I just got finished watching a live stream of Microsoft's E3 press conference. It was, quite simply, awesome! And I don't just mean awesome for myself, my own gaming.
The reason I chose the 360 as the console worth buying this generation (though I'd like to own the others.... just don't have the cash) is the games. In its first year, the 360 had many top-notch games. There have been dry periods since, but this certainly is not one of them. Microsoft easily has the best library of games this generation. We're about to enter one of the best periods of games in the industry's history.
The big guns
Microsoft highlighted four games early on: Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Fable 2, and Gears of Wars 2. All of them look phenomenal.
I knew very little about Fallout 3, since I never played a Fallout game, but it's definitely on my must-buy list now. The option for cinematic combat via a pause-and-target system is a great idea. Fable 2 and GoW 2 were already on that must-buy list, but both impressed with new features. Molyneux showed how incredibly quick and easy inviting someone into co-op could be (there's no screen for it -- just click on a little orb that shows up in the world). Gameplay in GoW 2 looks fluid, dramatic, and full of surprises. And Resident Evil 5 has co-op! Graphically, all the game's look beautiful.
Vision camera games
The next Viva Pinata will apparently incorporate trading cards. They can be scanned into the game via the Xbox Live Vision camera. I imagine kids will like that. I'm not sure if parents will.
In The Movies could be a phenomenon. This is Microsoft's first big step into Wii-type gaming. You start out playing mini-games in which you run, dance, swat at wasps, etc. Then your camera-recorded actions are placed into a mock movie trailer. This game looks very well done and potentially very attractive to non-gamers.
There's a karaoke game called Lips on its way, and it looks well done. I don't think I've ever met a woman who doesn't love karaoke -- they're striking oil here. The best aspect of the game is that you can "sing to your own music collection". Just plug in your iPod or Zune and you can find the style that best suits you. Motion-sensitive mics were mentioned, but I'm not sure how the motion plays in.
Other music games had news, of course. Metallica will release their new album on Guitar Hero (hopefully, it won't suck like the last album). Similarly bland is the news that Axl Rose will release the next Guns 'n' Roses album through Rock Band (as if it was still really Guns 'n' Roses after 1994). The good news is that AC/DC (the most requested band) has finally entered the realm of gaming rock. Rock Band will have over a hundred songs, and includes forwards and backwards compatibility.
I'm generally not a fan of Japanese games these days; especially not JRPGs. I grew up on Nintendo consoles, so this always seems a bit strange to me. The simple fact is that they have different aesthetic values and those values are seen much more in complex games than in simple arcade games.
Anyway, Square Enix showed three trailers we've already seen before... then walked back onto the stage to say "oops! I'm almost forgot!" and announced Final Fantasy XIII for the Xbox 360. That news means nothing to me, but I know a lot of my friends will be hopping with glee. This is a game that will sell consoles.
Indie games are on their way. One called Coliseum (or something like that) peaked my interest. It's too bad I don't remember how to download those games.
They also showed a new Galaga game and a new Geometry Wars.
Microsoft had many great announcements regarding XBL. Sometime this year, Xbox Live will be completely remade to introduce avatars, Primetime, and other cool stuff.
Avatars were an important, if predictable, announcement. Microsoft stressed that these are just 3-D equivalents of gamer pictures or characters for you to buy accessories for (which I'm sure is on its way). You can stream pictures from your computer and share them with friends online in real-time. When the sequel to Scene It comes out, you'll be able to play with anyone online and see everyone's avatar bouncing around on the virtual couch.
Primetime is like a TV gameshow channel, except XBL users and their avatars will be included in the games. They showed a game called 1 vs 100 that had a crowd of a full hundred avatars participating in the game and another avatar on stage. And the prizes are real (some, at least). This is another phenomenal idea. This is an idea that could change the whole industry. Expect the TV industry to cooperate more actively with games from now on.
When friends pop online, you'll see their avatars appear. You can become a group leader and set up a game for the whole group instantly -- no need for them to do anything. This not only makes things quicker, but it means that gamers like us can invite less regular gamers to play without worrying if they know how to join.
TV and movies
MS has partnered with Netflix, as I think I've read about previously. I'm intrigued by what this might mean, but I don't know the details yet. If it means I can download movies as often as I want instead of waiting on them in the mail, I'll be switching from Blockbuster to Netflix soon! I wouldn't be surprised, though, if they limited downloads or had some other catch.
One of the cooler revelations concerning TV and movies is that you'll be able to watch them online with XBL friends! That's an awesome idea... especially with avatars and voice-chat, to discuss them afterwards. Microsoft has a deal with another TV studio and another movie studio now.
In short, Microsoft had a great press conference. They're making smart decisions and really pushing the industry in ways. For that, I say thanks.
The Too Human demo and plenty of videos are up on XBL now. Hopefully, more will go up in the next few days.