E3 - What Microsoft did wrong

Microsoft has kicked off E3 2007 for all intents and purposes with its pre-show press conference. The company is basically setting the standard for the show's new format with this presser at the Santa Monica High School Auditorium. On one hand, the lay of the land at the conference was the standard Microsoft glitz, but on the other, it was at a freaking high school.

Here's some perspective. In years past, Microsoft has put on shows in Los Angeles' biggest ampitheaters. This year, we passed by the place this morning while the summer-school delinquents loitered. Eight hours later, one of the biggest gaming companies is holding its biggest event of the year. Things have changed, alright.

Things kicked off, appropriately, with a high-school garage band playing the Halo theme. It was ably done, with segued nicely into Peter Moore utterly failing at Rock Band. Quite an odd choice of music, too, using "Main Offender" from summer 2000's hottest band, The Hives. Isn't using an obscure song from a one-hit-wonder of a band kind of a bad omen?

Before going on a customary stat-brag session, Moore announced a new Viva Pinata title, which eschews the animal-raising sim elements, instead focusing on the minigames-a-plenty format. No one's been able to out-Ware Wario, so the folks at Rare've got plenty of work ahead of them.

After that, Microsoft was nice enough to provide us with a smoke break, as the company pulled out its ledgers and dictated boring sales statistics before Moore gave the stage to Jeff Bell, the Corporate Vice President of Global Marketing. I don't believe Bell's been on stage hyping the Xbox--someone's gotta be the new J Allard--and his first task, to make Madden NFL 08 exciting, was a doozy. Bringing out Reggie Bush really didn't help matters, as the game looks like the same old pigskin, quite frankly.

Bell moved onto some slightly smaller titles coming to Xbox Live Arcade, with some impressive titles coming down the pike. Marathon 2? I'm intruiged. And you better believe I'll be doubling my Xbox Live fun this week with Sonic AND Golden Axe... provided they're 400 points.

Bell's next order of business was to hype the upcoming Video Marketplace wares. Ok, Disney is a pretty big feather in the company's cap, but the montage of new movies coming out soon were pretty pathetic. Coyote Ugly? Bringing Down the House? Hercules? Is this a premium media download service or the Starz channel?

Shane Kim came out with a doozy of a demo, showing off Project Gotham Racing 4 and the game's new motorcycle element. Nice, but I want to see them crash and cyclists flung into dividers. That's just the kinda guy I am, I guess. Kim moved onto cursory mentions of some of the more far-off titles, before showing a trailer for Mistwalker's Lost Odyssey. This game geniunely looks like it may be the best Japanese RPG on an Xbox platform since that one other game that came out that one time.

Up next, Kim touted the Games for Windows initiative, with the program's big gun, Gears of War, due this fall. While all of the new content is nice, if the game's Vista-only and without the ability to play against 360 gamers, count me, and a majority of the PC gaming audience out. There's only one game that can properly push Games for Windows, and it's out on the 360 next month.

Finally, Moore re-emerged with the beefy bit of this conference, bringing out Call of Duty 4. The move away from WW2 was a wise one, as this game looks relatively interesting. GRAW has already done modern combat right, but COD4 looks like it can challenge it for the military action crown. Infinium Ward took a page from Bungie's playbook by announcing an online multiplayer beta. Smart move, guys. I probably wouldn't have given the game a second look, but now I'll be frantically refreshing the game's site for the next few weeks.

Up next was the same trailer for GTA IV we've drooled over for weeks, followed by a completely sweet, completely new, and completely vague Resident Evil 5 trailer. There's an extended version due on the Marketplace soon, which is mighty appetizing.

Jade Raymond and the team from Ubisoft then came out to hype up Assassin's Creed. The game? Impressive. The commentary? Bo-ring. Maybe it's because the game's stealth tactics don't lend themselves well to chatter, or maybe Jade was a bit under the weather, but the new footage left me underwhelmed.

Thankfully, my whelm was brought back up with the slew of Halo 3 info, including a live-action trailer, a new single-player trailer, and a priceless new special edition console. And by priceless, I mean no price provided. Whasupwitdat? What I do know is that there is yet another model of the system for launch adopters to be insanely jealous of.

Well, like the company's done in previous years, Microsoft has presented a middle-of-the-road press conference that serves as a lithmus test for the other two console manufacturers. A few nice announcements and decent demos, but nothing Earth-shattering. Just E3 business as usual. Good to see some things haven't changed.

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