LOS ANGELES--Last year, Microsoft pulled out all the stops for its Xbox 360 press conference at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Besides bringing out the two surviving Beatles to promote their eponymous Rock Band game, the software giant took the wraps off a slate of titles, including Halo: Reach, Crackdown 2, and Left 4 Dead 2. It also unveiled Project Natal, its camera-based motion-sensing system that will allow users to play games and control the 360 dashboard without a controller.
Microsoft is treating Natal's October launch like that of a new console, even giving the system its own dedicated "premiere" at this year's expo with the help of the French-Canadian circus troupe Cirque du Soleil. At that event, the system's final name--Kinect (pronounced "connect")--was unveiled after some dizzying acrobatics and lavish spectacle.
As for the main event, anticipate more details on Gears of War 3, the capper to the 12-million-selling, third-person action series. Multiple all-new titles are expected to be revealed as well, and rumors are circulating that a new, slimmer version of the Xbox 360 itself may make its debut at the event. The new console was apparently outed early on Sunday evening, thanks to an Italian-language banner ad promoting its 250GB hard drive and built-in wi-fi capabilities.
Come back Monday morning for a live blog of Microsoft's press briefing, or watch a live video stream of it on GameSpot's E3 2010 event page.
[10:06] After nearly a 1/2 hour sitting outside in the sun on the Xbox 360-white carpet--which had a reflective quality akin to snow--sweaty attendees were finally let into the Wiltern Theater.
[10:11] Underneath a huge screen, the stage features several raised round daises (that's the plural of "dais" not a a bunch of flowers). Each dais has several custom-made couches. Several standard white Xbox 360s grace the stage, along with about five Kinect units. Several are under glass, so they may just be for show.
[10:13] The seats are filling up now. The front of the balcony--there is no floor seating--is reserved for VIPs. Executives glad-hand each other and talk shop next to a small army of game journalists hammering away on their laptops.
[10:30] The audience gets the mandatory "turn off your cell phones" warning. This thing should hopefully finally be starting up soon…
[10:31] "Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Xbox 360 global media briefing" down go the lights.
[10:32] And here comes a Call of Duty: Black Ops trailer.
[10:33] Commandos doing commando-y things on screen: rappelling, shooting, fighting.
[10:33] Lots of vehicular combat. Base jumping, wait, was that a crossbow?! Yep. A commando just took out a group of people with a Dukes of Hazzard-style crossbow.
[10:35] Treyarch's Mark Lamia on stage now with a demo of the game. It's inside a tunnel in an underground Vietcong complex. Detail is high--there's even rats running around.
[10:36] Player's buddy is killed by a VC, who is promptly dispatched with a pistol.
[10:37] "In the interest of time" card lets the action fast-forward. This is an exact mirror image of the Modern Warfare 2 demo at last year's E3.
[10:38] A commando assaults an airfield. He and a comrade then steal a helicopter, with the player controlling both guns and the copter's motion.
[10:39] After a relatively calm liftoff, all hell breaks loose. The helicopter takes out VC-held villages, boats, and antiaircraft positions.
[10:39] This looks like Apocalypse Now on steroids.
[10:39] Demo ends.
[10:40] Microsoft SVP Don Mattrick comes out.
[10:41] Announces a new multiyear deal with Activision, which will see all Call of Duty expansion and map packs debut on the Xbox 360. The deal goes though 2012.
[10:41] Mattrick lets us know this event is being broadcast on the Times Square jumbotron. Wave everybody!
[10:42] Mattrick plugging Kinect again, as well as Microsoft's core lineup.
[10:42] Hideo Kojima comes out of nowhere.
[10:43] Kojima talks about his upcoming multiplatform title Metal Gear Rising, and to show off the first footage of the game.
[10:44] Producer Shigenobu Matsuyama takes the stage, Kojima exits.
[10:44] Lights go down, trailer begins with a closeup of a knife in typical cinema style.
[10:45] A heavily armored soldier is cut in half by Raiden.
[10:46] Raiden then takes the soldier's spine, which he draws power from.
[10:46] Quick montage of Raiden slicing up enemies in mid-air with his sword. "Cut what you will" is the tagline.
[10:47] Out comes Phil Spencer, chief of Microsoft Game Studios.
[10:48] He's here to beat the core gamer drum, talking up Fable III, Gears of War 3, and Crackdown 2.
[10:48] It's the "Only on Xbox 360" section of the show. Enter Cliff Bleszinski from Epic Games to talk Gears 3.
[10:49] A live demo of four-person story-based co-op is in the cards.
[10:49] Two of the soldiers in the game are female.
[10:50] Cut to Marcus Fenix emerging from a wrecked truck. He skewers a locust with a bayonet.
[10:50] Two more Locust go down and Fenix helps a teammate, who hands him a gun.
[10:51] A HUGE worm-like creature, the lambent, emerges from the ground.
[10:51] Part of it breaks off and mutates into a many-headed hydra-like creature, after ripping limb from limb one of its fellow Locusts.
