Monday, June 1, 2009

Microsoft E3 PR Roundup was Microsoft's E3 Press Conference, and while we were not on-hand at the PR, we will give you guys a gigantic cluster of new features and stuff for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live.

Xbox 360 gettign full retail games delivered on demand

Starting August 30, Xbox users can access full on-demand games, with pricing to match retail. Purchases will be made using a credit card, not using the Microsoft Points.

Project Natal

Microsoft confirmed "Project Natal", which involves a motion sensing camera. At E3 today, Microsoft finally took the wraps off the that rumored motion controller we'd been hearing about. Apparently the small, black device -- codenamed "Natal" -- will allow for an astoundingly wide range of actions by utilizing a group of sensors (the box itself sits beneath your TV), and the accessory will be capable of juggling multiple users during a single session. The demo Microsoft showed off included a skateboarding game (replete with a young man "air" ollie-ing), and a family playing a racing game (the dad was changing a tire, the daughter driving).

The add-on will offer features such as auto sign-in for players to Xbox Live (based on complex facial recognition), and sports extremely detailed body tracking which will be able to follow the individual movements of separate limbs. During the press event, the company demoed a painting app, which lets you use your entire body to handle virtual painting supplies, allowing you to do things like throw buckets of paint onto a canvas. Another title was shown off which featured a woman interacting with a young boy on the screen -- one of the company's creepier demos in recent memory. Unfortunately for us, Microsoft says the device won't be released during 2009.

Zune Branded 1080p Streaming, Twitter, Facebook, and More...

Microsoft is busy announcing a slew of upgrades to Xbox Live, and the biggest news so far is relaunch of the video service, now Zune-branded with 1080p instant-on streaming content in 18 countries. XBL is also now integrated with Facebook -- your Facebook account can be linked to your Gamertag, and games will support Facebook Connect for sharing content online. That's pretty huge -- but if that wasn't enough, you're also getting Twitter and in the deal. Want more? Netflix users will now be able to browse the entire catalog instead of simply loading their queue, and Microsoft has also gotten its Party Watch system in order, so you'll be able to heckle videos with your online friends. Last but not least, there's now live TV streaming for UK and Ireland gamers, who'll get Premier League soccer live from Sky. All in all, a solid set of updates for XBL -- but we'll wait and see how that "1080p" video looks before we pronouce Blu-ray dead. PR blurb after the break.

Today from the E3 stage in Los Angeles, Microsoft announced plans to dramatically improve their HD video offering through a new technology that enables instant on 1080p streaming with 5.1 audio with Zune video on Xbox 360.

This implementation is as close to a "disc in the drive" experience as possible over the Internet. At a high-level, here is how it works:
Video startup is nearly instantaneous because of the back-end proprietary Microsoft technology developed by Zune that seamlessly transitions between many different bitrates and resolutions of video.
Video playback will start at a low bitrate for fast download time and then ramp up to a higher bitrate and quality, up to 1080p with 5.1 audio.
Features such as smooth fast forward and rewind that users have only seen before with local physical media.
It doesn't stop there. Other news coming out of E3 for Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace:
Social: We unveiled Movie Party, a feature where you can go to the movies with your friends whether you are sitting on the same couch or in living rooms across the country. Starting this year, you can share a virtual theater, see your Avatars (a virtual you) on the screen – all while you listen to each other laugh and cry together at the movie through voice chat on Xbox LIVE.
New Regional Partners: Now, for the first time Xbox LIVE members in the UK and Ireland can watch live or on-demand TV with BSkyB on Xbox. Never miss a moment of your favorite live TV shows, sports, movies and family-friendly entertainment – even share your favorites with up to seven friends in an Xbox LIVE Party.
Global Expansion: The 1080p streaming HD Zune video experience on Xbox LIVE marketplace is expanding to 10 new regions this year, making movies and TV shows available in 18 total countries including US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Australia, and New Zealand. (Note: content and partners vary by region)

Also, 360 is getting Metal Gear Solid: Rising, a game with a "new experience" and feel. No further details yet.