The Last Word: September 25-29

Microsoft drops a slew of announcements at X06 conference; acquisitions abound as the third quarter of the year comes to a close.

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Xbox 360 fans may have felt a bit starved for news over the last couple weeks. The headlines of late have been dominated by Nintendo's Wii launch plans and the 2006 Tokyo Game Show, where Microsoft's presence wasn't really felt outside of a somewhat low-key preshow press conference.

That changed this week with Microsoft's Wednesday media briefing for its X06 event in Barcelona, Spain. The publisher promised some big announcements at the show, and relatively few argued that it didn't deliver those.

Microsoft announced that Age of Empires developer Ensemble Studios is working on Halo Wars, a real-time strategy game set in the Master Chief's universe. Grand Theft Auto IV will have two downloadable expansion packs, each about the size of the PlayStation Portable Liberty City Stories spin-off, and both exclusive to the Xbox 360. Both BioShock and the follow-up to Splinter Cell: Double Agent will be exclusive to the PC and Xbox 360.

Cryptic Studios, the City of Heroes developer and one-time target of a lawsuit from Marvel Comics, will be developing the Xbox 360-exclusive Marvel Universe Online. Bizarre Creations is working on Project Gotham Racing 4 for the system. The 360 HD-DVD drive will arrive in US stores in mid-November with a $199.99 price tag and will come packed with a remote and HD-DVD version of Peter Jackson's big-budget remake of King Kong.

The X-Plorer controller.
The X-Plorer controller.

Speaking of Jackson, the director appeared at the media briefing to announce a pair of new projects he's working on with Microsoft. Both were described as something between a movie and a game, but not really falling into either category. (Jackson went on to discuss his approach to games in a roundtable the following day.) One will be set in the Halo universe, while the other will tell the original story from Jackson and collaborator Fran Walsh. Shortly after the briefing, Activision confirmed that it was bringing Guitar Hero II to the Xbox 360 with a new X-Plorer guitar, but it wouldn't say when the game would be available.

Fortunately, the remaining 167 hours of the week weren't that packed with news. However, there were still some stories that shouldn't be overlooked. Miami lawyer Jack Thompson is continuing his fight against Take-Two Interactive, this time aiding in a lawsuit brought against the publisher by relatives of three people slain in New Mexico in 2004. Cody Posey, 14 years old at the time of the killings, was found guilty of killing his father, stepmother, and stepsister. In his trial, Posey said he had suffered years of physical abuse at the hands of his father. Posey's relatives are claiming that Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City trained him how to kill. Meanwhile, Vice City creator Rockstar Games announced that it would be publishing the debut title from Team Bondi, L.A. Noire for the PlayStation 3.

Thursday saw a slew of acquisitions, as Hewlett-Packard announced that it was picking up Voodoo PC (similar to how HP competitor Dell snagged Voodoo PC competitor Alienware earlier this year), Vivendi Games bought Secret Lair and Ch'in studios to make Xbox Live Arcade games, and Disney-owned Buena Vista Games brought Climax Racing into the fold.

The Climax acquisition casts doubt on the future of one of its franchises, the MotoGP series, as publisher THQ said it will reevaluate its use of the brand after next year. Sony's ATV Offroad Fury games are also developed by Climax, but Sony has yet to publicly state how the acquisition will affect its plans.

MONDAY
Nintendo: 1 million Wiis for NA launch
GTA blamed in court case...again
Rockstar gets L.A. Noire
Retail Radar: Guitar Hero going wireless, Platypus PSP, budget imports
Game vets found Trion World Network

TUESDAY
PS3 games priced at $59.99
Square Enix wants a three-way race
Analyst: Industry to hit $44 billion by 2011
Wii browser free for now
Lego SW demo leads XBL content

WEDNESDAY
X06: Halo Wars revealed at Microsoft briefing
X06: Guitar Hero II rockin' 360s
Sierra crashes Xbox Live Arcade
Q&A: Decrypting the Marvel 360 MMOG deal
Oblivion confirmed for PS3, PSP

THURSDAY
HP casting spell over Voodoo PC
Vivendi gets Secret Lair, adds Ch'in
Buena Vista Games to acquire Climax Racing
THQ's MotoGP spinning its wheels
DFC: Next-gen war potentially win-win-win

FRIDAY
Kutaragi on 360, Wii: "We don't care"
Zune to use Microsoft Points
Feds target gaming (again)
Gears of War gets a Match Made in Hell
ATI speeds to the front lines of health

RELEASES
Shippin' Out 9/25-9/29: NBA trifecta, Just Cause, Valkyrie Profile 2

CHARTS
UK game charts: September 17-23
US PC game charts: September 10-16
Oz game charts: Sept. 11-17
Aussie game charts: Sept 18-24

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