Microsoft 2007 E3 Media and Business Summit Talent Show

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by Kyle Ackerman

Microsoft's press conference for the E3 Media & Business Summit began this year with a group of five teenagers from Illinois playing music on a high school stage. Admittedly, the band (named Corporeal) was comprised of five exceptional youths, led by an electric violin, and they were playing the theme to Halo with a massive image of the Horsehead Nebula serving as a backdrop for screenshots of the upcoming Halo 3. The stage, too, was a bit fancier than that first sentence lets on. The Santa Monica High School outdoor amphitheater was dressed to the nines, decked out with a high-tech backdrop, an enormous screen and enough flat-panel TVs to make an entire college frat house drool. But it was still a couple of teenagers on a school stage.

E3 this year is already different, as promised. If past years (when companies like Microsoft filled college auditoriums and followed the press event with lavish parties) were like seeing the Rolling Stones or U2 in concert, this year was like a high school talent show. Everyone was out in force, and the show was entertaining, but it had considerably less substance than in past years. This year's presentation was open for everyone to see on television and on the web. That's a good thing. But as a result, almost everything of substance was already (somewhat) common knowledge.

The show, and it was decidedly a show, was meant to give gamers a new chance to see Rock Band played by a live quartet, to see a little more of Project Gotham Racing 4 and perhaps catch a glimpse of the eponymous killer from Assassin's Creed doing his deadly and dirty work. Yes, Microsoft confirmed a few release dates, and showed off the dull, camo-green look of the upcoming Halo 3-branded Xbox 360. But many of the announcements were like Microsoft's promise of faster and smoother sports games. Microsoft promised that sports games will be... faster... and smoother.

Probably the biggest announcement at the event was that Microsoft will release a version of the popular Scene It? game (the one that shows you DVD clips and then has you answering multiple choice questions to advance on a board) for the Xbox 360. Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action will ship for the price of an ordinary game, but will include four new controllers, each with one large red button (to be the first to answer the question) and four additional, color coded A, B, X and Y buttons (to pick your answer). The announcement didn't generate much excitement from the live crowd of core gamers, but such a game has huge potential for casual gamers and those folks in Xbox 360 households that don't currently spend much time with the console. And presumably, the game will sport a lot of profitable downloadable content after it's released.

There were a few interesting key announcements. Developers will be interested to know that Windows Live (that thing that's like Xbox Live, but for PCs) will be integrated into the Unreal Engine 3 middleware from Epic. First-person shooter fans learned that they can sign up for a Call of Duty 4 multiplayer beta test at Microsoft confirmed that there will be two downloadable episodes for Grand Theft Auto 4 available in the first half of 2008, exclusive to the Xbox 360. Microsoft even emphasized that it has signed a deal with Disney that brought the library of Disney's films onto Xbox Live Marketplace this evening.

All of these announcements were splendid, but few were remotely surprising. Microsoft came across as the senior at school, confident and cool. The company spent some time quietly gloating about its lead in the console race for this generation, and its superior selection of games. It was as if all of Microsoft were sitting in its letterman's jacket, smoking a clove cigarette. And if that's not enough, like the quarterback who is also a physics whiz, Microsoft could point to its PC game business and Games for Windows – Live as further talents.

But for everything Microsoft did this evening, it still felt anticlimactic. The talent show ended. Everyone patted everyone else on the back and went home. There were no earth shattering announcements. There was a brief glimpse of a Resident Evil 5 trailer, but Microsoft came off as if it knows it's going to be prom king. Microsoft was the quarterback who's already won all the important games, and so wasn't going to risk injury to score another touchdown. College games will be more important, so why work now? Like the band and the stage, it was all very high school.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 10, 2007 11:07 PM.

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