At the E3 games Expo, Bill Gates (pictured above playing Project Gotham Racing 3) unveiled Microsoft’s Live Anywhere initative and promised a 10 million-unit head start over the PS3 by the time it launches. He also said the Xbox 360 would have more than 160 games available by the end of the year.
The Live Anywhere concept puts Microsoft’s online service at the heart of the company’s gaming strategy.
Gates unveiled his vision of a ubiquitous always-on world where players’ digital identities, games and entertainment would always be accessible, regardless of location or device.
The concept integrates Xbox, PC and mobile platforms. Windows PC users will be able to go online with Xbox Live next year, as part of the Vista OS. Confirming the initiative, Microsoft also announced cross-platform accessories such as the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel and Xbox 360 Wireless Headset.
There’s no doubt that Xbox Live is the definitive online gaming community, and one that Sony and Nintendo are desperate to emulate. Currently more than 3 million console gamers are connected to Xbox Live, a figure set to double to 6 million by this time next year.
“By opening the Xbox Live entertainment network to the entire universe of Windows and mobile gamers, we’re creating unparalleled gameplay opportunities that will drive incredible growth of the online community,” said Gates, making his first appearance at the Expo.
“Our vision is to deliver consistent, compelling experiences that make it easy for consumers to jump in and play, from any device at any time. It’s a vision that only Microsoft can deliver.”
The Corp also confirmed an add-on HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360 (above), but didn’t so far as to give it a price (speculation was rife that it could be as low as 199 bucks) or say when it would arrive.
The unit, said to be around 90 per cent finished, will connect to the Xbox via its USB port. When asked about the format war between Blu-ray and Xbox, Albert Penello, director of global marketing, declared that the HD media format that would win would be the one with the most attractive pricing, “and all the leading indicators point to HD DVD winning.”
Game highlights of the Microsoft event included a preview of Halo 3, Gears of War (pictured above), Fable 2 and Tom Clancy�s Splinter Cell Double Agent. Also creating a stir was Shadowrun, the first cross-platform Xbox 360 and Windows Vista-based FPS shooter.