Microsoft


There will be no on-stage antics like this from Nintendo at this year's E3.
Ben Kuchera

For the first time since the annual industry conference started in 1995, Nintendo will not be holding a major press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year, instead "working to establish a new presentation style for E3."

Nintendo announced the surprising change in its promotional plans via an investor presentation by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata overnight. Rather than holding a major E3 press event to appeal to different audiences around the world, Iwata says Nintendo is "planning to host a few smaller events that are specifically focused on our software lineup for the US market" for this year's show, one for American distributors and another for the Western press. Iwata also cryptically mentioned that Nintendo is "continuing to investigate ways to deliver information about our games directly to our home audience around the time of E3," suggesting that it might be planning some sort of video presentation directly to consumers via the Web (or the Wii U) during the show.

While Nintendo will still be showing off new Wii U and 3DS titles on the E3 show floor, the move represents a significant change in marketing tactics for the major console maker. It would be like Apple deciding to announce the next major revision to iOS not with a worldwide developer-focused keynote address, but by simply setting up a booth at Mobile World Congress and inviting the press and select developers to try it out during a cocktail hour.

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An image from a Nintendo teardown shows the heart of the Wii U.

Remember the days when your idiot friends would argue with you in the schoolyard about how "blast processing" made the Sega Genesis a better system than the Super Nintendo? Or how the Nintendo 64 was twice as good as the Sony PlayStation because it had twice as many "bits"? Or how the Wii's processor was no better than "two GameCubes stuck together"? Here in our new, enlightened age, I thought we had left such context-free numbers games behind like so many other childish arguments.

But no, in 2012 people are apparently still obsessing over how a single spec number makes one console wholly better or worse than another. Today's bit of myopic number-crunching is based on the findings of Wii hacker (and now purported Wii U hacker) Hector Martin, who last night tweeted claims that he had discovered the previously unknown clock speeds for the Wii U's tri-core PowerPC 750 processor (about 1.24GHz) and the AMD Radeon-based GPU (about 550MHz).

The Wii U's CPU clock speed number is indeed lower than the Xbox 360's 3.2GHz clock (although the 360's gets halved to a functional 1.6GHz when multithreading) or the PS3's 4GHz clock. The GPU clock speeds are more comparable across the PS3, the Xbox 360, and the Wii U. Still, plenty of reporters jumped on that fact as undeniable evidence that the Wii U hardware is actually inferior to that of consoles that came out years ago.

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Nintendo today announced first-week sales of 400,000 Wii U systems in North America, falling short of the mark set by the first Wii, but surpassing early sales of previous high-definition systems.

American corporate president Reggie Fils-Aime told CNet sales of the new system have been limited only by Nintendo's ability to get product to stores. "Retailers are also doing their best to get the product to store shelves, but as soon as product hits retail, they're selling out immediately," Fils-Aime said, gelling with reports from retailers like GameStop that explicitly noted in Black Friday ads that they had no hardware stock to sell.

The original Wii sold over 600,000  units in the Americas in the eight days following its November 2006 launch, which also overlapped with Black Friday. Indeed, the Wii was nearly impossible to find on store shelves for months following launch, selling millions of systems in that time.

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Engadget reports that HBO Co-President Eric Kessler has announced that the cable network's popular HBO Go on-demand streaming service will be available through the Xbox 360 starting April 1. The service has been expected on the system since last December, when Microsoft began rolling out additional Xbox 360 streaming video options from content providers ranging from SyFy and Bravo to YouTube and Crackle.

Xbox 360 HBO Go users will still need a valid cable account with an HBO subscription to access the service, which is also available through Web browsers, Roku boxes, iOS and Android devices, and some Samsung Smart TVs. The service currently offers selected movies, sports and comedy programming as well as complete episode archives for all of HBO's original series.

Streaming video content is becoming an increasing focus for video game console makers of late, with Nintendo reportedly talking to "top content companies" about getting expanded video offerings on its upcoming Wii U system.

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Update: It's official. As expected, at this morning's E3 keynote, Microsoft revealed both Halo 4 and an enhanced remake of the original Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 4 will be the start of an all-new trilogy and will launch on the 360 at the end of next year. And unlike some of the more recent entries in the franchise, it stars none other than Master Chief.

Meanwhile, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will be launching on November 15, and will feature enhanced visuals, online co-op, and seven classic multiplayer maps.

Original story: Just hours before the keynote at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft pushed an update to its E3 website stating that Halo 4 is "on the way." The post was quickly taken down, but it confirms the existence of the fifth installment (or seventh, if you count Halo Wars and Halo 3: ODST) in the Halo franchise, as well as other expected games, including Dance Central 2, Kinect Star Wars, and Kinect Sports 2.

The blurb for the Halo 4 post described the news as something "millions of Halo fans have waited for." As Halo: Reach was franchise creator Bungie's last entry to the series, it's likely that Halo 4 will have been developed by Microsoft and 343 Industries. The updated site also mentioned a remastered version of Halo: Combat Evolved that will be released presumably for the tenth anniversary of the first Halo game's November 2001 launch.

This may have been a controlled leak to generate buzz for E3, as its keynote is locking horns with that of the Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference: E3's keynote begins at 12:30 pm EDT, just half an hour before the WWDC keynote. We wonder if Halo 4's announcement will accompany that of a new console, or if Microsoft will let Nintendo steal all the hardware thunder with its Wii successor.

Be sure to follow our liveblog, which kicks off shortly.

