11:30 a.m. PST. I hope they're on time, and make some jokes about being on time (there could be some great "both with our E3 press conference and our console, unlike our competitor, we're on time" hate).

    You can get video streams of the SCE Press Conference from IGN and GameSpot:

    More PS3:

    The PS3 will launch worldwide in November of this year.

    I said yesterday there won't be two SKUs, but I was a bit off.

    Turns out there will be two PS3 SKUs come November 17 -- but both will have a hard drive.

    The 20G HDD version will retail for $499 in the US, and $599 for the 60G HDD version.

    UPDATED: According to GameInformer Online, the $499 SKU (which they call "The New 'Tard Pack'" will also not have wireless IEEE 802.11 b/g, Memory Stick/SD/CompactFlash support, or a next-gen HDMI out port. That's a lot to give up for 100-bucks, and certainly makes your console less future-proof.

    This is expensive, but I suspect due to the components (Blu-Ray, Gigabit ethernet, 1080p, etc.) they're going to be eating a huge amount of cost in 2007 -- some analysts say as much as $1.4 billion dollars.

    The new PS3 controller was demonstrated, and looks nothing like the batarang from last year's E3. As a matter of fact, it looks like a PS2 controller, with some interesting features. First, it senses motion, almost gyroscope-like, in 6 directions, which they demo'd on Warhawk. Interesting functionality, but it feels ripped off from the Nintendo Wii, and looks to be a poor version of it. In addition, DualShock Force Feedback will go away in the PS3, because it doesn't play nice with the motion sensing technology. There's also an interesting "guide" button in the center of the controller, which wasn't discussed, but seems to be rip-off of the Xbox 360 guide button. Has Sony forgotten how to innovate?

    The rest of the games weren't that compelling to me, though I find it fascinating that Killzone 2 wasn't part of the press conference.

    Microsoft Response:

    There were jabs thrown in Microsoft, so they threw together a quick, and direct, response. Check out the obviously colored summary at TeamXbox.com, but the summary of the summary is that Shane Kim and Chris Satchell are "dissapointed with Sony's lack of innovation".

    Snap!

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Sony E3 Press Conference (Part 1)

    Sony's E3 press conference, slated to start at 4 p.m. PST, didn't.

    About an hour later, the press conference kicked off, and unfortunately for me, the live video feed from GameSpot.com was listen-only for the first portion. Luckily, they resolved it before the game clips.

    Sony Computer Entertainment America President Kaz Hirai made expected jabs about the PS3 not being "an incremental upgrade of the platform", and represented the "best of breed in home computer entertainment".

    PS2

    There was an impressive recap of the PS2 shipping history and status and software -- pretty applicable for an insider game industry conference. Sony was making a point -- they're the big dogs and the cash cow for Sony, and for third-party developers. Hirai said there will also be be 216 new PS2 titles in 2006.

    PSP

    Another impressive recap from Hirai here, with 17 million sold to date, which is almost 1 million units per month since launch. They then showed a video montage if upcoming PSP titles, including the impressive looking Dark Mirror, Gangs of London, and Killzone: Liberation.

    Sony also announced they were extending their PS2 Greatest Hits program to the PSP, starting with 5 titles.

    Hirai touted the PSP's firmware upgrades, which allow for Web browsing, Flash player, and RSS feeds, and said they'll be adding RSS video and VoIP functionality. Calling the PSP "the whole package" and using examples of downloading MP3 playlists and podcasts, Sony is obviously positioning the PSP as the iPod killer, and let folks know that if they brough their PSP to the show, they were going to get downloads -- including assets from the press conference.

    Sony then showed a video montage of interviews with PSP gamers from New York, London, Australia, China, Japan, Mexico, where they hyped the PSP, and talked about how the PS3 was going to be the end-all-be all to gamers.

    PS3

    Face it, this is what people came to see.

    Sony Online's Prez started with the PS3 background and technical stats. He verified the gigabit ethernet port is still there, as is 1080p HDTV dispaly and the removable hard drive, which will ship standard with all PS3s (no "Core"/"Premium" SKU split crap).

    There was a lot of time spent on the full backwards compatibility for the PS2 and PSOne, and said the PSP will be able to interact with the PS3 via wireless, USB, and MemoryStick.

    Understandably, given the optical disc format wars, a lot of time was spent on Blu-Ray, and its features, and how, historically, PS2 upsold the DVDs over CD-ROMS, and by implication, PS3 will do the same for Blu-Ray.

