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The Globe and Mail

Microsoft trumpets Kinect features at E3 keynote

Kudo Tsunoda of Microsoft introduces Kinect Fun Labs at the Microsoft E3 XBOX 360 media briefing in Los Angeles, California June 6, 2011.


Still riding the massive wave of Kinect's success, Microsoft has the least to prove at this year's E3. However, with little in the way of major announcements expected, the Redmond-based company also has a great opportunity to steal the show.

But I'm not sure that will happen.

There were few major surprises at the company's media briefing Monday morning in Los Angeles. After beginning with an extended look at Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - a spectacular sequence set amid burning warships floating around Manhattan - the event revolved around Microsoft's motion-sensing controller.

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Third-party developers supporting Kinect came out in full force, with EA Sports announcing that four of its franchises - including Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Madden NFL - will support Kinect this year, Ubisoft confirming that all future Tom Clancy games - including the upcoming Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier - and BioWare announcing Kinect support for Mass Effect 3. These were just some of the highlights in a parade of Kinect titles that also included Lego Star Wars, Dance Central 2, Kinect Disneyworld, and a Kinect version of popular indie world builder Minecraft.

Microsoft, meanwhile, talked up Kinect support for Forza Motorsport 4, first-person entry in Lionhead's popular Xbox 360-exclusive Fable franchise called Fable: The Journey, and a bloody, cinematic action game from Germany's Crytek called Ryse that is apparently designed specifically for Kinect.

Other Kinect announcements included the Monday launch of Kinect Fun Lab, a new element on the Xbox 360 dashboard that will allow people to try innovative Kinect features such as finger tracking and one-to-one avatar body control, as well as word that a Kinect voice-controlled version of Microsoft's search engine Bing is on its way to the system.

Non-Kinect titles - Gears of War 3, a remake of the original Halo dubbed Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and Tomb Raider (an origin story starring a 21-year-old Lara Croft) - were present, but accounted for a small minority of the titles shown.

There was little talk of numbers or sales, but Microsoft's Don Mattrick mentioned near the end of the event that he expects the Xbox 360 to go from the best-selling console in North America last year to the best-selling console worldwide in 2011.

The presser concluded with a teaser for Halo 4, the first in a new trilogy of games starring the Master Chief under development by 343 Industries.

Microsoft said it will give users access to live television programming through the Xbox in the United States some time next year, following live TV services it already offers in Britain, France and Australia.

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Xbox users will also be able to access Hulu Plus, Netflix, and watch YouTube videos on the system, all controllable through the Kinect, Microsoft said.

Bottom line, for better or worse, Microsoft is all about Kinect in 2011.

With files from The Associated Press

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