Monday, June 14, 2010

E3 2010: Microsoft Goes Oprah For Keynote

Microsoft closed their 2010 E3 Keynote Address with a bang.  Going full-on Oprah, Microsoft’s Don Mattrick announced that they were shipping the new, slimmer Xboxes (250 GB hard drive, built-in Wi-Fi, in stores this week) to everyone in attendance.  “Thanks for coming!  Here’s some free stuff to make sure you don’t talk smack on us!”

It’s a bit of a shady move, in my opinion, done solely to engender good will after announcing a parade of unimpressive titles for their new device Kinect.

I watched a girl play with her terrifying digital tiger in Kinectimals.  It wasn’t fearsome or anything; it just had creepiest human eyes I’ve ever seen on a facsimile of an animal.  Then Kudo Tsunoda came out dressed as the Grimace to introduce Kinect Adventures, which just looks like Nick Arcade HD.  There was, of course, a sports game, a kart racer, and a dance game from Harmonix that will somehow manage to teach you cool dance moves while actually making you look less cool. 

Kinect will launch November 4, 2010 with at least 15 titles (one of which looked like a Sonic game – what are they thinking?).  Microsoft’s still being coy about price, but I’m betting on at least $100.

In the pipe for Kinect are a Jedi game from LucasArts, a Forza title, and Ubisoft’s Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, which looks it’s been designed from the ground up to make you feel fat.

Microsoft also took time to demonstrate some of Kinect’s non-gaming abilities: navigating media players and chatting with your friends webcam style.  This is what shined for me (despite some truly heinous demonstrators).  It appears to do exactly what they’re claiming.  If they make this thing compatible with PCs, they could have a huge UI revolution on their hands.

One of Microsoft’s biggest surprises was smuggled into the Kinect section of the keynote.  They’ve signed an exclusive deal with ESPN to stream live and archived content to the Xbox platform.  Deals have been negotiated with college football and basketball, soccer, the NBA, and Major League Baseball.  Microsoft’s rolling these features into the Xbox Live Gold Membership, which actually adds value to a service many have been decrying for years as not worth the entry fee.  This also shows (along with yet another reminder that Windows Phone 7 will link to your Live ID) Microsoft starting to mesh their various divisions into one media conglomerate (see this Wired article on how the Kin is yet another example of Microsoft’s vision of the future).

Conventional game announcements/coverage included more Halo: Reach footage, Call of Duty: Black Ops gameplay, a new Kojima game Metal Gear Solid: Rising (with real-time cutting!), Gears of War 3, something codenamed Kingdoms, and Fable 3 which drops October 26.

At the end of the day, this wasn’t about games.  It was about Kinect, and its new matching Xbox.

I’d recommend Joystiq’s liveblog for extra photo coverage of the event.