Microsoft showed the audience assembled at Hollywood’s historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater at this week’s E3 many new Xbox 360 game titles that are currently in the works, including the hotly anticipated Bungie Studios-developed game Halo 3. In a surprise appearance, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates also outlined the company’s plans for a cross platform gaming service called Live Anywhere. Across Microsoft platforms, that is.
Peter Moore, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business in the Entertainment and Devices Division, said that more than 160 new games will ship for the Xbox 360 before the end of this year.
Highlighted titles include Fable 2, currently in development at Lionhead Studios, which Microsoft recently acquired; Alam Wake, a psychological action thriller developed by Remedy Entertainment; and, of course, Halo 3, the latest installment of Bungie’s popular first person shooter, currently expected for a 2007 release.
Microsoft showed a two-and-a-half minute trailer of Halo 3 in action, combining real-time gameplay with cinematics. The video culminates with the Master Chief standing in the center screen as a massive Convenant armada flies toward what is apparently a huge alien city emerging from the ground. At the end of the trailer, Cortana’s voice says, “This is the way the world ends.”
Halo enthusiasts know that Halo 2 concluded with a cliffhanger ending. Bungie has said that Halo 3 will finish up the storyline when it’s released in 2007.
Moore said that Microsoft will have sold 5 to 5.5 million Xbox 360 consoles — a faster uptake than competitor Sony’s PlayStation 2 or the Apple iPod, he said. Moore acknowledged that Microsoft hasn’t had an easy row to hoe — only recently has the company been able to keep up with demand of Xbox 360s, which remained in short supply long after 2005’s holiday buying season had ended.
Xbox Live Arcade is a feature that debuted with the Xbox 360 that lets player play a variety of casual games online. These games will soon include classic arcade hits like Frogger. Moore said the service also allows independent developers to create games for Xbox 360 users.
Microsoft is placing a lot of importance on Live Anywhere. In fact, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates introduced it. It’s the first time he’s made an appearance at an E3 Expo.
Gates told the crowd that Xbox Live Anywhere will be included with Microsoft’s Vista operating system when it ships in January. It will work on Xbox 360, Windows Vista and Windows Mobile platforms. Live Anywhere will allow an Xbox 360 user to invite another to play online by sending a message to his buddy’s cell phone, for example, then tweak the game’s settings using his PC.
Shadowrun, a multiplayer first-person shooter in development at FASA Studio, will make use of Live Anywhere on Xbox 360 and Vista. Microsoft also demonstrated Live Anywhere capabilities in the forthcoming racing game Forza 2.
Moore also revealed that the next major installment of Rockstar Games’ controversial game Grand Theft Auto will feature exclusive episodic content for Xbox Live users. It will also debut simultaneously for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in October, 2007 — a marked departure from the past, when Grand Theft Auto has debuted on Sony hardware.
PC World contributed content used in this article.