[10:52] Several more lambent sprout out of the ground, and Marcus dispatches them in a bloody mess.
[10:54] Then the group then encounters a lambent berserker. Several tentacles sprout from the monster's back. Cue a hammer of dawn strike which seems to take care of the beast…
[10:55] Then it hops over a wall and right at the camera. The demo ends. Bleszinski says that Epic will unveil a new mode called "Beast" on the show floor.
[10:56] Enter Peter Molyneux to talk Fable III, which he says will ship on October 26.
[10:56] The game looks influenced by the Revolutionary War, with soldiers with muskets marching. It will be a tale of two brothers apparently.
[10:57] "It's a revolution" is the tagline. Lots of cannon fire and swashbuckling.
[10:57] Spencer is back, to announce an all-new 360 exclusive from an independent studio that is Microsoft's newest partner.
[10:57] The live-action trailer shows a very God of War-like warrior covered in wounds.
[10:57] Whoa--the CRYTEK logo comes up.
[10:58] Three warriors walk toward camera. The project is called "Codename: Kingdoms."
[10:59] Lights come up and it's Halo time. The series has sold 34 million units life to date.
[11:00] Out comes Bungie's creative director Marcus Lehto to show off Halo: Reach.
[11:00] He treats the audience to a peek at the start of the game's campaign.
[11:00] After some deep-space shots, the camera pans over to frame the Earth-like Reach, Oceans and all.
[11:01] Cut to gameplay footage, which has a four-person squad looking up at a massive assault from the sky.
[11:01] They encounter several Elites, who are fast and scary. No buddy-buddy Arbiter stuff here.
[11:03] After fighting through a platoon of jackals with shields, they enter the bunker. There, the player performs a nasty stealth kill with a knife, for which the view switches to third person for an animation.
[11:05] The player then gets inside a space shuttle of sorts and flies away, entering orbit. He flies into a full-blown space battle. Huge Covenant cruisers engage UNSC ships.
[11:05] After a hail of massive plasma plumes, the trailer ends, flashing the already announced September 14 launch date.
[11:08] It's now time to talk about Xbox Live, which has 25 million members.
[11:08] The Microsoft rep segues to Kinect, which will indeed recognize you. Its platform will be powered with a motor.
[11:08] Live demo of Kinect now. The demonstrator walks into a living room and puts the device through its paces. He shows how it can be controlled not only with movement, but with voice commands. He says "Zune" and the Zune menu pops up.
[11:09] He selects a movie, the recent take on Alice in Wonderland, and fast forwards it with his hands. He then pauses and plays it with his voice, saying "Xbox, play" and "Xbox, stop."
[11:10] "Xbox, play music," and a Justin Bieber track comes up.
[11:11] He quickly changes it to a soul song, which has the video playing in the background.
[11:12] Kinect and Xbox Live will be available in all countries where the Xbox 360 is sold.
[11:12] Now it's time for some "completely new experiences."
[11:12] VideoKinect is one.
[11:13] The demonstrator comes out into another fake living room to show how Kinect will let user video chat with friends. She navigates the menus by waving in the air. Very Minority Report.
[11:14] She "calls" her twin sister in text by touching her icon. Her cheery sister picks up, and the two watch a video together.
[11:14] The chat has a Bing-powered menu bar at the bottom, which will let players choose topics.
[11:16] The demo then shows how the motorized base of the Kinect camera will track the user, making the camera pivot to keep them in the shot.
[11:16] Demonstration ends, and the ESPN logo appears on the screen alongside the Xbox 360 logo.
[11:17] College football, NBA, MLB, soccer, and NFL will all be available.
[11:18] The deal is exclusive, and the service will offer over 3,500 live and streaming sports event.
[11:19] Sportcenter hosts Trey Wingo and Josh Elliot take the stage.
[11:20] They demonstrate the service with Kinect with both their voices and hands. They command it to rewind an Ohio State game by saying "Xbox. Replay." Certain other interactive features will be available, include the ability to pick a team to root for.
[11:21] Pop-up trivia games will let viewers test their knowledge. A pop-up box will also offer scores of other games, which users can select.
[11:22] This will all be available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers at no additional cost--wow. Some major money definitely changed hands.
[11:23] On stage comes Kinect creative director Kudo Tsunoda.
[11:24] Six Kinect games are being shown off.
[11:26] A ridiculously cute little girl gets on stage to demonstrate Kinectimals. She puts a tiger cub through its paces solely with voice commands. Then she lies down and plays dead, and the cub imitates her. The girl then hides and the cub looks for her.
[11:26] She commands the cat to go fetch its jump rope--what kid of cat does that?--and then jumps rope with it.
[11:26] Kinectimals box shows that Kinect games will have a purple box.
[11:29] Here comes Kinect Sports. The first activity is…a crowd amping game? As the demonstrator hams it up on stage, the crowd responds by going wild. Next, it's a foot race, for which a second demonstrator gets on stage. They run in place furiously to make their XBL avatars run.
