Microsoft Corp. has opened the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with a Xbox 360 briefing that introduced ten exclusive new games, change the way TV is offered on consoles, and making it easier than ever to connect to friends.
“Today with cultural visionaries at our side and controller-free gaming on our horizon, Xbox 360 authored a new page in home entertainment history,” said Don Mattrick, senior vice president for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “For us, this E3 is about breaking down barriers — between generations, between games and entertainment, and most important, between video game players and everyone else — in a way that only Xbox 360 can.”
Unveiled for the first time to the public was “Project Natal,” pronounced “nuh-tall” and a code name for a new way to play, no controller required.
Compatible with any Xbox 360 system, the “Project Natal” sensor combines an RGB camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone and custom processor running proprietary software all in one device. Unlike 2-D cameras and controllers, “Project Natal” tracks your full body movement in 3-D, while responding to commands, directions and even a shift of emotion in your voice.
In addition, unlike other devices, the “Project Natal” sensor is not light-dependent. It can recognize you just by looking at your face, and it doesn’t just react to key words but understands what you’re saying. Call a play in a football game, and players will actually respond. Want to log onto Xbox LIVE? Simply step in front of the sensor.
Xbox LIVE announced that Facebook and Last.fm would be tailor-made for TV, through Xbox 360. Microsoft also announced Xbox LIVE Party for movies, which allows movie experiences to be shared — on the couch or across the country over Xbox LIVE in supported movies.
“We are always asking ourselves how to make the TV more social,” said John Schappert, corporate vice president of Interactive Entertainment LIVE, Software and Studios at Microsoft. “By bringing Facebook, Last.fm and Xbox LIVE Party for movies and TV shows to Xbox LIVE, we’re not only extending the walls of your living room beyond your home to your friends in different corners of the world, we’re creating the definitive social network, uniting more than 200 million people to share status updates, pictures, thoughts on music and the world’s best online gaming experience.”
A first for TV, Last.fm, part of the CBS Interactive Music Group, will give Xbox LIVE subscribers access to millions of songs streaming through Xbox 360.
Another addition to the entertainment unit is the announced instant-on 1080p movies and TV with 5.1 surround sound — direct to consoles connected to compatible HD TVs through the Xbox LIVE social entertainment network.
Starting this fall in the U.S., a broad selection of movies and TV shows from Zune video on Xbox 360 will be available to start and stream instantly, in the highest video quality and at the push of a button. This means no discs, no waiting for downloads and no delays.
In addition, Microsoft announced it will more than double the number of markets where Xbox LIVE offers its TV shows and movies, growing from eight to 18, by adding Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Xbox LIVE members in these markets will have access to instant on 1080p video.
New Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace advancements also came for the U.S., U.K.and Ireland, specifically:
• More choices with Netflix. Watch movies instantly streamed from Netflix.3 Browse and add selections to your instant Queue — right on your TV with your Xbox 360. Plus now with Xbox LIVE Party, you can watch and share supported movies with up to seven friends on Xbox LIVE. Debating between comedy and horror? Recommend your favorites to friends and see your virtual you as an avatar on the silver screen.
• Live TV with BSkyB Ltd. The Xbox LIVE commitment to providing the best global entertainment gains momentum with its newest partner, Sky. Now, for the first time, watch live or on-demand TV from Sky on Xbox 360, including Sky Sports. Never miss a moment of your favorite live TV shows, sports, movies and family-friendly entertainment across the U.K. and Ireland on Xbox LIVE. You can even share your favorites with up to seven friends in an Xbox LIVE Party.