Microsoft Touts Gaming and ‘Live Anywhere’

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As part of his company’s E3 Expo announcements, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates unveiled a “vision” a “Live Anywhere” service which will span Windows Vista, the Xbox Live online service, and mobile phones in an immersive online gaming community. Within the Live Anywhere service, each primary platform would be able to tie in to a larger gaming service, providing access to game components and community elements. In a demonstration, Microsoft showed an Xbox 360 gamer using Live Anywhere to invite a PC user to an online game, a cell phone user modifying a race car’s attributes, and a PC user using a Windows-based paint program to alter the appearance of a car which was then raced using an Xbox 360.

“Microsoft is probably the only company that can pull this off,” said Gates, emphasizing Live Anywhere would produce myriad new opportunities for developers. Live Anywhere would be architected as an extension of Microsoft’s existing Xbox Live online service; Microsoft announced no pricing or availability details for Live Anywhere.

While Microsoft might not have Live Anywhere ready to roll, the company was happy to tout its position as the only manufacturer shipping a next-generation console system with its Xbox 360. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates predicted the Xbox 360 will have sold some 10 million units worldwide by the time competitors Sony and Nintendo get their Playstation 3 and Wii products to market, and furthermore that over 160 games will be available for the Xbox 360 by the end of 2006. Gates also offered teaser footage of the third installment of Microsoft’s popular Halo franchise, which will apparently involve an alien assault on Earth’s surface. The third Halo game is expected to ship in spring 2007, about the same time as a Peter Jackson-produced Halo feature film should be hitting theaters.

MIcrosoft also highlighted forthcoming gaming titles, as well as a series of gaming accessories the company plans to being to the Xbox 360 in time for the 2006 end-of-year holiday buying season:

  • The Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel uses wireless technology and force feedback to add realism to games like Project Gotham Racing, including a steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals, and a clamp to latch the whole thing to a desk. While the units can be used wirelessly via batteries, apparently they need wall power to offer force feedback.
  • The Xbox 360 Wireless Headset will enable wireless voice chat over the Xbox Live network: soon you’ll be able to dis your online opponents in real time without taking your hands from your game controls.
  • The Xbox Live Vision video camera will enable Xbox Live Gol users to customize their gamer picture, sent photo messages, and engage in real-time video chat over the Xbox Live service. (Unlike the other accessories Microsoft trotted out, the Live Vision Camera actually has availability details: it’ll be available in the North America and Europe Sept 19, 2006, and in the rest of the world February 10, 2007.)
  • The Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows will enable Windows PCs to utilize Xbox 360 gaming accessories, including the Racing Wheel and Wireless headset.
  • The Xbox 360 HD DVD Player (previously covered here in DT) will enable Xbox 360 owners to play HD DVD movies using their gaming system; it’ll ship with the Xbox 360 Universal Remote.

Gaming