Microsoft kicked off its annual E3 video game conference by announcing that Xbox 360 has gone from the best-selling console in North America to top-ranked worldwide. To build on that momentum, the company used its E3 press conference to announce a flood of new games and entertainment options for the 360. From SmartGlass and Kinect integration to streaming sports, here are some of the most prominent highlights from Microsoft at E3:
Kinect for Madden and FIFA
Microsoft demonstrated Kinect integration for both Madden 13 and FIFA 13. For the soccer title, you'll be able to make substitutions or change tactics with voice control on Kinect without having to use the menus. In "Be a Pro" mode, you can call out to your teammates for the ball and even interact with the refs. Just watch your language or risk a yellow card.
EA Sports brought out Joe Montana to demo Kinect integration for Madden. The Hall of Fame QB controlled audibles and hot routes with his voice while using a standard Xbox controller for gameplay. The slight delay between the word "hike" and the actual snap of the ball seemed worrisome, but EA should be able to work out the kinks before Madden 13 drops in late August.
New Microsoft Games
Microsoft kicked off their show with Halo 4, including a video that mixed real-life graphics with special effects and the return of Master Chief. Also debuting: Gears of War Judgment, a nice surprise for 360 gamers, since Gears 3 came out only last year; and Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the latest Tom Clancy spy-thriller game. Building on the good buzz from Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the new Clancy game finds Sam Fisher on the Iraq/Iran border and delivers more true-to-life plotlines within its trademark stealth missions. Microsoft also showcased Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, a title that will be available on PS3 as well.
NBA TV, MLB TV, Nike and More
In addition to the gaming titles, Microsoft introduced plenty of new entertainment options, including some from new providers like Nickelodeon, Paramount, Machinima and Univision. Also announced: MS partnerships with NBA TV and NHL TV, but these will require subscriptions. One great detail for NHL TV is the option to choose home or away audio broadcasts. There's nothing worse than streaming a game from your favorite team and having to listen to the other team's announcers.
Finally, Microsoft will feature ESPN 24/7 through the Watch ESPN app, with programming from ESPN, ESPN 2 and ESPN U. In the future, Nike Plus will also be integrated via the Kinect, offering real-time feedback for athletes and the ability to work out with others over Xbox Live.
This could be the biggest game-changer of all. SmartGlass facilitates the integration of multiple electronic devices, offering gamers the chance to use both smart phones and tablets to consume entertainment. You'll be able to start a movie on your tablet then pick it up on your home TV while your tablet offers up info on the movie in real time. A new buzzword: "multi-screen entertainment." It's easy to see a future in which you watch a game on TV, get info on your tablet and control both screens with your smart phone. Plus, Microsoft (finally) announced the inclusion of a browser, and Internet Explorer will be featured on the Xbox 360 in the near future.
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