[11:29] The movement did not appear to be directly tied to the movement of their legs.
[11:30] Kinect Sports will have bowling, ping pong, boxing--any of this sound familiar. It will also have beach volleyball.
[11:31] Next up is Kinect Joy Ride, a racing game which will lets players control a car with an invisible wheel.
[11:32] The gameplay looks like a cross between Mario Kart and Burnout, with gold coins, hidden paths, and boosts.
[11:35] Next up is Kinect Adventures. The demonstrator shows off an obstacle course which forces him to duck, bob, and weave. The players also have to jump and knock down balls and avoid levers. When a game is done, it will provide funny snapshots of players' faces as they play.
[11:35] Next up, two women play the whitewater rafting game, which allows the players to literally cloud surf.
[11:36] Kinect Adventures will have 20 games in all.
[11:38] Now a montage of third-party Kinect games: First up is a sequel Ubisoft's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, which will let multiple players work out together.
[11:38] Felicia Williams from Ubisoft comes out to promote the game, which will be an Xbox 360-exclusive.
[11:39] Ubisoft's Your Shape fitness game for Kinect.
[11:40] She demonstrates the game, which shows a rough outline of her shape as a shimmering gold specter. The menus, all controller by Kinect, follow her in-game avatar.
[11:40] Out comes a celebrity trainer Michael George.
[11:42] The game will offer classes in all sorts of disciplines, including yoga and martial arts. It will also offer fitness plans and more traditional cardio and strength training. It will offer both low-impact and high-intensity exercises.
[11:44] Then it's Zen Training time, which has the demonstrator do some Tai Chi moves while soothing music plays in the background. Many of the stressed out people at E3 could use a bit of this.
[11:44] Then the Xbox actually says "Namaste" to the player.
[11:45] Harmonix logo comes up--wait, they're developing Dance Central?
[11:46] A very talented dancer boogies on stage to the Bell Biv Devoe classic. The on-screen avatars are very slick and responsive, corresponding to her every move. Dance moves appear in the right hand of the screen.
[11:47] Coming this holiday exclusively for 360, says Alex Rigopulos who materializes out of nowhere.
[11:48] The game will feature a wide range of tracks from hip-hop, pop, and R&B. Harmonix worked with real choreographers. It will offer a variety of levels, and dance lessons as well.
[11:48] The game will have stylized avatars that have a very Rock Band look to them.
[11:49] "Hella good" by Gwen Stefani pumps as three players are put through their paces.
[11:50] This makes Just Dance look crude and simplistic.
[11:50] Phil Spencer back on stage now.
[11:51] Kinect will launch worldwide this holiday, hitting North America on November 4.
[11:52] Spencer announces that LucasArts has struck a deal to make a Kinect-exclusive Star Wars game.
[11:52] A gameplay trailer unspools which supposedly shows real time movement. A Jedi fights through a series of battledroids to face Darth Vader.
[11:53] Coming 2011.
[11:53] Turn 10's Dan Greenwalt takes the stage now to show off a Forza game which will support Kinect.
[11:54] A Ferrari takes a few laps while being controlled by an imaginary steering wheel.
[11:55] The graphics are slick, the motion is fluid.
[11:56] Car fetishists will be please to know the game will let players inspect in-game cars as they would a real car. A demonstrator walks around a Ferarri, and the angle moves with him.
[11:56] He opens the hood, inspects the brakes, and then gets into the car and inspects the dials.
[11:56] It's coming 2011--no official title yet.
[11:57] Don Mattrick is back to talk about the 10th anniversary of the Xbox 360 will be the biggest year for the Xbox 360.
[11:57] He talks up interactive entertainment, talks Xbox Live, and Kinect--hitting all the bases.
[11:59] "A brand new era for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live"
[11:59] He picks the white console to reveal the Xbox 360 Slim.
[11:59] It's got built in N wireless WiFi, 250GB hard drive.
[12:00] And it ships to retailers today, maintaining the $299 price tag.
[UPDATE] Microsoft has since confirmed that the Xbox 360 Slim will be available in Europe starting July 16.
[12:00] And--wow, everyone in the audience gets a free 360 Slim.
[12:00] The crowd goes BERSERK.
[12:00] New Xbox 360 will be whisper-quiet.
[12:00] And that's it!
[UPDATE 2] Following Microsoft's media briefing today, the publisher offered a handful of new details on the now-shipping Xbox 360 Slim. The 250GB, $299 console will feature a Kinect port built into the back. The rear of the console will also play home to three USB ports, with an additional two connectors in the front. Microsoft also noted that the 360 Slim will benefit from a 45nm chip set and be backward compatible with all previously released peripherals.
One detail Microsoft has yet to announce is pricing information. However, specialty retailer GameStop is currently listing a Kinect stand-alone unit with a $149.99 price tag. GameStop is also listing a $399 Kinect Elite Bundle, which presumably comes with either an Xbox 360 Elite or Xbox 360 Slim, as well as a $299 Kinect Arcade Bundle.