Latest Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Gaming News
As the industry gears up for E3, Microsoft is preparing to unveil the next wave of premium game content and online gaming services for Xbox 360, and there are more surprises just around the corner.
The World Embraces Xbox 360
The worldwide Xbox 360 launch was met with great success and fanfare in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore on March 16 and Australia and New Zealand on March 23, successfully placing the console around the world.
The launch âdown underâ was the highest grossing entertainment launch in Australian history â grossing more than the Harry Potter books or the Lord of the Rings movies. More than 350 stores opened in Australia and New Zealand at midnight and the console availability may have temporarily impacted the regionâs productivity: more than half of customers who preordered a console said they intended to take a day off from work to play their new consoles. More than 30,000 consoles sold in the first four days, making Xbox 360 the fastest-selling console launch in Australian history.
The excitement continues on April 22 when Australia aims to break records again, this time with the worldâs largest water balloon fight. The water balloon event ties into the consoleâs âJump Inâ brand advertising tagline, which has heralded the next generation of gaming (check out the ad online at xbox.com.au/waterballoon). The event takes place at Coogee Beach, one of Australiaâs iconic beaches. Thousands of gamers from all over the world will launch more than 50,000 water balloons at each other.
Australia isnât the only country stepping up the fun. In a news conference in Tokyo on April 6, Takashi Sensui, the new general manager of the Japanese Xbox division, announced that 15 more games would be added to the Japanese lineup by summer, bringing the total to 40 â a number that is expected to double by the end of the year. Also announced was the âBlue Limited Editionâ Xbox 360 model themed after the FIFA World Cup, of which Xbox 360 is the official games console. A special blue faceplate included in this model matches Japanâs national soccer teamâs color. Other Japanese-exclusive content includes an online âMobile Suit Gundamâ game from Namco/Bandai, SquareEnixâ exclusive âProject Sylph,â a secret RPG developed by TriAce, downloadable anime episodes through Xbox Live Marketplace, and the upcoming RPGs âLost Odysseyâ and âBlue Dragon.â
In an effort to meet the unwavering demand for Xbox 360 across the world, Microsoft is now shipping two to three times the number of consoles that had previously been shipped to retailers each week. This keeps us firmly on track to meet forecast of 4.5 to 5.5 million units worldwide by the end of June 2006.
Xbox 360 Games: Topping the Charts
Xbox 360 is setting the bar for high definition gaming. Both âGhost Recon: Advanced Warfighterâ (Ubisoft) and âElder Scrolls IV: Oblivionâ (Bethesda) exploded software sales in March. Bethesda announced âOblivionâ shipped more than 1.7 million copies on the Xbox 360 and Windows platforms between its launch on March 20 and April 7, making it one of the fastest-selling RPGs ever. âOblivionâ has been receiving accolades from nearly every game reviewer, and has been hailed by some as âone of the best RPGs ever made.â In Europe, âGhost Recon Advanced Warfighterâ topped the all-formats sales charts the week it released â replaced only by âOblivionâ two weeks later.
Of the 80 high-definition games scheduled for release by June, games being released in April include:
o âFIFA World Cupâ¢â (EA SPORTS)
o âFINAL FANTASYÂ® XIâ (Square Enix, Inc.)
o âTop Spin 2â (2K Sports)
o âMajor League Baseball 2K6â (2K Sports)
o âBattlefield 2: Modern Combatâ¢â (Electronic Arts)
o âLara Croft Tomb Raider: Legendâ (Eidos)
Xbox Live Marketplace and Xbox Live Arcade: The Digital Trendsetters
There is incredible momentum behind the Xbox Live Marketplace digital distribution center. More than 10 million pieces of content have been downloaded from Marketplace since launch. In addition to high-definition movie trailers, games and demos, more than three million of the downloads were Xbox Live Arcade game titles. The ability to âtry Arcade titles before you buyâ is a big hit, with an average 20 percent trial-to-purchase conversion rate (39 percent for the most popular Arcade game, âGeometry Wars.â)
Gamers can also expand their gaming experience by downloading new content from Xbox Live Marketplace. Three new content packs for âKameo: Elements of Powerâ introduced entirely new gaming features such as online cooperative gameplay. Kameo and her warriors received digital makeovers with a slew of new skins and costumes available online. Kameo players will also have a chance to leave their own personalized mark on the game with the âKameo: Elements of Power Design Your Skin Contest.â Users will submit their own creative skin designs, with the winnerâs skin available to the community after the contest concludes.
In âPerfect Dark Zero,â Joanna Dark fans will enjoy new maps in which to play and new gameplay functions in the coming months to expand this best-selling Xbox 360 title.
The downloadable âProject Gotham Racing 3â Speed Pack gives racers access to new gameplay upgrades including new cars. âProject Gotham Racing 3â also kicked off its first major tournament on April 17. When users register for the event, their game becomes tournament-enabled with the most recent update, and then they compete with other speed demons from around the world in a variety of events. Qualifiers and single-elimination tournaments culminate in a race for the gold at the Lamborghini Factory in Italy in June. Registration for the tournament closes on April 28.
In Game With Fame (GWF) news, Xbox Live gamers got a chance to participate in a special GWF session on April 5. Featuring R&B artist Chris Brown challenging opponents to a game of âGhost Recon Advanced Warfighter,â the session also included an auction for various prizes including signed CDs. The proceeds from winning bids went to Habitat for Humanityâs New Orleans relief efforts.
