Microsoft: Moore the merrier

He hammered home the claim with some pretty conclusive NPD retail tracking data. The headline figure was a cumulative US installed base of 5.6m units, but perhaps more significant were the numbers since PlayStation 3 and Wii launched. Since then, in the States, Wii has just led the way with 2.8m, 360 has stayed strong with 2.7m and PS3 has trailed behind with 1.4m.

In that same time frame, US gamers have spent $2.4bn on Xbox 360 software and peripherals, compared to $1.3bn on Wii and $1.1bn on PS3. That’s the same as its competitors combined. Two thirds of all third-party games in that period have been sold on 360. Microsoft is driving revenues throughout the games ecosystem, Moore claimed.

The first truly grand statement of the night was that the Xbox 360’s Q4 software represents the greatest line-up in video game history”. And that line-up was all that Microsoft showed, with every game at the conference (apart from Resident Evil 5) due between now and the end of the year.

Running orders are often interesting, and it was probably significant that Moore kicked off by talking about (and demonstrating) Rock Band from EA. (And yes, he ballsed up a couple of times, but it was more entertaining and endearing than those execs and guests who pretended to play).

He then showed Viva Pinata Party Animal. These games, along with titles such as Scene It, will try and claim some of that family-fun territory that Sony has done so well with SingStar and Nintendo does so well with almost everything.

In the same vein, one of the most impressive announcements of the conference was a deal with Disney that will see great chunks of its movie back catalogue available through Live’s Video on Demand service, to be launched in Europe later this year with more content to be announced.

Moore also harked back to Christmas 2004, the strongest holiday period ever in the States, with the latest versions of GTA, Madden and Halo all leading the way. The perfect storm,” was how Moore described the trio. And whaddaya know, there are new iterations of all three franchises this year, all on Xbox 360.

Halo, of course, is an exclusive. Madden, very much platform agnostic. GTA IV, interestingly, is something of a halfway house. It is being released on PS3 and Xbox 360, but some additional content will only be available through Xbox Live. Sony later accused Microsoft of paying through the nose for baubles, but Moore was clearly delighted with the coup.

The central showreel began with PGR4 and featured 30 games in total. The best reaction was probably to Activision’s Call of Duty 4, a game which has subsequently been described in more than one respected critical quarter as ‘way cool’ and even, by the very bold, as ‘super cool’.

Moore closed, inevitably, by discussing Halo 3. Shame, then, that when he revealed a new limited edition, Halo-branded Xbox 360, the audience gave it the kind of polite reception usually reserved for third prize in a WI jam-making competition. This was no judgement on the limited edition unit which will, of course, sell out immediately; more a comment on the newly scaled-down E3, which was almost entirely whoop-free.

But the lack of fist-pumping fanboys (ugh, sorry) couldn’t detract from Microsoft’s confidence in its position, its Q4 line-up and its central message: it’s going to be the biggest Christmas ever, and Xbox 360’s going to win it.

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