Darren Waters

A tale of two Microsofts

  • Darren Waters
  • 15 Jul 08, 12:20 GMT

And so it was to a rather emasculated Los Angeles Convention Center for the first press conference and briefing of E3 2008.

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The E3s of old were colourful, brash affairs but there were no signs of the traditional giant posters on the convention windows and walls. The walls were bare and the hall had the air of an accountancy convention, rather than a games conference.

We'd been dragged from our beds for an early morning exclusive press briefing with Microsoft, ahead of the actual Xbox conference. We were promised a "major announcement".

On the way to the venue the journalists speculated about the announcement:

"A price cut!"
"A new Halo game"
"Bungie's new project"

So what was it? Well, it was Lips, a karaoke game that bears more than a passing resemblance to Singstar on the PlayStation 3.

A ripple of disinterest passed through the assembled media who half-heartedly asked some questions, most of which were batted away with a "we can't talk about that right now" response.

Microsoft brought on Welsh singer Duffy as the acceptable face of video games to plug the new title. Right on cue she admitted she didn't play video games because they were too violent.

Duffy performing at E3One of the journalists asked her about downloadable content for Lips. Unsurprisingly, she wasn't exactly that well versed with the digital distribution plans for Xbox Live titles.

And so on we trouped to the press briefing proper. And it was the usual slick Microsoft briefing.

We were expecting a radical new direction for the console. But the first half was dominated by the classic blockbuster franchises, Gears of War 2, Fable 2 and Fallout 3.

Just as we thought that Microsoft's attempt to become a more family-friendly console was an illusion, up stepped John Schappert and Shane Kim to reveal all.

A re-designed Xbox Live, coupled with plenty of social and casual games were paraded in front of us. But it felt like Microsoft had merely cherry picked some of the more successful aspects of the PlayStation and Wii, and created versions for the 360.

There was lots of news about new developments for Xbox Live content but most of them applied only to the North American market.

Bungie were due on stage to reveal a taster of their upcoming project their first title post Halo. But there was no sign of them.

I had been due to speak with them immediately after the briefing but that too was pulled with little explanation.

And so what impression am I left with? Well, Microsoft are clearly a company being pulled in two directions: it needs to satisfy the blood-thirsty needs of its core demographic, but can only triumph over Sony if it can attract more European gamers to the platform, and they tend to prefer more casual titles.

Microsoft can do both but the firm just looks uncomfortable trying to do casual and social: a demo session during the briefing of three Xbox senior playing a movie game was just painful to watch.


  • Comment number 1.

    Didn't all the exciting things in the gaming world happen last week with the launch of Apple's App Store?

    I'm sitting here right now playing Crash Bandicoot on my iPhone, might have a game of Hold 'Em Poker later, followed by a few levels of Enigmo on the train home.

    Who needs an X-Box now, apart from to keep your house warm? (they tend to run a bit hot).

  • Comment number 2.


    I think you hit the nail on the head with Microsoft about cherry picking the best parts from PS and Wii I couldn't help but feel robbed. I know that sounds stupid but seeing the Singstar rip off with the wireless mics made my heart sink. Why when Sony has been promising wireless mics for Singstar for over a year do they let Microsoft steal the show with could potentially be a better product?

    Where Microsoft are quick to get ideas to market, Sony tend to drag their feet and everything seems to take twice as long. Maybe thats because Sony come out with these ideas when they're only a concept?

    I found Duffy singing badly out of tune to her song much more cringeworthy than any Microsoft executive playing a game.

    I am surprised Darren you didn't post about the shock announcement that FF13 is going to XBox, what do you make of that?

  • Comment number 3.

    Apple as a gaming platform is still in it's infancy so I'm not going to hold my breath, especially since I have a DS.
    And I still have Crash Bandicoot for PS1 (god I'm getting old(er))

    Microsofts' casual ideas seem a bit rushed but the new dashboard is looking good. And they do have the online infrastructure to actually make the social side of things work, unlike Nintendo's and Sony's lacklustre efforts.

    And as mentioned, why is there no mention of the huge FFXIII being ported to the 360?
    It's pretty big news and all major gaming forums (communities) have erupted into some of the best trolling and flaming I've seen in years.

    Overall though, I found Microsofts conference really rather good. Roll on Gears 2 and Fallout 3!

  • Comment number 4.

    People are mentioning in other forums that Sony still have exclusivity of FFXIII in Japan? Is this true?

  • Comment number 5.

