Saturday, June 05, 2010

Editorial: E3 Predictions Part 3: Microsoft

Microsoft has always been able to entertain a crowd and blow people's expectations, including my own. Even in 2007 when 99% of their press conference's focus was on the holiday season, Microsoft knew how to make a great showcase and impress with games that have been already revealed. Last year, Microsoft unveiled what they see as a game changer and that is what is known as Project Natal. One final time this year I will say that none of my predictions reflect the predictions of other GamersCast Podcast staff members and I will be only focusing on first party titles.

This year, Microsoft will have two events. The first is a party showcasing titles for Project Natal. I believe that Project Natal's actual name will be revealed at the party and more than 75% of Natal games that will be at E3 will be not just revealed for the first time, but they will also be playable.

Less than 24 hours after this party, Microsoft will hold its annual E3 press conference. Microsoft will really have four pinacle moments in its conference, each of which revolving around its biggest software and hardware.

Bungie will most likely demo a portion of the single player in Halo Reach on stage. Halo Reach is Microsoft's biggest title this year and that most likely will not be changing. Halo Reach will release on September 14 and more information on the game will obviously be revealed at E3. The multiplayer beta gave us a small taste of the multiplayer so that has to mean single player will get the spotlight.

The second pinacle moment will be a demo of Gears of War 3. There is not much known about the game and seeing a demo will reveal new features. As one of the most highly anticipated titles for 2011, Microsoft will want to start to build hype for the game as often as it can and showing it at their E3 press conference will generate an amazing amount of hype if the demo exceeds people's expectations.

The third pinacle moment will be this year's Xbox Live update. Ever since the introduction of the New Xbox Experience in 2008, Microsoft has really pushed to make Xbox 360 an amazing entertainment platform. With the introduction of services like Netflix,, and the Zune Marketplace, there is no doubt in my mind that another media service will come to Xbox Live. Many analysts have pointed to Hulu being a big part of the update. Most likely, Hulu on Xbox Live will cost a fee since the website is experimenting with paid services but I am sure many people would pay the small fees to catch up on their favorite TV shows in HD. Other than Hulu, I cannot really think of any other media services the Xbox 360 could use. The ability to stream web videos from sites like YouTube in HD would be a great feature that would instantly become popular. The one thing that I have to expect from this year's update is compatibility with Project Natal within the Xbox 360 dashboard. This has been shown off last year and it probably means the new dashboard update will launch alongside Project Natal.

The fourth and most obvious pinacle moment in the press conference will be Project Natal. Microsoft will be showcasing Project Natal at an event before the press conference but I am sure there will be some surprises in store. The release date and price of Project Natal will most likely be revealed at the press conference as well as demos of new games and software from the accessory. I believe Microsoft will need to bundle software with Project Natal like the rest of their competition is doing. Hopefully it will be a compilation of simple games like Ricochet and Paint Party. I believe simple tech demos like this make a great pack in because it shows the consumer the many different ways they can use the device. Project Natal can really succeed but its rumored price of $150 could stop Natal from reaching its full potential. Additionally, Microsoft should bundle Project Natal with every new Xbox 360 so that Natal games can eventually have that large audience it needs. This may mean in increase in the price of Xbox 360 consoles but I am sure most consumers will not mind since Project Natal could be the reason the system is being purchased. Project Natal has a lot of potential but some key factors such as price and software can make all the difference. I am also betting that Microsoft will put the spotlight on Project Natal games from 3rd party companies. It only makes sense since that is where most of the games will come from.

Microsoft is sure to impress. They have the first E3 press conference and I think they are gonna set the bar high for Nintendo and Sony. The whole point of the E3 press conference is to impress. Each major console manufacturer has 1.5-2 hours of individualized attention. Everyone's eyes will be on them. What each company needs to do is impress its audience with great content. That is what companies like Microsoft have done in the past and will continue to do. June 14 is when Microsoft's press conference will be followed by Nintendo and Sony's on June 15. Third party companies such as EA, Ubisoft, Konami, and many more will also have their own press conferences throughout the week so stay tuned starting on June 14 for the latest news coming from the largest gaming expo in the world.

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