E3 2010: Microsoft acts casual

Majestic motion control from the gaming giant

Gaming giant looks to lure casual market with motion magic

E3 2010 has finally kicked off, with Microsoft making a play for the casual gaming market with its new ‘Kinect’ motion control camera tech, announced at a high-profile pre-E3 premiere event at the Galen Center in Los Angeles this week.

The name is, very obviously, a mish-mash of ‘connect’ and ‘kinetic’ (something which no doubt cost Redmond a pretty penny in marketing consultants and branding experts) yet it also works, purely because it just seems obvious.

We can already hear ourselves saying, “can you buy me that new Kinect game for Christmas?” Which is more than could be said for the Wii, when Nintendo first announced its name…

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- New Xbox 360 Slim: First impressions
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- Microsoft Kinect: Motion control videos

Kinect was actually revealed at a separate event to Microsoft’s spectacular E3 keynote this week, although the new motion-control tech was also a major focus for the E3 show-and-tell from the console manufacturer.

Obviously, the way that E3 works is that Microsoft has to keep its core market (the hardcore gamers) happy, before banging on too much about appealing to the casual gamers and the family market with titles such as the newly-announced Kinetictimals or the sports game from Rare, cleverly titled Kinect Sports.

Both of those Kinect games looked truly amazing, despite the criticism and ingrained-cynicism of the British games journalist contingent out at E3 this year. Sure, they look (or steal) a bit from games like Nintendogs and Wii Sports – but they also look and play a million times better. Get over it!

Hardcore, you know the score

So we were soon treated to the sight of Cliffy B showing off a new ultra-violent Gears of War 3 trailer, in addition to Treyarch’s guys showing off glimpses of the new Cold War-era Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Both looked, as you would expect, suitably awesome. On top of that Metal Gear Solid: Rising was shown off by Konami’s sneak-em-up wizard Hideo Kojima and Peter Molyneux showed off the rather marvellous-looking Fable III –set to launch on 26 October.

Back to the meat-and-potatoes of the presentation though,Kinect is clearly a major new platform for Microsoft. And, despite what the Nintendo fanboys might say, Redmond has clearly learned its lessons from Miyamoto et al over in Japan, because Kinect really does look like it is bringing something new to the motion-controlled party when it launches later in November this year.

The other news for gamers was the announcement of a new, slimmer redesigned Xbox 360 console, slightly slimmer than the current ‘Elite’ model with a "whisper quiet fan" - which actually might make the 360 a viable option for watching movies on DVD or Sky Player, without having to be slightly annoyed by all of that that whirring noise in the background.

Additionally, the new slimmed-down Xbox 360 packs in a 250GB swappable HD for you to store all of your games and other media, along with built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi. Although Microsoft is still refusing to pop a Blu-ray drive in there!

The Slim Xbox 360 will be available soon priced at £199, launching in the UK on July 17.

Dance, sports, killing

Back again to Kinect, Microsoft demonstrated the tech’s video-chat capabilities and also showed off some genuinely cool-looking new games from Harmonix (Dance Party), Rare (Kinect Sports) and – most popular of all with the E3 crown – a Star Wars-based demo featuring a lightsaber and Darth Vader.

Signing off, Microsoft assured us that Xbox Live will also soon be closely integrated with Microsoft Windows Phone 7, so you can keep up with all of your Xbox Friends, Avatars and Achievements on the go.

An interesting idea, and one that we have been waiting to hear more about since Bill Gates announced his ‘Live Anywhere’ vision back at E3 2005.

Watch this space for more.