    They showed the PS3, which will ship in "clear" and "black", with the latter pretty slick.

    And they said the final PS3 dev kits are shipping now -- 6 months before launch. And all E3 playable PS3 content was running on these final dev kits -- which is different than Microsoft and partners running demos on alpha or pre-alpha kits at last year's E3.

    Next, Sony Worldwide president Phil Harrison came out to sell the import of the PS3, and to introduce the creator of the Gran Tourismo franchise who introduced an E3 prototype of Gran Tourismo HD -- playable GT4 assets boosted to PS3 quality, which becomes the minimum target for development (1920x1080p and 60fps -- 3 times the assets and bandwidth of current broadcast HDTV, and 12 times the current GT4 on PS2).

    They also did a Gran Tourismo retrospective to show the growth of the franchise -- GT1, GT4, then the GTHD -- obviously to show how impressive the latter is.

    Next up was Dr. Richard Marx, the creator of the Eye Toy, and the next gen merger of the Eye Toy, real-world battle games, and the PS3 -- which was amazingly impressive and looked fun.

    Sony said all clips shown from PS3 games during the press conference will be available at launch.

    Hirai retook the stage to talk about the online service for the PS3, and talked again about his "air conditioning" analogy -- once considered after market, but now a necessity. He also said it would be free to all PS3 users. Hirai then booted up the original Ridge Racer for PSOne on a Memory Stick -- playing on the PSP (which seemed a little disjointed for the online conversation). He did bring it back to the online conversation in talking about Xbox Live-like prepaid cards.

    Phil Harrison came back on stage to show the PS3 interface for the Sony online service (like Xbox Live Marketplace.

    There were a lot of other cool features in the interface, like the SingStar interface with PS3, and being able to browse songs (via the Sony network and SingStore.

    Harrison did showcase some subtle things that are cool in their version of the marketplace (like availlable funds, spending limits tied to parental controls, etc.).

    A Genji II demo was next up, which looked like an incredibly awesome next gen version of a Dynasty Warriors-eque game (not like that crappy Dynasy Warriors 5 Empires for the Xbox 360. I still think Ninety-Nine Nights is going to kick it's butt. Oh, and the camera in the demo sucked, which must have been kind of embarrassing.

    Moving to the 21st Century, Harrison showed Formula 1, and a cool integration with the PSP, where the PSP became a wing mirror, which is a new view, and a concrete example of interactivity between the platforms.

    One of lst year's darlings of E3 was Heavenly Sword, and the playable build at the conference showed a lot of polish -- viloent and stylish.

    Part 2 of the Sony Press Conference shortly ...

    E3 2006 Preview #6

    1. Activision E3 line-up
    2. Vivendi E3 line-up
    3. Buena Vista Games E3 line-up
    4. E3 content on Xbox Live Marketplace


    NEWS:

    1. Activision E3 line-up

    Find details on the games below at TeamXbox.com.

    • Call of Duty 3 (Xbox 360, PS3)
    • Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, GBA, PC)
    • Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS3, PS2, PSP)
    • Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam (Wii, DS, GBA)
    • Spider-Man 3
    • Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars (PC)
    • The Movies: Stunts & Effects Expansion Pack (PC)
    • Over the Hedge (Xbox, PS2, GC, GBA, PC)
    • X-Men: The Official Game (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, GC, PC)
    • World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions (Xbox 360, PS2, PSP, PC)
    • Call of Duty 2 (four new maps via Xbox Live Marketplace -- 2 free, 2 paid)

    2. Vivendi E3 line-up

    Find details on the games below at TeamXbox.com.

    • World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (Expansion Pack) (PC) -- Expected Release: TBA
    • Scarface: The World Is Yours (Xbox, PS2, PC) -- Expected Release: Autumn 2006
    • Eragon (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, GC, GBA, DS, PC) -- Expected Release: Autumn 2006
    • World in Conflict (PC) -- Expected Release: Spring 2007
    • F.E.A.R. 360 (Xbox 360) -- Expected Release: Q4 2006
    • F.E.A.R. Extraction Point (Expansion Pack) (PC) -- Expected Release: Oct. 2006
    • Timeshift (Xbox 360, PC) -- Expected Release: September 2006
    • Caesar IV (PC) -- Expected Release: September 2006
    • 50 Cent: Bulletproof G Unit Edition (PSP) -- Expected Release: August 2006
    • Miami Vice The Game (PSP) -- Expected Release: July 2006
    • FreeStyle Street Basketball (Online) -- Expected Release: TBA
    • Multiple titles from Vivendi Games Mobile

    3. Buena Vista Games E3 line-up

    Find details on the games below at Gamasutra.com.

