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News from E3: Gaming Convention Recap Part 2 of 2

e3 part 2Yesterday, in Part 1 of Metue coverage of the E3 gaming convention we highlighted some of the new products and software revealed by Nintendo, Sony, Harmonix, Atari and Disney.  Here, in Part 2, are summaries of what’s in the works at Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Konami, Take Two and Activision Blizzard.

Unlike in recent years when hardware was center stage, this year’s convention seems to be focused largely on two themes: networking entertainment and the software pipeline.  Microsoft’s collected press announcements and product demonstrations largely fit that bill.

On the networking entertainment front, Microsoft made three large announcements.  First, they revealed a newly designed interface for their Xbox Live networked community.   Second, the company fortified the service’s connected entertainment offerings with announcements that they’ve signed content partnership deals with Universal and NBC for North America and with MGM International and Constantine for Europe.    Lastly, as previously reported on Metue, Microsoft announced a deal to bring Netflix “Watch Now” on demand movie streams to the community too.

In hardware, Microsoft opened E3 with announcements that they will apply a $50 discount to existing store inventories of the 20GB Xbox 360 Premium. The limited sale pricing is aimed at reducing supply to make way for a new 60GB model.  The 60GB sku will be priced at $350 and replace the prior model.

In software, it was all about sequels, mostly from 3rd party publishers.   Leading the way, Microsoft will get an early head start, and limited initial exclusivity, on the sale of Rock Band 2 in September.  (Versions for other consoles will debut a few months later).   Xbox exclusive, Fable 2, will ship in October, Gears of War 2 will ship in November and Resident Evil 5 will debut in March. 

Other sequels: Guitar Hero’s next installment for the Xbox 360 will feature 85 songs including new REM tracks and exclusives from Van Halen and the Eagles.   Also, in a surprising twist, publisher Square Enix, historically an exclusive partner of Sony’s, will release the next installment of their popular Final Fantasy title on the Xbox as well as the PS3. 

Missing from the Microsoft news was anything about new products from former Microsoft subsidiary Bungie, the makers of the blockbuster game series, Halo.  Reportedly, the absence was intentional resulting from internal decisions on the part of Microsoft to save the news for another day when it could have more marketing impact.

EA’s news followed some of the same networked software themes that echoed around the conference.   In one initiative, the publisher revealed an online service, called Nucleus, that is designed to let game players “carry” their profiles and ID’s with them across games and platforms.  Supporting that EA also elaborated on their purchase of gaming Social Network software maker Rupture. In another direction EA showcased a dynamic gaming system called Dynamic DNA that brings real time, real world, athlete performance data into the game play for NBA Live 2009.  (More on Dynamic Gaming from Metue Here).

From the pipeline: NBA Live will ship October 7 and a new Sims Animal series will ship for the Wii and DS in January 2009.

While the newly minted company chose not to participate in the trade show, they did take advantage of the gathered media to reveal their game release schedule for the Fall 2008 period.  Upcoming:

•Call of Duty World at War (Xbox 360, PC PS3, PS2, DS and Wii)
•Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades (DS)
•Guitar Hero World Tour (Xbox 360, PS2, PS3, Wii)
•Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors (Wii and DS)
•Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PS2, PC)
•Quantum of Solace (Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii, DS, PC)
•Spider Man: Web of Shadows (Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS, PC)

Take Two’s press conference was invitation only. Those who got in reported the exclusivity didn’t hide any unusual announcements.   Behind the closed doors, Take Two’s presentation was more focused on the company’s achievements in the past year and the company’s promise into the future – perhaps allusions to the still ongoing EA takeover offer – then on new news.

From the pipeline, the company did walk through upcoming titles including sports titles from 2k Games and a preview of first person shooter Borderlands.   No new information was provided on the Nintendo DS version of Grand Theft Auto.   

While Konami pioneered the music and rhythm game categories with early arcade games predating Guitar Hero and Rock Band by years, there was little in the way of pioneering or surprising news set out by the developer for E3.   Konami’s news was relatively light and mostly aimed at marketing existing, previously announced (or widely expected) titles. 

In the music segment, Konami pushed upcoming game “Rock Revolution,” an apparent remake of the company’s early “Guitar Freaks” title.   The game was announced in May and will compete head to head with Rock Band and Guitar Hero on release.  (Note: Konami is currently suing Harmonix for patent infringement relating to the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises and  U.S. Patent #6,390,923.  Konami and Harmonix had worked together amicably in the past. Viacom owned Harmonix developed five versions of Konami’s "Karaoke Revolution" series between 2003 and 2006.  The first "Guitar Hero" model Harmonixed developed was released in 2005.)

Other Konami titles: Silent Hill Homecoming, Lost in Blue: Shipwrecked for the Wii, two Castlevania titles, three Dance Dance Revolution rhythm games and a Karaoke title tied to the American Idol brand.


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