TGS 2005: Few surprises at Microsoft keynote address

With big news dropping at yesterday's press conference, Robbie Bach simply reiterates new strategy for Japanese market.

For Microsoft, the Tokyo Game Show is a golden opportunity for the company to break into a Japanese market that has stymied it so far. Yesterday, the tech giant divulged one of the industry's biggest unknowns: the launch date of the Xbox 360. By now, every gamer worth his or her analog stick knows the console will be available in the US on November 22, just before Thanksgiving.

However, the Tokyo Game Show didn't actually start until today, and Microsoft had one more major event in the Japanese limelight--Microsoft Home and Entertainment Division vice president Robbie Bach's keynote speech to kick off the convention. Bach just concluded speaking, and this last chance for Microsoft didn't drop any bombshells...as gamers had hoped.

The main themes of the keynote address were Microsoft's role in ushering in the high-def era and its continuing efforts to push the Xbox 360 into Japanese homes. Bach stressed that Microsoft has learned from the lackluster performance of the first-generation Xbox in Japan and is concentrating more energy to attract Japanese gamers. To do this, the company has recruited top Japanese developers to make games for the console.

Bach ran a short demo of Epic Games' Gears of War and showed a montage of several upcoming 360 games, none of which were previously unannounced.

Microsoft has always touted the 360 as being more than just a gaming machine, and it showed as much during the keynote address. Bach demonstrated how the 360 can be used by Windows Media Player to stream movies--Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones in this case. Bach also showed no hard feelings toward rival Apple by hooking up an iPod shuffle to the 360 to play music.

Of course, with Microsoft's press conference yesterday, the hopes for groundbreaking news today was minimal. Much of the buzz tonight was clearly focused on what came after Bach's address. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was scheduled for the show's second keynote address, where he revealed the "revolutionary" controller for his company's next-generation console.

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