Microsoft made a couple of new announcements at the Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3, the annual video game conference and show, held at Los Angeles (US), introducing new gaming and entertainment products, with an aim to extend its XBox 360 gaming platform to a complete living-room entertainment device. It announced new content tie-ups, services and products, in addition to new game titles. Here’s a quick lowdown on what Microsoft announced at E3:
– Xbox marketshare: Since its launch in 2005, Microsoft has sold 67 million Xbox 360 consoles, with a 47% market-share in the US, and currently has 40 million Xbox LIVE customers. The company has also sold 19 million Kinects, the hands-free and voice controller that works with the console. According to Microsoft, Xbox LIVE offers more than 200,000 pieces of content available in movies, television, music, sports and fitness, many of which can be searched and powered by voice or gestures through Kinect.
– Xbox Music service: Microsoft announced a new music subscription/purchase service, which will be launched later this year, replacing Zune, its US-only music service. The service will allow users to access download-to-own or subscription music on connected devices including the Windows 8 PC, tablet and phone, and they’ll be able to personalize and share with friends, and discover new music. The service will compete with Google Music and Apple’s iTunes. All of these services are still not available in India. While it’s interesting that Microsoft is making its music service ubiquitous across all its device platforms, including the Xbox, the service would most certainly be limited to select markets owing to licensing restrictions.
– Xbox SmartGlass: Microsoft has introduced SmartGlass, which on the face of it, looked quite similar to Apple’s network sharing protocol, AirPlay, however, it offers more interactivity and over-lay elements such as bonus features and additional interactive content for the content playing through the Xbox.This would mean that the device would act as a controller and at the same time display additional information and functionality, acting as a second scree, not just mirror content like Airplay. According to Microsoft, it will be offered in the form of an app on devices including on Windows Phone, Windows 8, and other major platforms. Microsoft did not clarify the names of the platforms, but going by the recent trend, we feel that it might be extended to Android and iOS.
Microsoft demonstrated it by playing an episode of the TV series Game of Thrones, with content such as interactive maps being displayed on a device acting as the SmartGlass.
– Internet Explorer for Xbox: Microsoft also announced a version of its web browser, Internet Explorer, for the Xbox. The browser will offer integration with SmartGlass allowing users to explore and control websites on their TV with swipe, pinch or zoom gestures on their tablet or phone’s touchscreen. The browser will also offer voice powered navigation via Kinect.Internet Explorer on Xbox would require Xbox LIVE Gold membership.
– Xbox on Windows 8: Microsoft announced that it will bring entertainment experiences to more than 180 new countries around the world launching Xbox on Windows 8, featuring four Metro-style apps: Video, Music, Games and Xbox SmartGlass. With Xbox on Windows 8, users will be able to play games with friends and earn achievements, listen to music, and watch TV shows and movies on the go. They’ll also be able to mirror movies through SmartGlass (like AirPlay) to their big screen TVs.
– New content: Microsoft announced new content tie-ups with NBA League Pass, NHL gameCenter and ESPN (US Only), in addition to BreakMedia which includes India, and Machinima, which includes all Xbox Live markets.
– New games: Microsoft announced new game titles including “Halo 4” and the return of Master Chief, as well as new titles from the Forza, Fable, Gears of War, Call of Duty, Madden and other franchises. It also announced new titles for Kinect, such as TV show-inspired “South Park,” “Lazer,” the new “Dance Central” installment, and a round of newly Kinect-enabled games such as “Splinter Cell.” Microsoft also unveiled new titles like “Ascend: New Gods,” “Wreckateer,” “Matter” and “Lococycle.”
– Tie-up with Nike: Microsoft has also announced a partnership with Nike, launching “Nike+ Kinect Training,” an exclusive new home fitness program. The custom program, created by some of Nike’s athlete trainers, is designed to help athletes of all levels achieve their fitness goals in their homes, according to Microsoft.
– Expanding Kinect based Voice Search powered by Bing: Microsoft said that it is expanding voice search to 12 additional countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland.