Microsoft Outlines Year End Game Plan
Kinect, Final Fantasy XIII and more feature at pre Tokyo Game Show media briefing.
Microsoft gathered the press yesterday (9/8) in central Tokyo for its "Xbox 360 Media Briefing 2010" pre-Tokyo Game Show strategy briefing. The company outlined its year-end release plans and also hinted at more announcements to come at next week's show.
Home & Entertainment chief Takashi Sensui opened up the press conference by joking that these Xbox 360 briefings are often overshadowed by major political happenings. This year, in addition to elections within the ruling Democratic Party, Typhoon Malou made landfall in Eastern Japan just as the press conference kicked off.
Jokes out of the way, Sensui recapped some of the achievements Microsoft has made over the past five years, including the delivery of "a strong lineup," a "robust online service" and "higher quality hardware." The next step is to "evolve the system into an entertainment platform that anyone can enjoy," he said, as a reference to Kinect.
But before Kinect, he introduced some of the company's general hardware and software. Most of the details had been shared before, but there were a few surprises.
On the hardware front, Microsoft had previously announced the Xbox 360 4GB system. This is due for release today (9/9) at ¥19,800. The 4GB system will complete Microsoft's Xbox 360 slim lineup, which currently includes the ¥29,800 250GB version that was released on June 24.
On the software side of things, Sensui said "From September through next Spring, we will release around 100 titles. This number is twice that of the same period last year."
Most of the games he proceeded to introduce had been previously shown and given dates. These included:
- 9/15: Halo Reach (Microsoft)
- 9/29: Monster Hunter Frontier Online Season 9.0 Premium Package (Capcom)
- 9/30: Dead Rising 2 (Capcom)
- 10/21: Vanquish (Sega)
- 10/21: Naruto Ultimate Storm 2 (Namco Bandai)
- 10/28: Fable III (Microsoft)
- 11/11: Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 (Namco Bandai)
- 12/22: Virtual On Force (Sega)
- Winter: Mass Effect 2 (Microsoft)
- 4/7/2011: Gears of War 3 (Microsoft)
- Spring 2011: Idolmaster 2 (Namco Bandai)
The only new game in there is Mass Effect 2, which was previously unannounced for Japanese release. For the original Mass Effect, Japanese players had to wait one and a half years from the US version's Nov. 2007 release. The wait from Mass Effect 2's overseas January 2010 release will apparently be a ways shorter.
The lineup announced by Sensui was missing all the Square Enix games. Sensui turned the mic over to Square Enix's Shinji Hashimoto for details on the RPG giant's upcoming titles.
Taking the stage, Hashimoto joked "I've appeared on a variety of stages, but this is the first for a Microsoft stage. I'm a little nervous."
He brought with him details on eight games:
- 9/16: Front Mission Evolved
- 9/22: Singularity
- 11/18: Call of Duty Black Ops (Subtitled Version)
- 12/16: Call of Duty Black Ops (Dubbed Version)
- 12/16: Final Fantasy XIII Ultimate Hits International
- 2011: Mind Jack
- 2011: Gun Loco
- TBA: Deus Ex
Gun Loco, one of Square Enix's announcements from the recent Comic-Con event in America, was previously unannounced for Japanese release. The game will appear in playable form at the Tokyo Game Show.
Front Mission Evolved arrives next week just as TGS kicks off. Hashimoto said to expect download content for the game later this month.
Call of Duty Black Ops (to be released in separate dubbed and subbed versions) saw its first Japanese language trailer at the event. You can view the trailer here). Deus Ex will see a world exclusive trailer at TGS.
Also new in the lineup is Final Fantasy XIII Ultimate Hits International, the long awaited domestic release for the Xbox 360 version of FFXIII. The 360 version will be released at budget pricing and will include a new Easy Mode and some more subtle gameplay adjustments. Square Enix is also bundling in a booklet which contains images from deleted cut scenes and a newly written epilogue novel.
As reason for the game's release after such a long wait, Hashimoto cited strong sales overseas and also noted that there's been strong demand for the game from Japanese players.
Producer Yoshinori Kitase took the stage to share more specific information about the 360 release. Regarding the inclusion of the Easy Mode, he said he was hoping to see players who got stuck midway through the story (presumably in the PS3 version) retry the game.
Following the FFXIII reveal, Sensui took back the stage and moved on to the Kinect part of the press conference. Included in the announcements were a final Japanese release date for the hardware, launch title information, hardware bundle information, and a previously unannounced title.
Kinect's Japanese release will come on November 20. Players will be able to pick up the base Kinect Sensor package, bundled with Kinect Adventure, for ¥14,800. Microsoft is also readying a 4GB and 250GB hardware bundled, priced respectively at ¥29,800 and ¥39,800.
Outside of Adventures, the launch lineup includes five games: Crossboard 7 (Konami), DanceEvolution (Konami), Sonic Riders (Sega), Karada de Kotaeru Atarashii Nou Tore (Namco Bandai): ¥6,279, and Kinect Sports (Microsoft). The remainder of the year will see Kinect Animals (Microsoft), Your Shape Fitness Evolved (Ubisoft) and Deca Sporta Freedom (Hudson).
For further details on Microsoft's Kinect launch plans, see this story.
After relaying the launch plans, Sensui himself demoed Sonic live with a young companion. Attendees were later able to demo many of the games for themselves. During these demo sessions, Sonic proved to be particularly popular.
Microsoft chose to highlight one game in particular. Atarashii Nou Tore producer Yasutsugu Nishimoto was called out on stage to detail the new brain training game.
According to Nishimoto, Namco Bandai planned Atarashii Nou Tore as a game for families, the same group which Kinect targets. The game is being supervised by Tohoku University professor Ryuta Kawashima (of Brain Age fame) who was conducting research into the connection between body movement and the brain. Kawashima also had interest in the possibilities of controller-free input devices like Kinect.
You can read about and get a first video look at Atarashii Nou Tore in this story.
Nishimoto had a representative demo the various mini games live before attendees. Included in these was a game featuring Pac-Man character elements. The theme for this game is "Evade and Touch." Using their right hand, players take direct control of Pac-Man and attempt to flee attacking ghosts. With your left hand, you have to touch fruits that appear on the screen. The game requires different motions from your right and left hands. Namco Bandai tested the game on a wide age range, spanning children to adults, Nishimoto explained.
Outside of all the gaming talk, Sensui addressed one non-gaming area at the event: the previously announced Zune Video service.
Already available in 18 countries, Zune Video is a paid video on demand service that offers videos in 1080p HD and with 5.1 channel sound.
For Japan, the service will offer content from Bandai Channel, NBC Universal, and Paramount Pictures. Microsoft is currently progressing in discussions with other partners, Sensui said.
Service will kick off some time this Fall, Sensui announced. At the starting point, some 100 pieces of content will be available for download. Microsoft plans on adding dozens of titles every month.
Sensui demonstrated the Zune Video service live using Kinect. However, he noted that the service can of course be used with standard controllers.
Closing off the press conference, Sensui hinted at more announcements to come. He and his colleague Phil Spencer will be giving the Tokyo Game Show keynote on the 16th. Sensui said to expect additional announcements then.
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