Bits and pieces for 2008-11-19

  • Access your New Xbox Experience avatar
    While questions remain about Microsoft borrowing from Nintendo with regards Avatars, they have made their assets addressable which is a nice touch. Here’s me:

    Bowlage

    Can’t think what to do with him though…

  • Mirror’s Edge 2D (beta)
    Nice Flash version of the recent release from EA/DICE. Seems to be the tradition these day.

Microsoft’s surprisingly strong E3

In the lead up to this year’s E3, Microsoft were touting that their press conference would be “game changing“. While I it wasn’t up there with Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone, fanboys around the world would have been shocked when Square Enix announced Final Fantasy XIII for the Xbox 360.

The bulk of the presentation centred around the new Xbox Experience, integral to which is a complete dashboard overhaul. Microsoft have unsurprisingly chosen a different direction for the new dashboard interface to that proposed by the community but are clearly listening to Xbox Live’s now over 12 million members. Looking like a close relation of the Windows Media Centre dashboard, Microsoft do not hide the fact that the new Xbox 360 interface is aimed squarely at the living room family audience. The introduction of ‘avatars’ might be a natural extension of gamerpics but on the face of it look like Nintendo’s Miis with a few more polygons.

Identity and community have always been integral to the Xbox Live experience – something Microsoft has excelled at – and they are taking this further in the dashboard overhaul. An integrated 8-player party system means players can team up with their friends across games, media and chat. The idea of consuming media with your friends virtually is something many people have investigated (including me during my time at BBC R&D) and it will be interesting to see if the Xbox implemtation will work. I simply don’t use my 360 in that way so am skeptical at the moment but a cross-game party system should benefit casual and hardcore gamers alike.

It was a safe bet that Microsoft would continue to probe the newly expanded casual game market. Their challenge is making the Xbox 360 the platform of choice for everyone while keeping die-hard Halo fans happy. Not easy. But by stealing long-standing PlayStation exclusives from Sony, grabbing exclusive downloadable content from cross-platform titles and showing some awesome new Gears of War 2 footage, I think the Xbox’s core audience will see this as a strong showing too.

Time for Dashboard 2.0

I’m sure its obvious to most Xbox 360 owners that the dashboard (originally developed by AKQA) is in need of a comprehensive re-design. There is simply too much content in Marketplace for the current format to work and de-listing poorly selling Live Arcade titles won’t really help. Having not spent any time with Sony’s XMB interface in the PS3 I can’t say whether they’ve done a better job but their redesigned PlayStation Store certainly looks a lot more inviting than Xbox Live Marketplace.

The Fanboy's Dashbaord 2.0

The Fanboy‘s excellent take on what Dashboard 2.0 (or perhaps the ’2008 Fall Update’?) could look like is probably a step too far for Microsoft but then there are rumours they may be developing something even more ambitious. Roll on E3.

  • 1:46 pm, 22nd April 2008
  • xbox 360
  • 4 Comments

GTA IV / Xbox 360 TV Spot

The GTA IV hype machine continues to gear up for its release and Microsoft clearly want to make the most of what could be a USD400 million launch week. When the hype is this well produced keep it coming I say… but roll on Tuesday :)

Links and things

Radio and videogames: nobody does it like GTA

Check out some of the radio stations you’ll be listening to in Grand Theft Auto IV. I just hope they bring back petsovernight.com :-)

Roll on April 29th!

Links and things

  • Sony has introduced a new cut-price and cut-featured PS3
    And I thought Microsoft had confused the issue by selling Xbox 360′s with and without hard drives. The new 40GB PS3 will have limited connectivity and no backward compatibility and will sell for £300. I guess so long as the games play exactly the same it doesn’t matter..?
  • After raking in USD 300 Million from Halo 3, Bungie and Microsoft part ways
    Up until today Bungie studios was wholly-owned by Microsoft Game Studios but will now once more be independent. MGS owns the IP for the Halo franchise and Microsoft ‘will retain an equity interest in Bungie’ but the studio will be able to work on projects of their own choosing.
  • 2:41 am, 8th August 2007
  • xbox 360
  • No Comments

Links and things

Margaret Robertson, former editor of Edge magazine, gives a personal view of why she plays games
I’m not sure exaclty why I play video games. It could be because I find them a so engaging; I appreciate their technical accomplishment; I just love running round a fantasy world shooting zombies… or just because I can’t stop trying to raise my gamerscore

And then there were three

While I fight with the Blogger Beta to give me labels (I am a stickler for organised design), I should reflect on the launch of the PS3 and Wii (in North America and Japan at least) last week. I think the videogame-playing world needs a healthy fight between console manufacturers and games developers so we get the best entertainment. But when companies and publishers are having to gamble such huge sums of money in the process, it is no wonder why we will see another Need for Speed title next year. Microsoft lose around US$75 per Xbox 360 they ship and Sony lose upwards of US$250 for every PS3 sold. Apart from the subsidies found on new mobile phones, I can’t think of a market in which companies invest so much and are willing to take such a hit in order to invest in potential future profits. And while Sony and Microsoft continue their high technology mud-slinging, Nintendo have managed to enter the next generation with the most innovative offering, and one which the will actual make a profit on from day one. Is it possible Nintendo could pull off another DS v PSP victory over Sony? Somehow I doubt it, the PlayStation brand is simply too strong.

By complete coincidence (no, really) as the PS3 was waiting (for minutes at least) to be snapped up, Microsoft shipped its most AAA of AAA titles, Gears of War. At the end of day with any entertainment platform or service, content is king and Gears of War proves that it is the games that we should be excited about, not the badge on the front of the console. It is a truly remarkable experience and, as Gametrailers put it, a technical marvel. I hope Epic Games have room left to optimise their Unreal 3 engine because while they have set a new benchmark for the Xbox 360 and the consoles just entering the next generation, let’s hope they, or others, can push the boundaries further. Did someone say Halo 3…?

Numbers. numbers

I seem to have acquired an unhealthy infatuation with numbers. More specifically, numbers representing my experience in Xbox 360 gaming and the number of songs I’ve listened to and posted to Last.fm.

Sure, these numbers are simply a very quick representation of more significant information – which games I have played, to what level, how many people I’ve killed in multiplayer, my favourite albums, my favourite artist – but I find myself skewing the data they are attempting to represent by attempting to increase them.

Last FMLast.fm has a number of plug-ins and a more or less functional API which allows me to record my listening habits. Unfortunately these just don’t seem to work that well – especially recording my iPod listening – and I have felt it necessary to let iTunes sit playing to itself so my listening doesn’t go to waste. The aim of Last.fm is to provide a social network around listening habits and to suggest related artists. May be my infatuation is a good thing because the more information they have, the better my recommendations will be. I can keep telling myself that at least.

So this led me to think, do I want to listen to music if I’m not credited? I need a widget which posts songs to your Last.fm account as I listen to the radio….

GamercardMy desire to improve my Xbox Live Gamerscore has resulted in my joining SwapGame, a video game rental service. My intention is to rent games I can blast through and accrue some lovely Achievements. Most of the 10 day free trial ran out before I finally received my first rental but if I can get through a couple of games a month I think its easier and cheaper than buying games new and sticking them on eBay once I’m done with them. Perhaps I could work out how much my Achievements have cost me, that might put an end to my bad habit.

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