    LOL, no. It is a timed exclusive to the PS3 in Japan only. Then once released over there, Square Enix will begin localisation and development of the 360 and PS3 versions for the rest of the world.

  • Comment number 6.

    Actually, I don't know. But I can't see why Square wouldn't release it on the 360 in Japan also, even if the install base of the console is somewhat small in Japan.

  • Comment number 7.

    You're description of that exclusive press conference for Lips did make me laugh.

    Let's not forget though, the new microphone/controller lights up when you sing in to it, and has a motion sensor... no idea why.

  • Comment number 8.

    If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or in the case of Microsoft, re-brand someone elses idea, add a few more blue LED's and claim its the latest innovation in technology.

    Thats progress for you!

    But then Microsoft does hail from the same land as Thomas Edison who was renowned for stealing ideas and marketing it.

    Does anyone else note the irony of the console being named "360"?

  • Comment number 9.

    Gaming, iphone, Exciting ... ROFLMAO

  • Comment number 10.


    Oh yes i must rush out for an iphone to play Crash, Texas Hold Em and any other not very entertaining game.

    Shame you have trouble making calls - give me bland M$ (first stupid $ character insertion for silly fanboys) annoucements anyday over the non event of the iphone launch the other day.

    As for the other anti M$ quotes here don't you think it's time to grow up and smell the coffee sure Lips is nothing new, M$ even admit that i'm interested but i never was with singstar, Lips is so far sounding cute. Nothing wrong with cherry picking $ony once were the masters of it ask $ega.

    Face facts M$ do it and they do it good.

    grApple Minesux $ony fanboys please give it a rest and play with your toys no one cares for the attention seeking cries from your pram (well maybe me but some people you cannot insert a bit of sense).

  • Comment number 11.


    Who needs an iPhone?

    Sure, it has a nice touch sensitive screen but most of the features on the iPhone are already on other devices.

    Not many people will use all the features on an iPhone as all they want to do is text, listen to music or video, play games and make the odd phone call. All those features I can do on my Nokia phone which cost me nothing on my £22 a month contract with loads of minutes and texts.

    Some of the features on the iPhone don't get me wrong are bound to be useful. For the most though they will be useful for a few months because they are fascinatign to use but the novelty we soon wear off.

  • Comment number 12.

    To be honest i think Microsoft had a very poor show this year, Everything shown was ether Multi platform or a sequel or just plain stolen from Sony or Nintendo,
    You have the Mii-60's that then fit into the very Home like Live Party, Even the new menu system reminded me of the XMB
    Yes they now have FFXIII in the Western Territories, but it is still a PS3 exclusive in the territory it will sell the most in (Japan)
    And the PS3 also has Final Fantasy Viruses XIII (a separate game in the XIII universe)
    Don't get me wrong, Gears 2 and Fable 2 look like very strong killer apps for the Xbox but the fact that there was nothing original makes me wonder about the 360's future

  • Comment number 13.

    Yeah, I'm surprised that FFXIII being available on the 360 wasn't mentioned - that's huge news. Plus it's also worth pointin out that - for our US cousins anyway - Live Gold members will be able to stream Netflix movies through their 360s legally too. Actually, the article seems a bit harsh on MS.

    As for the iPhone, it's a nice phone and the games are good but then so are the ones for the N95 (actually Quake II is awesome). That said, they are what they are - five minute fillers, not gamign platforms.

  • Comment number 14.


    "...i must rush out for an iphone to play Crash, Texas Hold Em and any other not very entertaining game..."

    Your opinion my friend, not the 10,000+ who have already downloaded it.

    "Shame you have trouble making calls"

    How do you know? Have you been using my iPhone? I, and the millions of other satisfied iPhone owners have no problems. Maybe you need to read the instruction manual.

    "As for the other anti M$ quotes here don't you think it's time to grow up and smell the coffee sure Lips is nothing new, M$ even admit that i'm interested but i never was with singstar, Lips is so far sounding cute. Nothing wrong with cherry picking $ony once were the masters of it ask $ega."

    Could you please re-post the above paragraph in English? And maybe put your cup of coffee down, and stay away from caffeine in the future?

    "Face facts M$ do it and they do it good."

    No they don't. They imitate poorly and bring nothing new to the innovation table. I'm looking forward to seeing the list you give of innovations from M$, but I bet it'll be short.

    "grApple Minesux $ony fanboys please give it a rest and play with your toys no one cares for the attention seeking cries from your pram"

    Hmmmmm, pot, meet kettle.