Exclusive Entertainment on Xbox Live
Xbox Live users can now download exclusive content from Epic records to enhance their entertainment experience. Announced last month, the exclusive Epic Records Artist of the Month program brings the hottest music to Xbox Live users, absolutely free. Each month, Epic features songs in 5.1 digital and high-definition videos from a new artist, starting with British singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield whose video âUnwrittenâ is available through April 30. Artists of the Month will also participate in the âGame with Fameâ program on Xbox Live Arcade, giving fans a chance to test their mettle against their favorite musicians.
Free Xbox Live Gold Weekend: Everyone Jumps In
If the ability to demo games converts to sales, then what about the ability to demo the entire Xbox Live Gold service? That was the philosophy behind the incredibly successful Free Xbox Live Gold Weekend, presented courtesy of Verizon from March 31 through April 2, 2006. Xbox 360 gamers connected to Xbox Live enjoyed all the services of gold membership, free of charge.
Gamers rocked the Xbox Live world during the Free Gold Weekend in a series of events representing the largest multiplayer games programming effort ever. Events included Xbox Live Arcade leaderboard tournaments, a series of Play and Win contests, and a mentorship program where âveteransâ helped ânewbiesâ get acquainted with the service.
Viva PiÃ±ata: The Next Big Thing
On March 15, Microsoft Game Studios and 4Kids Entertainment announced the introduction of âViva PiÃ±ata,â a mass entertainment property created by Rare that features a vibrant world of living piÃ±ata animals. 4Kids Entertainment are known for powerhouse properties like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
This fall, a Viva PiÃ±ata television show debuts on 4Kids TV on Fox, followed by an Xbox 360-exclusive game in the 2006 holiday season. The customizable and immersive game allows players to create their own unique PiÃ±ata-filled adventures.
When Celebrities Play
April 8 saw the first âSettle the Scoreâ event, a new program where celebrities go head to head on the Xbox to see whoâs really #1. Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers defeated Corey Maggette of the LA Clippers in a game of NBA 2K6 for bragging rights â and an Xbox 360 for each of Kobeâs teammates. Future events featuring celebrity rivals are already in the works.
The Envelope Pleaseâ¦
We are proud to announce that the recently-redesigned Xbox.com website was nominated for a Webby Award for Community. The Webby Awards â considered the Oscars for websites â recognize the best online design and content, and by extension, recognize the growing gaming community at Xbox.com, fueled in no small part by the surge in Xbox Live members with the release of Xbox 360.
Games for Windows: A Legendary Rise
One of the most anticipated real-time strategy games will hit the Windows platform next month: âRise of Nations: Rise of Legends.â This fantasy title has been building buzz online for some time, and fans are ready to roll up their sleeves and pit magic against technology in this epic strategy game.
Additionally, Zoo Tycoon fans will want to visit the completely redesigned Web site for âZoo Tycoon,â launched on April 3. Fans of the franchise can visit ZooTycoon.com for the latest zoo news, downloadable wallpapers, coloring book pages, ring tones and much more.
Microsoft Gaming: Accolades Abound
Next-gen.biz recently named a list of Top 100 game developers for next-generation consoles, and 15 of those 100 developers are members of the Microsoft Game Studios team. In alphabetical order, the designers honored include: Cliff Bleszinki, Martyn Chudley, Denis Dyack, David Jones, Jason Jones, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Peter Molyneux, Dr Ray Muzyak, Dr Greg Zeschuk, Okomoto-san, Alexey Pajitnov, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Bruce Shelley, Tim Stamper and Chris Stamper.
Additionally, IGN recently compiled metrics on gaming in 2006 with three major Xbox 360 titles making the âmost anticipated original IPâ list: âGears of Warâ (Epic), âPreyâ (Venom Games and 3D Realms), and âNinety-Nine Nightsâ (Q Entertainment). Epic Games and Bungie Studios are among the top 5 Developers of 2006.
The Family Grows
A major partner joined the Microsoft Game Studios family this month: Lionhead Studios, makers of the revolutionary âFableâ and âBlack & White.â Helmed by founder and legendary game designer Peter Molyneux, Lionhead will now produce content exclusively for the Xbox 360 and Windows gaming platforms.
Availability Means Attachment
With increased supply hitting retail shelves, gamers are gobbling up the next generation of games. Xbox 360 had 3 of the 10 best-selling titles across all video game platforms. âGhost Recon: Advanced War Fighterâ was the #2 title, âThe Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivionâ was #3, and âFight Night: Round 3â was the #9 title. âOblivionâ scored the #3 spot despite being on the market for only a few days in March.
âFight Night: Round 3â experienced its best sales since launch on Xbox 360. Gamers are clearly looking for a high-definition, next-generation gaming experience now. With Xbox Live giving gamers the opportunity to download the demo and try the game, âFight Night: Round 3â has become one of the best-attached boxing games in console history.
Top 5 selling Xbox 360 titles for March:
1. âGhost Recon: Advanced Warfighterâ (Ubisoft)
2. âThe Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivionâ (Bethesda)
3. âFight Night: Round 3â (EA)
4. âBurnout: Revengeâ (EA)
5. âThe Outfitâ (THQ)
The Launch-to-date attach rate for games increased to a record 4.5 games per console in North America, fueled by the desire to jump into the next generation of high-definition entertainment and the increased availability of Xbox 360 in retail channels. The attach rate for Xbox 360 accessories broke its own record, at 3.0 per console in North America.
As E3 draws ever closer, get ready for the next chapter in the Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business story!