Microsoft Xbox 360 Community and Blogger Bus at E3 2006

Something pretty cool happened as part of the work I do with Microsoft on Xbox 360 (and of course, Microsoft Games Studios). One of the pieces of what I do, but really run by someone else at my job, involves maintaining relationships with bloggers large and not so large. As my introduction on Xbox.com and in posts on some of the message boards I work on, I get to know a lot of regular gamers and, especially in the case of NeoGAF, a few developers and journalists. Obviously we invite them to things like the San Francisco event we had in March and we’re doing a few things at E3 this year as well. One of the things we recognized at these events is that it has always been logistically difficult to provide Internet access to everyone that needs it to complete some sort of online communication, from journalists to bloggers to people on the message boards. This was especially true back in October 2005 when I attended an event in New York where all sorts of journalists came to preview the launch window game titles for the first time and, at night, we had PMS Clan members and message board members coming by to play and hang out. It would have been nice to give all of them some ability to go online.

Xbox blogger bus location at E3 2006Going into our planning for E3, we recognized the need for these very same contacts and friends of ours to have ready access to the Internet. As John Porcaro over on the Microsoft side of things explains on the Gamerscore Blog, determining and getting approval on where we could put aside some physical space to let people hook up to the Internet. We couldn’t put it anywhere in or near the Microsoft booth, there just wasn’t room left, nor did we want to take some place that was out of the way — even if it was available. After much talking amongst ourselves and with the E3 staff, we got ourselves a nice big parking spot right out front of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Not only that, but the bus is this huge coach which will be conveniently wrapped in Xbox 360 branding. Of course, if you’ve been playing attention to the maps linked earlier, the bus just happens to be right in the route many people will take to head to the West Hall when going to check out Sony’s and Nintendo’s respective booths. Hopefully the bus will serve to distract them a just little.

My schedule has not been finalized yet, but I will be spending some time in and near the bus over the full three days of E3. Ask for me if you happen to drop by, I would be more than happy to meet you.

More details on who will be there, who is invited and how to find out if you can get invited to the bus at the aforementioned Gamerscore Blog.

I’m spoiled by the new Xbox Live

Original version of Xbox Live dashboard on Xbox

The current iteration of Xbox Live has really spoiled me in a couple of ways. On the original Xbox and Xbox Live, it was nice and important to know who on your friends list was online and what game they are playing. So of course with the Xbox 360 release, Xbox Live tells you that information and then lets you know what they are doing in the game: what level or map they are on, often what particular activity they are doing, status about their character/persona, the score of the (sports) game they are playing, or, like with Oblivion, their level and current health.

Xbox Live friends list blade on Xbox 360Which brings me to wish that Final Fantasy XI was able to pass along similar information. I’m guessing that, along with the fact that you couldn’t really award retroactive achievements, there might be some technical reason that stands in the way of reporting that type of information back to the dashboard or Xbox.com friends lists. The thing is with PlayOnline was that I knew whomever was online on their friends list was playing FFXI. Now when I see them on “PlayOnline Viewer” I want to know details! FFXI or, unlikely, TetraMaster? Why isn’t it the mysterious Final Fantasy XI entry/icon which only shows me as playing it the day I installed it. I also want to see what their character name is, what server they are on and what jobs and levels they have active at that moment. It just seems… to fit… and satiate my curiousity about people I didn’t know were playing MMOs/FFXI.

Come play GRAW X360 on Sat 4/23 night

Not like anybody reads this anyway, but I’m going to be playing GRAW on Xbox Live on Saturday, 4/22, at 6pm PT/8pm CT/9pm ET or GMT 4/23 1am. I’ll have Staci from Killer Betties with me playing multi-player. Add my gamertag to your friends list (if you already aren’t) and shoot me a note in game on Saturday. Hopefully there’ll be a decent turnout!

E3 2006 – The Electronic Entertainment Expo

I am now officially registered, booked and reserved for my first E3 ever, to start in just under a month. I will arrive in LA early on Monday morning, probably too early considering what the rest of the week is going to entail. I don’t know yet what I’m doing on Monday, I’m sure it involves set-up, planning and rehearsal. As many people know, Sony’s press briefing has been scheduled for Monday afternoon. I’m sure many of us will expectantly wait to see what announcements should must be made: price, further timing on the worldwide launch, HDD-inclusion, controller design, online features, etc. It is definitely going to be one heck of an evening afterwards.

Tuesday morning is Nintendo’s briefing, to be held at the famed Kodak Theater, where we can expect a lot more news about the Virtual Console, their big franchises and whatever creatively disruptive things they have cooking up Iwata-san and Miyamoto-san’s sleeves. As soon as the Nintendo briefing is over, most everyone will be headed over to the Chinese Theater, which is just a stone’s throw away, for the Microsoft briefing. It took me a while to realize that this was THE Chinese Theater we see and hear about when some movies premiere in Los Angeles. Wow. I’m really not as free to speculate about what the Microsoft announcements will be (since I already pretty much know them) as I can about Sony and Nintendo, but I’m sure it will be all that everyone seems to expect and more.

Wednesday the show starts and so will the absolutely chaotic mayhem, judging from some show floor pictures of E3 2005 and being told that the floor is pretty much constantly like that throughout the show. Commit me if you have to, but I think this is going to be a great time for a guy like me. I don’t remember what my schedule and responsibilities are for each day, obviously I will be busier than I will probably ever be in my life. There will be a couple of “parties” that I will attend (or at least try to) from the looks of it. I say “parties” because they aren’t really the type of party where you just go to have fun and let off steam. In one way or another they will be related to networking, getting to know other folks in various parts of the industry, getting to meet people I talk to often face to face and generally networking. I mean, it will be fun, but again, not entirely super party time.

I also hope that I can find enough time to walk the floor and adequately check everything out. Partly out of curiosity of course, but I’m really interested in being able to see what’s coming down the pipe for publishers across all platforms, including PC. It will be like being a kid in a candy store. Depending on the level of announcements, it will be interesting to see how far Sony and Nintendo are coming along on their first party titles — in the case of the latter company, there hasn’t been much being said or shown. I can’t even begin to think about what from multi-platform and 360 exclusive publishers I want to see. A lot of it is stuff Microsoft Game Studios is publishing anyway — the Japanese titles. The one thing I do know for certain, is that whatever I see, I know I’ll see enough that it’s going to mortally injure my pocketbook this year. And I can’t wait!