    On a side note, funny how Apple smashed, yes SMASHED, the record for revenue from an opening product launch weekend, but the BBC didn't report it. Funny how over TEN MILLION Apps have been downloaded in less than a week since the App Store went live, but no reports on that either.

    Strange that they cover M$ releasing yet another half finished product though.

  • Comment number 15.


    Actually, what's really funny is the fact you're talking about Apple in a topic about the Xbox 360.

  • Comment number 16.


    Yes, I thought that was quite funny too my little friend!

    Have a nice day Mark!

  • Comment number 17.

    Here's another article where Mark shows once again that he seems to have little idea of what he's actually commenting on.

    No mention of FFXIII or Netflix (currently not UK bound), or Primetime (incoming to UK). Nothing at all on being able to copy games to HD.

    These are the things being discussed on gaming forums and making headlines on gaming web sites by people who at least seem to have a little bit of an idea of the state of the gaming industry.

    and as has been said - what's wrong with cherry picking, making stuff better and placing them on the largest networked gaming environment around?

  • Comment number 18.

    Why would Euro gamers be wanting LESS hardcore titles????
    They usually have to put in extra difficulty levels for us!!!! We are the ones who want the hardcare games that they cant play!

  • Comment number 19.

    i agree with 17, can i have his job please? i DO actually care/have an interest in games.

  • Comment number 20.


    I did mention FFXIII - in the news story

    I just didn't mention in the blog post.

    I think if FF had moved to the 360 as day and date simultaneous release with PlayStation two or three years ago it would have been big news.

    But those days are gone. FFXIII being on the 360 on the same day as the PS3 will not sell a single extra 360 in my opinion.

    But I've been wrong many times before.

  • Comment number 21.

    The move of FFXIII to multiformat is good news for those with 360's already. (And oddly enough, the night before announcement i was speaking to someone about it happening)

    But far is it from terrible news for the Sony, as a vast majority of FF fans already have PS3's. And as for now, FF Verses XIII is still theirs.

    All in all, nothing huge really. But should be interesting to see how this two headed approach works for MS.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ Darren

    thanks for the reply and apologies - I'd read the news story but hadn't noted it was authored by yourself.

    While I generally agree with your comment that there won't be that many people who buy a 360 specifically for FFXIII (especially because as it turns out it will still be PS3 exclusive in Japan) the thought that SquareEnix would even consider putting FF on an MS product says a lot about MS current market share etc.

    Again I agree that MS strategy for the future appears to being pulled in two directions.

    Whilst on the face of it this E3 looks likes MS saying - "look we can do casual gaming" (not too convinced they look comfortable doing this but that's the message anyway), surely the underlying strategy is that MS are seeking to expand their market share by playing to one of the few differentiating strengths they do undoubtedly have - their online gaming and community environment. Isn't that the real story of MS at E3 08.

  • Comment number 23.

    Lips???????? what next? Tall tiny Globe (LBP)

    once again microsoft hasn't really brought us anything major to the table, just stuff that we already know, Zzzzzzzzz

    Sony on other hand (ok we knew about these games)
    Killzone 2, Little Big Planet, Motorstorm 2 : Pacific Rift, Resistance 2, God of War 3, Gran Turismo TV, HOME, MAG (256 players online!), Buzz Quiz TV, Video Service etc

    roll on the next few months

  • Comment number 24.

    @ hesmanes

    You could say the same for Sony' offerings. Sequels of games, and stuff we already know about.

    I would also say Microsofts Netflix is the same as Sony's video service and Home just hasn't appeared at all yet.

    Lucky for MS they actually have an online infrastructure and experience in place to make it all work.

  • Comment number 25.

    i liked the first half of the MS press conference (i watched on the web) Gears of War 2, Fallout 3 and Fable 2 are all games that i will be buying, im not too bothered about the new look for xbox live, and i dont really play games like lips or guitar hero so they didnt intrest me either. Overall im glad that MS remembered its core gaming fans rather than soley pandering to the casual market, which sadly was the sole focus of nintendos press conference, Sonys confrence was also good, Resistance 2 looks like a real thriller, im rather annoyed at the fact that all the great video content on the PSN (and XBOX Live) is only in america, its pathetic that all 3 companys spent the entire confrence talking about american numbers only as well, given that the UK has the 3rd largest gaming industry in the world, we get royally screwed over by all 3 companies in terms of game releases and features.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ Twelveeighty0ne.

