E3 2009: Microsoft Announces New Games, Project Natal, More – Part 2

e3_logo_mediumContinuing on with Microsoft’s Press Conference from today. If you recall, Part One focused on the games announced and now, Part Two will focus mostly on the XBox 360 console itself and the amazing announcement of “Project Natal” and the AI known as Milo.

In the years since the XBox 360 was released, Microsoft has done whatever they could to make their console the essential entertainment centerpiece of your home — and this time around that trend continues. They lead the charge with streaming music coming to the console with a partnership with last.fm, which will give XBox Live Gold members free access to the service featuring millions of songs.

Netflix service will also be getting upgraded soon as users won’t need to even use their PC anymore to stream video to their XBox 360 console. Instead, they will be able to browse the entire library of “Watch Instantly” movies from the Dashboard and watch them on the spot. Additionally, many people outside of the US have not had access to this service. That will change as the UK which will feature live television with both cricket and football.

The Video Marketplace will be changing it up some as well as Microsoft expands it to the Zune Video Store. From there, users will have access to “Instant On 1080p HD” video for movies and television. No downloading will be required for even the true high definition video experience. The Zune Video Store will go from being available in 18 countries, more than doubling its previous reach of only 8. To further the community aspect of the XBox online community, all these video and music services can be viewed together with friends over Live in a lobby-like feature called “Live Party.”

Expanding in to the world of social networking, Microsoft has partnered with both Facebook and Twitter. Allowing profile, picture and status viewing right on the XBox 360, XBox Live users can link to their own profile and friends allowing for true connectivity between the three services. With Facebook Connect, players will be able to take screen shots from their games and upload them right to their Facebook profile. The first example of this will come from a future Tiger Woods title. Along with that, Twitter will be viewable and updateable right from the XBox 360 Dashboard.

Up next came Xbox Sr. VP Don Mattrick who introduced the infamous Hideo Kojima. As soon as he came out, the tension in the room was palpable as everyone knew what it must mean. The Metal Gear Solid franchise is no longer a Sony exclusive and it is coming to the XBox 360. Their next major release, Metal Gear Solid Rising is coming to the platform. Instead of starring Solid Snake, Kojima revealed that the game would instead star Raiden. Mattrick thanked Kojima saying that now with Metal Gear Solid being available on the XBox 360, the XBox platform could now “call itself complete.”

If that wasn’t enough, the biggest announcement came with the unveiling of Project Natal. Mattrick said that the biggest obstacle for anyone getting into gaming is the use of a controller so they decided that the only perfect controller could be a person’s own body. Natal features full body three dimensional motion capture, facial recognition and voice recognition. Natal will work on all current and future XBox 360 consoles with just the addition of a new piece of hardware and software.

Steven Spielberg came out to endorse the product before Kudo Tsunoda came out to show off the facial recognition and body motion capture just on the dashboard. Ideally, the system would log you in to your XBox profile just off the facial recognition software. The user could also navigate through the dashboard with no controller at all. A few demos were shown in a promotional video including racing, fighting and skateboarding.

They then showed off two tech demo games, Ricochet and Paint Party. Ricochet took full advantage of the 3D motion sensing as the player can use their entire body to hit a ball back and forth against a wall, similar to handball, to knock out bricks on the opposing wall. The game is wild and frantic as multi-ball bonuses have the player swinging their arms and legs to hit the onslaught of balls flying at them. Paint Party was a free form painting program with no need for brushes as the “artist” flung different amounts of paint using either one or two hands at different speeds to create the desired masterpiece. Kudo made sure to point out that every motion was taken in and not just a pre-programmed “waggle” function, taking a hit at Nintendo Wii.

The final project announced in conjunction with Natal was the rumored Peter Molineux announcement from his team at Lionhead Studios. Words can’t do this demo justice as Peter and his team created a young boy name Milo that could hold a conversation with the player, responding to the emotion in a person’s voice and face. Molineux declared that we have finally reached a point that we are creating things that Sci-Fi writers haven’t even imagined.

The player was given full interaction with Milo’s environment including reaching out and touching things or catching objects thrown by Milo. Another amazing feature came when the player drew a picture, put it in front of the sensor and Milo was holding it moments later in the game world.

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This year’s E3 is already in high gear with major announcements before the show floor has even opened. As more news becomes available, The Flickcast will have it covered.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for more news as E3 “officially” kicks off.

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