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Just hours before the keynote at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft pushed an update to its E3 website stating that Halo 4 is "on the way." The post was quickly taken down, but it confirms the existence of the fifth installment in the Halo franchise, as well as other expected games, including Dance Central 2, Kinect Star Wars, and Kinect Sports 2.

The blurb for the Halo 4 post described the news as something "millions of Halo fans have waited for." As Halo: Reach was franchise creator Bungie's last entry to the series, it's likely that Halo 4 will have been developed by Microsoft and 343 Industries. The updated site also mentioned a remastered version of Halo: Combat Evolved that will be released presumably for the tenth anniversary of the first Halo game's November 2001 launch.

This may have been a controlled leak to generate buzz for E3, as its keynote is locking horns with that of the Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference: E3's keynote begins at 12:30 pm EDT, just half an hour before the WWDC keynote. We wonder if Halo 4's announcement will accompany that of a new console, or if Microsoft will let Nintendo steal all the hardware thunder with its Wii successor.

Be sure to follow our liveblog, which kicks off shortly.

Read the comments on this post


Nintendo had a good December, selling 2.5 million DS systems and 2.3 million Wii systems, taking the crown for most hardware sold in calendar 2010. That sounds great, until you realize the DS and Wii sold 3.31 million and 3.81 million units respectively in December 2009. Microsoft has much more to brag about, as the Xbox 360 is the only console to see growth year over year, with 42 percent higher sales in 2010 than 2009.

$6.2 billion was spent at retail on Xbox 360 hardware, games, and accessories, making it the console earning the most consumer dollars for the year. 1.9 million pieces of hardware were sold in December—the most successful month for Microsoft since the launch of the system. Nintendo may have come out on top, but sales of the Wii and DS are sliding from last year, while the Xbox 360 is gaining momentum. That's an impressive achievement after so many years of availability. It's also worth pointing out that Microsoft claimed to be supply constrained during December, so the sales might have been higher if systems had been in great supply

The other major success story was Call of Duty: Black Ops, selling a staggering 12 million copies in the US year to date, doubling the sales of the second-best-selling game Madden '11. Software sales were down 5 percent from 2009, but that number only accounts for physical sales. Overall though, the industry is hopeful about the future. "December 2010 represented one of the strongest monthly performances the industry has ever had at retail," said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association. "It was a robust finish to a year marked by innovation and engaging millions of consumers through a multitude of delivery models.”

So there you go.

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Nintendo had a good December, selling 2.5 million DS systems and 2.3 million Wii systems, taking the crown for most hardware sold in calendar 2010. That sounds great, until you realize the DS and Wii sold 3.31 million and 3.81 million units respectively in December 2009. Microsoft has much more to brag about, as the Xbox 360 is the only console to see growth year over year, with 42 percent higher sales in 2010 than 2009.

$6.2 billion was spent at retail on Xbox 360 hardware, games, and accessories, making it the console earning the most consumer dollars for the year. 1.9 million pieces of hardware were sold in December—the most successful month for Microsoft since the launch of the system. Nintendo may have come out on top, but sales of the Wii and DS are sliding from last year, while the Xbox 360 is gaining momentum. That's an impressive achievement after so many years of availability. It's also worth pointing out that Microsoft claimed to be supply constrained during December, so the sales might have been higher if systems had been in great supply

The other major success story was Call of Duty: Black Ops, selling a staggering 12 million copies in the US year to date, doubling the sales of the second-best-selling game Madden '11. Software sales were down 5 percent from 2009, but that number only accounts for physical sales. Overall though, the industry is hopeful about the future. "December 2010 represented one of the strongest monthly performances the industry has ever had at retail," said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association. "It was a robust finish to a year marked by innovation and engaging millions of consumers through a multitude of delivery models.”

So there you go.

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The Nintendo Wii has enjoyed amazing success this generation, bridging the gap between hardcore and casual gamers. The low-cost console's innovative motion controls expanded the audience for games, and it looked as if Sony and Microsoft would never catch up in the United States. Both Microsoft and Sony ultimately decided that there's something to the whole motion control thing, however, and have announced products that will soon see them following in the Wii's footsteps.

Sony's entry into the motion control race is the Move, a collection of devices that work together to create motion controls that are more precise than what Nintendo can offer, with games that enjoy high-definition graphics and better frame rates than the Wii can deliver. Microsoft's motion effort takes a different tack, using a sort of camera that will sit under your television and allow you to interact with your games by moving your body and waving your hands. In essence, Microsoft's Kinect makes you the controller. Make no mistake, the Move and Kinect are me-too products. It's no coincidence that both motion control schemes follow on the heels of the Wii's success. The question is how well each product will engage with the Wii's strengths and weaknesses in order to carve out its own success.

After looking at the final pricing from Microsoft and Sony, playing many games on both technologies, and getting a feel for what both companies are after, we've come to this conclusion: Sony's strategy is going to offer more to a wider variety of gamers. That's not to say that it will be more popular, sell more, or make more money for third-party developers—it's just that for our audience, Sony is the better bet as of this moment.

Here's why.

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Let's look back at this week's top Microsoft news, which was dominated by these stories.

IE gains market share at the expense of Firefox, Chrome: Firefox and Chrome both lost share in July. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer has managed to gain market share for the second month in a row. 

Windows 7 overtakes Windows Vista in market share: Windows 7 has already managed to pass Windows Vista in market share, while Mac OS is at five percent and Linux is at one percent. Charts inside.

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