I find that the biggest problem covering large industry events such as this year’s E3 is that there is an enormous amount of information to sift through; videos, news coverage, opinions, etc. Today, however, I found that the best coverage of Microsoft’s E3 press conference has been on Reddit, as they’re the ones who have really pegged what it was all about; the Kinect, and Microsoft’s attempt to synergize all of our devices together. One post in particular summed up today the best – how is someone supposed to hold all of these? How about everyone’s reaction to Usher opening for Dance Central 3? Or a new meme to kick off a week of E3 coverage? But each one of these trending ideas are part of a central theme. Besides the news of sequels to games we already knew were coming out (Halo 4, Black Ops 2), this press conference was a re-releasing of the Kinect as well as an attempt by Microsoft to make the Xbox 360 more than just a console for gamers, but a centralized entertainment system for everybody.
It’s easy to joke about the Kinect as the Xbox has typically been a place exclusively for gamers and Triple A titles, but it seems as if Microsoft is attempting to move away from being purely a game console by offering more services aimed at those who want a different experience. According to Gamasutra, Xbox will be “doubling the amount of entertainment experiences it offers on Xbox Live over the next year.” This includes a new music app as well as a host of agreements with other media partners, particularly ESPN. These new partnerships will give the Xbox a larger library from which its users can search and more varied programming. The ESPN deal alone will allow Xbox users to stream NHL and NBA games live to their consoles.
Microsoft is also hoping to give users greater accessibility to all of this new content with Xbox SmartGlass. The technology will allow users to interact with their Xbox through tablets, PCs, and smart phones, creating a multi-device entertainment system; technology you expect to see from Apple, to be honest. The basics of this system would allow you to start watching something on your TV, stop it, and continue on a tablet or handheld device, similar to how some digital TV services already work. But SmartGlass will also allow gamers to interact with their media as well, allowing Madden NFL 13 players (as seen in the previous link) to create, call, and execute plays on their tablet in the middle of a game on their Xbox. This is pretty exciting technology as now it will allow me to pretend I’m a football coach, standing and yelling at my TV holding a tablet like a clipboard while wearing an oversized headset. I doubt there will be any real reason to use this kind of technology in say Halo 4, but it could be useful for games that need more sophisticated, non-joystick controls.
Perhaps Microsoft is trying to turn the Xbox 360 into the PS2 of its generation, sticking around long after release, outliving all other consoles. If Microsoft can manage to turn the Xbox 360 into more of an entertainment center and less of a console for gamers, then perhaps it could see resurgence in popularity. If the cost of the unit continues to drop, those who already own other devices, everyday non-gamers, might be interested in purchasing one purely for the convenience of having everything in one place. New content, along with SmartGlass, is a one-two punch designed to give a larger market easier access to an aging device. If they can convince consumers that the Xbox is for everybody then the Xbox could land itself on the shelf of many non-gamers, right next to the cable box and that old VCR.