    Its a Blog entry for E3. Games. Consoles. Seeing as you have no other input to this blog than 'Apple are superb' Come back when apple have released the istationbox. An ultra cool looking slim machine that has outdated hardware, batteries you cant change yourself and you're locked into a extorionate broadband contract. Hey, I bet the GUI would be great though.

  • Comment number 27.

    @ averagecitizen


    oh yeah the service for GOLD members only that requires a $50 subcription to use?

    A service that's going to the americans cause they have the infrastructure?

    a service that microsoft thinks will win over after the loss over Blu Ray?

    you see thats why i like the service from SONY because its FREE, no subcriptions i'll only pay to rent or buy the programme or film i want to watch and with play TV coming out in a few months im more than happy to wait for the service to come to europe.

  • Comment number 28.


    "Its a Blog entry for E3. Games."

    on a BBC website that my licence fee pays for, so I have every right to post. Besides, the iPhone is now a handheld games console. And a phone. And an iPod. And an internet device. And a voice recorder (seeSpeakEasy on the App Store). And 100s of other useful applications.

    "An ultra cool looking slim machine that has outdated hardware, "

    Well apart from the slim comment, that's an excellent description of an X-box 360. Well done!

    "batteries you cant change yourself and you're locked into a extorionate broadband contract."

    I take it you are referring to the iPhone 3G, which now has 2 little philips screws on the bottom, so you can remove the back case and replace the battery, which is no longer soldered on. Easy peasy. As for the broadband contract comment, I assume you are referring to iPhone contracts... hmmmm, 18 months, 600 minutes, 500 texts, unlimited data, for £35 a month. Hardly extortionate my friend.

    Funny being a Mac user in 2008. I remember being one in 1990 and it was tough back then. Now, with all the success Apple are reaping, I can't help but pity people who still believe old myths "outdated hardware, no right click, expensive, blah blah blah." LOL!!!!

  • Comment number 29.


    Im sorry, I may have interupted your crash bandicoot session and put you in a bad mood. Any way, as this is a blog about E3 could you please inform me of the exciting news that came from the iphone 3G handheld gaming console stand?

    I could only image the huge crowds drawn to see crash bandicoot 2's amazing demo, whilst the sony stand lays empty as Grand turisimo 5 shows.

    I really didnt want to turn this into the usual mac vs everything else argument you seem to thrive on, could we please keep that to a relevent topic.

    I have read your previous constant apple loving and have, on occasion, thought you to have brought valid points.

    However, on this occasion my friend, all you are highlighting is that you know nothing of gaming.

  • Comment number 30.

  • Comment number 31.


    No bad mood my young chum, just full of love for these forums!

    Yeh I suppose you're right, I know very little about gaming, but seeing as I am over 30 I consider that an advantage!

    Nothing wrong with loving a company whose products I use every day, and have done ever since System 7.

    Anyway, time to get back to Crash Bandicoot, damn this game is addictive.

    Have a good day young Lem001!

  • Comment number 32.


    Agreed, nothing wrong with loving apple, if its your thing.

    And as a gamer over 30 I can confirm it is a disadvantage, but they just keep getting better :)

    Good day to you too young twelveightyone.

  • Comment number 33.

    As a gamer of 39 age matters not to me. I've been playing games both real - mainly rugby - and virtual - on consoles and computers - for years now and enjoyed them both because, whilst it's fun to score a try or destroy someone in a tackle it's also fun to show that damn Montezuma that he can't send his Jaguar Warriors into my territory without severe consequences! :)

  • Comment number 34.

    yeah, Microsoft really did Bungie in one by pulling their announcement of Halo Wars. and you'd think they'd be smarter than that what with Master Chief being to xbox what mario is to nintendo.

    -Navie, of

  • Comment number 35.

    halo wars is not being made by bungie, however they are assisting with the company who are making it, and i can't remember which company it is right now.

    the new look xbox360 dashboard looks really horrid, (if it ain't broke don't fix it) whats wrong with the current dashboard.

    also on the subject of apple, they are just trying to copy everyone else with their so called inovations of outdated and over priced hardware and software.

    just so you know twelveightyone i love apple bashing cause they always try to do thing better and make a fool of themselves in the process, how have they done that i hear you ask? well with the app store as since as far as i can remember all the apps available for the iphone are currently available for all the next gen mobile phones like the nokia, so they have clearly shot themselves in the foot with that one and also why did they release the new iphone not long after the first one when they new they could have done it right first time.

    end of rant

  • Comment number 36.

    "a demo session during the briefing of three Xbox senior playing a movie game was just painful to watch."

    -Three Xbox senior what? Executives? Ninjas? Clowns?


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