May 9, 2006 12:42 PM PDT
Microsoft wants you to feel young again
The software maker showed off forthcoming exclusive titles such as "Fable 2" at a press conference prior to the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show here, but it also touted new partnerships that will bring classic games like "Ms. Pac Man" and "Paperboy" to the Xbox 360's Live Arcade feature.
"We're making sure your misspent youth can stay with you as long as you want it to," Microsoft Vice President Peter Moore said in a press briefing at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The company announced deals with Konami, Midway, Sega and Namco to breathe new life into classic titles such as "Dig Dug," "Sonic the Hedgehog" and "Root Beer Tapper."
The company also announced plans to bring out "Forza Motorsport 2," a sequel to its popular auto-racing game, in time for this year's holidays. The game will be paired with a new wireless, force-feedback steering wheel accessory. In October 2007, "Grand Theft Auto IV" will launch for the Xbox, with exclusive add-on content available on Xbox Live.
In addition, the company announced plans for a wireless headset and a video game accessory for the Xbox 360 and, as expected, an add-on HD DVD player. The player will be available in time for the holidays, Microsoft said.
Microsoft also inched into the realm of offering downloadable TV onto the Xbox, announcing plans for a documentary on the making of the forthcoming game "Gears of War." The first part of the documentary will be downloadable on the Xbox; the second part will be available next week on MTV.
Beyond the expected array of shoot-'em-ups and sports titles, Microsoft also demonstrated its intent to draw new customers. One game aimed at doing that is "Viva Pinata," which shows the paper mache' creatures conducting their lives outside of kids' birthday parties. Due this holiday season, players can outfit the characters with accessories that can then be traded over the Xbox Live online service.
Microsoft is looking to capitalize on its head start over its rivals. Nintendo is slated to ship its Wii console in the fourth quarter of this year, while Sony is targeting a November launch for the PlayStation 3. Microsoft was the last of the big three to hold its press briefing ahead of E3, which officially kicks off Wednesday.
Gates' surprise appearance
Meanwhile, Microsoft has been ramping up shipments of the Xbox 360 after struggling to meet early demand. The company now says it will have shipped between 5 million and 5.5 million of the game consoles by the end of June.
In addition to shipping 5 million units by June, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said that the company will have 10 million consoles out before Sony or Nintendo launch.
"Before our competition even enters the marketplace we will have a 10-million-unit headstart with Xbox 360," said Gates, whose appearance was a surprise. "It's a number we only dreamed about a year ago."
Gates also announced plans for a Live Anywhere service that will allow people to share an online identity across multiple PCs as well as their Xbox 360 and other devices.
"It means that you have one online community," Gates said. Live Anywhere will launch with Windows Vista. Gates said that the service should help the company reach another goal--doubling the number of Xbox Live subscribers from 3 million today to 6 million by next year's E3.
"We're going from 'Live' to 'Live Anywhere'" he said. At some point, Gates added, it may be possible to take a game in progress from the Xbox and move it onto a cell phone.
Microsoft demonstrated a future version of the Xbox Live service, in which gamers can see not only who is logged in on their Xbox, but also buddies who are logged into a PC or mobile device.
The press conference ended with Gates and Moore walking off the stage while a brief trailer for "Halo 3" played. Microsoft offered few details other than to note that the highly anticipated game will arrive sometime next year.
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