Xbox Kicks Off E3 With A Stunner

Ex Beatles and Steven Spielberg jazz up Microsoft E3 press conference

by Eliot Fish in LA

Microsoft Xbox has got the 2009 E3 Expo underway with an Xbox media briefing of knockout proportions. Without drifting into too much hyperbole, this was a genuinely superb press event that will surely have left Nintendo and Sony executives quivering in their boots before their own respective media briefings tomorrow.

The event blasted into action with a look at The Beatles Rock Band and head-spinning appearances from Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, as well as Olivia and Dhani Harrison (son of the late Beatles guitarist George Harrison), all jumping on stage to greet the buzzing room.

Microsoft didn’t let anyone down, bringing out Hollywood film god Steven Spielberg to enthuse about another stunning Xbox announcement: an upcoming camera add-on for the Xbox 360, code-named “Project Natal”; a device that trumps Nintendo’s Wii waggle with full-body motion detection, face and voice recognition – and no controller required.

As expected, Konami’s Hideo Kojima also took to the stage (in fact, he sneaked up behind Don Mattrick, the Senior Vice President of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment division, a la Solid Snake, to everyone’s amusement) to announce that Metal Gear Solid Rising, a brand new game in the series, would be coming to the Xbox 360. A voice-over teased “Raiden is back”, putting to rest any speculation over the lead character, although no footage from the game was shown.

But let’s not forget some of the other big games that also had the crowd cheering: Modern Warfare 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Crackdown 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Splinter Cell Conviction, Forza Motorsport 3, Halo ODST, Alan Wake and the newly announced (teased) Halo Reach.

The social networking craze will also hit the Xbox Live service, with Facebook and Twitter becoming part of the dashboard. Meanwhile, movie lovers will be pleased to know that the new Zune Video service is coming to Australia. The service will allow users to stream the latest HD film and TV releases direct to their 360 in full 1080p with 5.1 sound – although the caveat is that an 8-megabit connection will be required for the full HD experience (the service will scale to suit your connection speed). And yet there’s more. Xbox has also done a deal with Last.FM to provide Xbox Live Gold members with free radio streaming later in the year.

This was an E3 media briefing that will be very tough to beat. Let’s hope Nintendo and Sony have something up their sleeves – because they’re really gonna need it.