    • Turok (Xbox 360, PS3)
    • Lumines Plus
    • Lumines 2 (PSP)
    • Every Extend Extra (PSP)
    • Meteos: Disney Edition (DS)
    • Desperate Housewives: The Game
    • Disney's Chicken Little: Ace in Action
    • Disney's Meet the Robinsons
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
    • Spectrobes
    • Games based on Disney Channel properties "Hannah Montana," "Little Einsteins," "American Dragon," "Phil of the Future," "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," "That's So Raven" and more
    • Game based on The Little Mermaid

    4. E3 content on Xbox Live Marketplace

    Some initial E3 content is up on Xbox Live Marketplace -- but good luck getting it. Every download I do cancels immediately, so I'm wondering if they miss-planned the load of this free week of Xbox Live.

    Content so far:

    • Test Drive Unlimited (Demo)
    • Bullet Witch (trailer)
    • Rain (trailer)
    • Dance Dance Revolution Universe (trailer)
    • Sonic The Hedgehog (trailer)
    • John Woo Presents Stranglehold (trailer)
    • Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway (trailer)
    • Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II (trailer)
    • Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz (Wii) – Release: Fall 2006
    • Dead Rising (trailer)
    • Battlestations: Midway (trailer)
    • NCAA College Hoops 2K7 (trailer)
    • NCAA o7 Football (trailer)
    • Poseidon (film trailer)

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    E3 2006 Preview #5

    1. Pre-E3 game screenshots
    2. Other E3 game announcements
    3. Ubisoft E3 line-up
    4. Electronic Arts E3 line-up
    5. THQ E3 line-up
    6. Sega E3 line-up
    7. Atari E3 line-up


    NEWS:

    1. Pre-E3 game screenshots

    E3 is next week, so we're starting to see the screenshots from the E3 builds and trailers of games for the show.

    Here's a quick rundown of some of the cool stuff to check out:

    2. Other E3 game announcements
    • The Pandemic side of BiowarePandemic has announced Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, which they've been teasing for a little while.
    • I expect Microsoft to announce the next incarnation of Shadowrun during E3, and this image went up on FASA Studios' website this week.
    • SouthPeak Interactive announced it will be publishing Artificial Studios’ Monster Madness.
    • The demo for Atari's Test Drive Unlimited will be available for download via Xbox Live Marketplace during E3.
    • Ubisoft will be showcasing the upcoming downloadable content package for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter at their E3 booth.

    3. Ubisoft E3 line-up

    Find details on the games below at TeamXbox.com.

    • Assassin’s Creed (PC)
    • Brothers In Arms Hell’s Highway (Xbox 360)
    • Dark Messiah of Might & Magic
    • Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360)
    • Open Season
    • Rayman Raving Rabbids (to be developed by creator Michel Ancel)
    • Red Steel (Wii)
    • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent
    • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas
    • TBD Title ("next generation project" from Ubisoft and Timesplitters rock stars Free Radical); I'm most excited about this title.

    4. Electronic Arts E3 line-up

    Find details on the games below at TeamXbox.com.

    • NBA LIVE (closed door showing)
    • Tiger Woods PGA TOUR (closed door showing)
    • FIFA Football (closed door showing)
    • Madden NFL 07 (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, PSP, GC, PSP, PC, DS, GBA
    • NASCAR 07
    • ARMY OF TWO (Xbox 360, PS3)
    • Battlefield 2142 (PC)
    • SPORE (PC)
    • Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars (PC)
    • Crysis (PC)
    • The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth II (Xbox 360)
    • SUPERMAN RETURNS: THE VIDEOGAME (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, PSP, PSP, DS, GBA)
    • Def Jam Fight For NY: The Takeover (PSP)
    • Multiple titles from EA MOBILE

    Evidently, EA feels like they need to SHOUT several of their game titles ...

    5. THQ E3 line-up

    THQ has maybe the strongest planned presence at the show -- at least from a "number of games" perspective.

    Find details on the games below at TeamXbox.com.

