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Microsoft’s E3 2012 Keynote Plays Up Non-Gaming Aspects Of Xbox 360

We’re in it folks. E3 is happening. While you may not be able to expect the unveiling of any new, next generation consoles, there’s still plenty going down. This year, Microsoft has made it clear they’re not pushing the aging Xbox 360 as only a “gaming device,” but as a “media console.” That’s not to say there aren’t some big games coming down the pipe, but a surprising amount of the announcements, like Internet Explorer for the Xbox (OH BOY!) and SmartGlass have little, if anything to do with gaming. That said, let’s break it down, shall we?

Big announcements

SmartGlass

Xbox SmartGlass functionality aims to turn Xbox usage into a “multi-screen experience.” With SmartGlass, users can use the phones and tablets they already own for many supplemental uses with the Xbox. The demonstration on stage involved SmartGlass using an iPad to display a dynamic map showing character locations while Game Of Thrones played on the Xbox through HBO Go. Another demonstration showed a player unlocking some sort of “data point” by aiming at something in Halo 4, and having a schematics pop up on an iPad. It seems cool, but then again, that all depends on who decides to spend time making second screen content, and how good that content is.

In addition to being able to use a second screen for passive viewing, SmartGlass also allows a phone or tablet to be used for input, more directly cribbing the Wii U’s style. The extent to which this is going to be integrated isn’t entirely clear, but a SmartGlass-enabled tablet is shown swiping from page to page on the dashboard, and there is briefly footage of someone who appears to be playing Madden by touching and dragging players on an overhead view displayed on an iPad. This is kind of just glossed over and shown in passing though, which is sort of weird.

Internet Explorer for Xbox

Directly enabled by SmartGlass control, Internet Explorer will be coming to the Xbox. Users will be able to navigate the Internet by using a SmartGlass-enabled device essentially as a wireless trackpad for the TV. Users control a giant cursor on the screen with their phone or tablet and can also use their devices to scroll the page. It’s unclear if IE for Xbox will use mobile sites, standard desktop sites, or something else altogether. Nonetheless, it’s like the Dreamcast all over again, except this time without the keyboard, or the modem.

Games

  • Halo 4 in the driver’s seat this year, with a live-action intro and some game play following it up. You’ve got your Halo standard fare, a battle rifle, jackels, grunts, an elite with a energy sword; it’s a Halo game. Shaking it up a little bit, we’ve got some strange robotic ant-like things and some very Necron-esque humanoid-y things described in-game as being “definitely not Covenant.” Looks like a new, fresh entry to the Halo collection with some new hotness to change things up, but by no means any kind of radical modification to the game’s tried-and-true formula. It’s another Halo game, guys.
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist up next. We get some game play footage here showing Sam Fisher kicking ass and taking names somewhere in the Middle East, decked out military gear and presumably acting in some sort of official capacity again. Mechanically, the game seems to keep and build on some of the more action-y aspects of the franchise’s previous title Conviction and the whole thing has a very Metal Gear Solid 4 sort of look and feel. Blacklist also has some Kinect integration, meaning that you can distract guards by literally shouting “hey you” at the TV and issue orders to your allies via voice. As for story, you’re out killing some terrorists and stuff. Just another day at the office for Fisher.
  • Fable: The Journey looks like a Kinect-controlled shooting gallery. The Fable name on a game play framework that isn’t particularly innovative (or fun). Coming late this year.
  • Gears of War: Judgment gets a teaser, but nothing substantial. All pre-rended video. There are some Gears, and some Locust, and Baird. Not much to go on. Coming 2013.
  • Likewise, we get a pre-rendered trailer for Forza: Horizon but it’s just as insubstantial as the Gears one. Cars drive and crash. Coming October 13, 2012.
  • Madden 13 and FIFA 13 are hopping on the Kinect voice-support bandwagon. Both games will feature the ability to call plays and such by voice. Joe Montana illustrates the feature on-stage with Madden 13. Seems to work well enough.
  • Nike Plus Kinect Training is a Kinect-enabled fitness game. Coming holiday 2012.
  • Crystal Dynamics shows some new Tomb Raider footage. Very visceral and brutal all around. Croft has a bow and can kneecap dudes with it. Also shoot flaming arrows.
  • The developers from Toy Soldiers are going to be putting out a game called Ascend: New Gods. It’s said to feature “Persistent, asynchronous multiplayer gameplay,” but the trailer looks mostly like a combination of Shadow of the Colossus and God of War. Not exactly clear what the game parts are and what’s cinematic, but it looks very stylized and vaguely nordic.
  • LocoCycle, the new Twisted Pixel joint gets a teaser trailer. It’s literally just a fake commercial for a Tron-looking bike, with said bike sitting motionless on a pedestal. That’s all.
  • Matter, a Marble Madness-y looking physics puzzler from Gore Verbinski gets a teaser. The game has a slightly Portal-ish aesthetic and seems like it’ll involve a lot of ball rolling. Oh, also it’s a Kinect title. Yeah.
  • Capcom shows some live gameplay of the upcoming Resident Evil 6. The segmant shown involves a lot of explosions including a jet crash and a helicopter crash. Gameplay includes a lot of pistol shootin’, melee kills and a lot of quick time events. Whole thing is very blockbuster-y. Like many trailers this confernece, the divide between gameplay and cinematic seems unclear.
  • Xbox Live team introduces and shows Wreckateer, an XBLA Kinect title coming this summer. It’s basically Angry Birds from behind the slingshot (a ballista-thingy in this case), and you can give the “birds” (balls in this case) a little after-touch.
  • The new South Park RPG from Obsidian gets its name confirmed: The Stick of Truth. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, briefly on-stage, talk about the game in very broad strokes and poke a little fun at how much the inter-device-connectivity of SmartGlass is being stressed this conference.
  • Dance Central 3 is a thing. Usher performs on-stage, dancing with Dance Central footage behind him, though the footage is not synced up and you can’t even tell if it’s actually from that song.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II demo featuring a turret sequence, a sniping sequence, and a jet-flying sequence with little else between them. Also things explode. A lot of things.

Miscellaneous

  • You can talk to Bing in Spanish now, and soon 12 other new languages.
  • Nickelodeon, Machinima, and Univision all have content partnerships for the 360 now
  • Xbox Music for is launching for 360, Windows 8, tablets, phones. Basically, a Zune re-brand.
  • NBA is coming to Xbox. 2400 live games and highlights.
  • NHL is coming to Xbox in much the same way.
  • Xbox 360 will be getting 24 hour live footage from ESPN, in HD, later this year.
  • Nike Plus Kinect Training is going to have some social and mobile aspects. Nike+ integration can remind you to work out on your phone, and also help you find nearby workout buddies.
  • “Only the best games are on Xbox.” Haha. Sure.

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