This year was a far better pre-E3 conference than last year for Microsoft. I think they didn't hype things enough last year and spent most of the time talking about the circle and the community of Xbox Live instead of showing off games. This time around it was obvious the games were forefront while Live was given quite a lift as well.
For me I'd say Microsoft showed off the best games. Of course it helps when your system is already out. Gears of War, although it may not appeal to everyone, was quite impressive with the demo that Cliffy B went through. I think he's proud of this game and that's a pretty ringing endorsement even though he working on the game himself.
Then came the sequels. Fable 2 and Forza Motorsport 2 were shown in pre-rendered glory. Forza will be out by the end of the year, but no word on Fable 2. Then they showed off Splinter Cell: Double Agent, which is coming out in September, meaning the 360 will have it before the PS3. All 3 games honestly make me pretty excited. I wasn't overall thrilled with Fable's length, but the game was still very good.
Then they showed off Viva Pinata. I know a lot of people are not interested in this game, but I still say this is Microsoft's major children's release coming up. I don't think we know everything about the game yet, it could be very Animal Crossing-like in the end...who knows.
After this Peter Moore decided to show off his new tattoo (remember back when he had the November 9 + Halo 2 inked into him...it was still there). We all thought it was going to be Halo 3, but it turned out to be that they were announcing that Grand Theft Auto IV will be released on 360 and PS3 simultaneously on October 16th, 2007. This will be the first time the Xbox people haven't had to wait for the new GTA. Moore also announced that Rockstar and Microsoft is in an exclusive agreement to release episodic updates to GTA4, which of course makes it more interesting than the PS3 version probably.
Then they moved into the PC games. They first showed off, via playable demo, Crysis from Crytek/EA on Windows Vista. Later on it was found out that the game will also run in Windows XP, which probably means the game will be out before Vista is released. The game looked excellent, but I expect nothing else from the company that gave us Far Cry. Then they showed off the new Conan and Flight Simulator X.
Then the big rumor that was never kept quiet, Microsoft and FASA are bringing Shadowrun to the 360 and the PC for a day and date release with Vista in January 2007. They then showed off their new acquistion in my aforementioned notably absent Alan Wake, now being published by Microsoft for PC and 360. Then Bill Gates came out...
To unveil Xbox Live Anywhere, a system that will connect the 360, your Vista computer and your mobile phone. They showed this off by one of the workers going to Major Mike on his computer and ask to play a game of Shadowrun. They were then playing Xbox 360 to PC on the game, which is probably showing the XNA architecture at its best. I can only guess there will be more games like this in the future with simultaneous releases now that Microsoft has re-organized all their game divisions into one entity. They also showed off being able to tune a car on a mobile phone, re-paint it on Vista and send that car to the Xbox 360 for use in Forza Motorsport 2. It all sounds very cool, although I wonder if this is going to cost PC users anything or not.
Then we came to the end and Halo 3 was shown. Even though it was totally CGI built I have to say I was more excited about that even after seeing the demo for Metal Gear Solid 4 yesterday. I don't know, Halo just does something for me. Maybe it was hearing the awesome music again or seeing the huge Covenant ship flying by. The movie was awesome even though it showed no gameplay.
In the end I think Microsoft gave a really good presentation. I wish there had been more playable sections of the big games coming, but we do have the new demo for Lost Planet on Marketplace along with lots of videos from E3. I have yet to play the demo, but I have downloaded it...hopefully I will have some impressions up later.
Microsoft showed it may be the new 800-pound gorilla on the scene after this. We'll talk more about that next though...