    • Saints Row (Xbox 360, wireless devices)
    • Frontlines: Fuel of War (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
    • WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 (Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP)
    • The Sopranos
    • MotoGP '06 (Xbox 360)
    • GTR (Xbox 360)
    • Supreme Commander (PC)
    • Company of Heroes (PC, wireless devices)
    • Titan Quest (PC)
    • Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War - Dark Crusade (PC)
    • DisneyPixar Cars (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, PSP, Wii, GC, GBA, DS, PC, Mac)
    • Destroy All Humans! 2 (Xbox, PS2, wireless devices)
    • SpongeBob SquarePants (PS2, Wii, GC, GC, DS, GBA, PC, wireless devices)
    • Monster House (PS2, GC, DS, GBA, PC)
    • Barnyard (PS2, GC, GBA, PC)
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender (Xbox, PS2, PSP, GC, GBA, DSP, PC)
    • Juiced: Eliminator (PSP, wireless devices)
    • Alex Rider: Stormbreaker (DS, GBA)
    • Multiple titles from THQ Wireless

    6. Sega E3 line-up

    Find details on the games below at TeamXbox.com.

    • Chromehounds (Xbox 360) - Release: Summer 2006
    • The Club (Working title, PS3, 360) - Release: Summer 2007
    • Full Auto 2: Battlelines (PS3) - Release: November 2006
    • Medieval II: Total War (PC) - Release: November 2006
    • Phantasy Star Universe (PS2, Xbox 360, PC) – Release: Fall 2006
    • SEGA RALLY REVO (PS3, Xbox 360) – Release: Spring 2007
    • Sonic Rivals (PSP) – Release: Fall 2006
    • Sonic The Hedgehog (PS3, Xbox 360) – Release: Fall 2006
    • Super Monkey Ball Adventure (PS2, GC, PSP) – Release: July 2006
    • Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz (Wii) – Release: Fall 2006
    • Virtua Tennis 3 (PS3) – Release: Spring 2007
    • World Pool Championship 2007 (PS2, PSP) – Release: September 2006
    • Yakuza (PS2) – Release: September 2006

    7. Atari E3 line-up

    Find details on the games below at TeamXbox.com.

    • Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360, PC)
    • Arthur and the Minimoys (PS2, PSP, DS, GBA, PC)
    • BattleZone (PSP)
    • DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: Tactics (PSP)
    • HOT PXL (PSP)
    • Neverwinter Nights 2 (PC)
    • Super DBZ (PS2)
    • Test Drive Unlimited (Xbox360, PC)

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    E3 2006 Preview #4

    1. Xbox Live from E3!
    2. Lost Planet headlines "60+" downloads
    3. Ubisoft will publish Enchanted Arms
    4. Midway reveals E3 2006 Lineup
    5. Xbox Live Message Center launches

    NEWS:
    1. Xbox Live from E3!

    E3 is the video game industry event, but it's an industry insider event that's the biggest place for updates and announcements of all things video game.

    Of all companies, Microsoft is breaking down the boys' club and bringing the show to the people.

    Remember this hopeful nugget from my Xbox Live outage notice?
    "One thing they should do is make their E3 press conference videos available over Xbox Live at the same time ..."

    During the Xbox Live free week (from 12:01 a.m. PST May 8 to 11:59pm PST Sunday May 14), a ton of content will be available for download to Xbox 360 Gold and Silver live members, including "A Backstage Pass to see developers preparing for E3" and (wait for it) "a flood of HD trailers from games that have yet to be announced".

    A "flood"? Hmm ...

    2. Lost Planet headlines "60+" downloads

    Also during the Xbox Live free week (from 12:01 a.m. PST May 8 to 11:59pm PST Sunday May 14), more than 60 pieces of new downloadable content will be available to Xbox 360 Gold and Silver Live members.

    Attentive gamers noticed one exciting thing from the poorly cut together Lost Planet Pre-E3 trailer downloaded from Xbox Live -- the text, "Demo May 9th". This, by itself, would rock.

    However, as part of the E3/Xbox Live free week two-fer, gamers are going to get a ton of additional content -- hopefully most of it free.

    Gentlemen, clear your hard drives ...

    From the press release, here's the list so far:

    • Playable game demos and/or trailers from highly anticipated titles like:
      • Crackdown (Microsoft Game Studios)
      • Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2 (Tecmo)
      • The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle Earth II (EA Los Angeles)
      • Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (Capcom)
      • Moto GP ’06 (THQ)
      • Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega)
      • Splinter Cell Double Agent (Ubisoft)
      • Test Drive Unlimited (Atari)
      • Viva PiƱata (Microsoft Game Studios)
      • Plus a flood of HD trailers from games that have yet to be announced
    • Call of Duty2 – New Multiplayer Map Packs (Activision)
    • The release of UNO on Xbox Live Arcade
    • Game with Fame celebrity gaming sessions with stars like Jenny McCarthy, Method Man and Panic Channel (Featuring Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins, Chris Chaney and Steve Isaacs).
    • Play and Win contests with the latest Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade titles
    • Exclusive high-definition blockbuster movie trailer downloads
    • Limited edition E3 Gamerpics and Themes
    • A Backstage Pass to see developers preparing for E3

    Cool stuff. The details of the ambiguous "demos and/or trailers" text is really going determine how high the "how cool" meter goes. For example, I'm seriously stoked about Crackdown, but Real Time Worlds has said how hard it is to do a demo for a sandbox game, so this may just be the (admittedly cool) trailer from The Official Xbox Magazine.

