E3 2009: Microsoft Impressions

The “return” of E3 definitely kicked off with a bang on Monday, when Microsoft rolled out a press conference for the ages. Among the new services and hardware, I’m particularly excited about:

  • Project Natal: The motion based input device was inevitable, and the camera based system that Natal offers is an intriguing one. I’d have to see more to convince me that it’s more than the Vision or EyeToy with tweaked software, but it’s a strong initial step to rival Nintendo’s current stranglehold on games with intuitive input. I bet the Tony Hawk: Ride team were less than thrilled…
  • Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm Integration: Microsoft made a huge step towards establishing the Xbox 360 as the primary interactive entertainment system for the family. Integrating the Xbox Live platform with social networking leader Facebook (which it owns a piece of), microblogging leader Twitter and music tracking/recommendation service Last.fm are strong pieces on top of the existing Netflix video and IGN content distribution deals.
  • 1080p Streaming Video: A strong indicator that a partnership with Hulu, CBS.com or other high definition on-demand content provider for television is in the works. Fits in really well with the 360 broadcast media strategy, especially with the IPTV push seemingly on hold.
  • Full 360 Game Downloads: I don’t see the value propositions as a consumer when retail stores mark down titles so quickly these days, but this is the boldest move by a console to bypass the brick and mortar vendors entirely.

Oh yeah, and games:

  • Modern Warfare 2: The undisputed king this holiday season, it’s going to run roughshod over every other shooter on the market when it comes out. Looks like a lot more vehicles!
  • Beatles Rock Band: With the surviving Beatles on stage! It’s surprised me that there hasn’t been more buzz about this title, a huge catalog release of the best selling band of all time is definitely the strongest play that Harmonix could make in their heated competition with the Activision/RedOctane crew. Slick art style, I’m excited to add this to my rapidly expanding Rock Band library.
  • Metal Gear Solid Rising: With Raiden…? Still, another previously exclusive franchise making the leap from the PS3 to the 360 is big news.
  • Halo Reach: We’re definitely heading towards a Halo title every year. The teaser didn’t reveal much at all but I’m piqued.
  • Crackdown 2: More super powers in a sandbox! The original was a wild experience, I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ll get to roll through crime syndicates again with 4-player co-op and 16-player online combat this time around.

There were a ton of other announcements such as Forza Motorsport 3 and more info on Alan Wake, but the above stood out to me. Microsoft set the standard for E3 2009 with a comprehensive hardware, software and services presentation that (pardon the pun) establishes a real 360 degree strategy for the coming year.

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