X03: No News, But Line-Up Strong
There was no Perfect Dark, no price cut and no news, period - but there was a perfect beach, and a game line-up of justice. Full report!
X03, this year's European Microsoft showcase has come to a close, leaving the beachy South of France completely devastated from ultimate Xbox power and honour. But it's not exactly got a news hangover.
With the last two X0 events (X01 and X02) held at Pierre Cardin's mansion in Cannes and La Isla Magica theme park in Seville respectively, the X0 events are rapidly carving a special place in the games industry calendar. A beautiful, secluded private beach in the South of France was the venue for X03.
Almost 1000 games industry luminaries from all over the world arrived in Nice for X03 and were whisked off to a beach club in Antibes, lit up with green and completely branded for the occasion. Sipping cocktails as the sun set, guests enjoyed barbeque treats and got a chance to speculate what the big announcements would be.
Microsoft's new European Xbox manager, Eduardo Rosini, who'd never appeared on stage at any Xbox events before, kicked off the event with a recap of the previous year and a look into the future, as he explained that Xbox is gaining a leadership position. He said: "With an overall market share of 34 per cent, Xbox has become the number two console in Europe, now outselling the number three competitor by a wide margin across all the region."
Peter Moore, whose actual title at Microsoft consists of fourteen words, spoke of the new Xbox brand positioning and unveiled the new Xbox tag line - "It's Good to Play Together." He talked extensively about convergence, saying "Today's gamers are the digital hardcore, make no mistake." Emphasising Xbox as the convergence machine of the future, he continued, "Xbox was designed and built for that lifestyle... We didn't put the hard drive in the Xbox just for music... We were already thinking about Xbox Live. It was a matter of looking ahead."
Michel Cassius, senior director, Xbox platform and marketing, announced dates for the launch of Xbox Live in six more European countries, plus ongoing Xbox Live pricing and a new Xbox Live trial offer programme. Not exactly huge global news, especially when we already knew about the tag line a couple of weeks ago.
Moore said: "The It's Good To Play Together campaign will be global in scope and unprecedented in its magnitude. You will see it on TV, and in print, and online. You will hear it on the radio. And most importantly, you'll hear it from gamers."
To present some Xbox games, Tomonobu Itagaki, Peter Molyneux, and Yves Guillemot took the stage, to show not only games we already knew about, but disappointingly, footage that was recycled from this year's E3. Finally, Jay Wilbur of Epic Games took the stage to announce an ongoing deal that will bring new Epic games exclusively to Xbox.
Yves Guillemot showed video footage of Rainbow Six 3 and Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, which looked impressive but showed only a few glimpses of actual gameplay. Along with Molyneux's new video of Fable, this was the only new footage to come from the event. The Halo 2 and Ninja Gaiden footage was almost identical to what was shown at E3.
However, the following day's 'Developer Unplugged' sessions, which included Itagaki's showing of Ninja Gaiden (again similar to E3) offered a fresh glimpse at the titles in question. Full Spectrum Warrior from THQ was the most intriguing game shown, and one of the most talked-about titles of the event.
Full Spectrum Warrior is a squad-level, dismounted, Light Infantry training simulator created for use by the US Army. The game focuses on critical tactical decision making by the Squad Leader. It emphasises action and fun while the underlying structure of highly detailed accuracy and authenticity serve to highlight the action and tactical challenges likely to be faced by the Army in the year 2020.
It was also announced that RalliSport Challenge 2, the sequel to Microsoft's highly regarded rally simulation game, will be coming to Xbox in 2004, as will Codemasters' Xbox Live-enabled Race Driver 2: The Ultimate Driving Simulator.
After the press conference, guests partied into the night to the sounds of Massive Attack and were able to get their hands on some of the games announced during the press conference.
"The future is going to bring even more exciting developments for Xbox," said Rosini. "Content and services are quickly converging to connect gamers with more of their friends, in more ways, more of the time. Microsoft is taking a leadership role in serving gamers' connected lifestyles - it's what Microsoft does best, and Xbox Live is just the beginning."
The conference itself was pretty disappointing, as only small announcements were made and nothing groundbreaking or new was on offer, in terms of either news or footage. When challenged about the conference, one Microsoft representative at the show offered: "In our defence, people's expectations [in terms of announcements] were so high from last year." Peter Moore also said, "You know, we didn't say we have to make any big announcements, just look at the line-up of games on Xbox."
In fact the biggest news of the show was the complete disappearance of two UK games journalists, who were nowhere to be seen throughout Wednesday. There is lots of sea with strong current in Antibes, and lots of booze. Rumours ran wild. They've turned up now back in the UK.
Beating the last two X0 events was a tall order but nobody will be questioning Microsoft's momentum after the event. Stay tuned for lots of follow-up coverage, such as video interviews (including a Gotham 2 interview with Bizarre Creations) and tons of previously unseen, direct feed video footage.
Editorial Director, Kikizo.com