    Oh, and before you get too excited about Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2 -- this is the name for the DOAX Volleyball sequel, minus the "volleyball" for type-ability and, I suspect, marketing. (Why, Itagaki-san? For the love of all that's holy, why is this your spin-off franchise?!).

    3. Ubisoft will publish Enchanted Arms

    Ok, there are a bunch of games that were up in the air about the when/if they'd come stateside (Lost Planet, Ninety-Nine Nights, Dead Rising, Chromehounds, and Enchanted Arms).

    Well, Enchanted Arms (really, "[eM] –eNCHANT arM-") is going to be published in the United States (oh, and Europe), courtesy of mega-publisher Ubisoft.

    The game is classical (read, turn-based) Japanese RPG developed by Japanese shop FromSoftware (Armored Core, Otogi) and is scheduled to ship this summer.

    4. Midway reveals E3 2006 Lineup

    Midway has always been cool to me. I'm not sure where a lot of industry pundits get off calling them "the publisher that was", but besides energizing Xbox Live Arcade, Midway is going to rock E3. Yes, I'm a bit bummed that I didn't get to do the voice over work I was supposed to do for them for the show, but I still wish them well. Marc, call me ... ;-)

    Here's what they'll be showing (Check out the TeamXbox article for details on each):

    • John Woo Presents Stranglehold (PLAYSTATION3, Xbox 360, PC; Winter 2006)
    • Unreal Tournament 2007 (PC, PS3)
    • Blitz: The League (Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PSP system; October 2006)
    • Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (PlayStation2 computer entertainment system, Xbox; October 2006)
    • Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run (PlayStation 2, Xbox; September 2006)
    • The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (PC)
    • Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War (PC; June 2006)
    • Happy Feet (PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Wii, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, PC; November 2006)
    • The Ant Bully (PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PC; July 2006 – Nintendo Wii; November 2006)
    • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy Advance; November 2006)
    • MLB SlugFest 2006 (PlayStation 2, Xbox; May 2006)
    • RUSH (PSP system; September 2006)
    • Mortal Kombat: Unchained (PSP system; September 2006)
    • NBA Ballers: Rebound (PSP system; May 2006)

    5. Xbox Live Message Center launches

    I've mentioned my wishlist for Xbox Live/PC integration before:

    I should be able to send Friend requests to play a game, or respond to requests from the Website. I should be able to group friends the way I can in Messenger, so rather than doing an "Invite all" to my entire Friends list, I can "Invite co-workers", etc. I should be able to manage alerts so I get SMSes only for the people I want to know are online, versus everybody in my friends list (during spring break, people on my list jumped on-and-off titles and Xbox Live multiple times, every day for 10 days (John ...). In one week, I exceeded by SMS limit for the month. Thanks, kids.

    And I want Microsoft to integrate this functionality into MSN (Windows Live) Messenger. And I want the Web version of Messenger to be as full featured as the client version.

    Well, after Tuesday's Xbox Live outage, some of that functionality has been added:

    • All My Xbox users (Xbox Live Silver and Gold users as well as those who just signed up on Xbox.com) can now read text messages in the My Xbox Message Center. So someone can send you a message from their Xbox 360 console and you can read it on your PC.
    • Xbox Live Gold members can compose and send messages in the My Xbox Message Center. The character limit is the same as on the Xbox 360 console: 250 characters.
    • Xbox Live Gold members can send messages (up to 200 per day) to gamers who are on their friends list.
    • Xbox Live Gold members can send messages (up to 25 per day) to other gamers not on their friends list.
    • All My Xbox users can block communications with other gamers. Designate a gamertag as blocked and you won't get any more messages from them. Change your mind? Unblock a gamer simply by sending them a message.

    Not all there, yet, but getting there.

    Of course, the Windows Live Messenger beta/Xbox integration is still broken (going on two weeks, now ...)