E3 2011: Two new Halos, Live TV headed to Xbox

Microsoft is covering its bases at this year’s E3. E3 logo

The company, in its pre-show pres conference, announced a variety of new games and services, designed to appeal to everyone from core gamers to casual gamers to nongamers.

Leading the charge was the announcement of two new “Halo” titles – a remade version of the original “Halo: Combat Evolved,” that will add graphical polish and be on shelves for the series 10th anniversary this November. In addition, the company formally unveiled “Halo 4” – the beginning of an all new trilogy that will feature the series’ hero Master Chief. (That game is scheduled for a November 2012 release.)

Beyond “Halo,” Microsoft showed off a series of core-themed games, including “Gears of War 3” and “Forza 4” – and, as expected, Microsoft began its push to include Kinect functionality in games that appeal to serious gamers.

“Ryse,” a Kinect title from “Crysis” developers Crytek, will use the motion sensor to let players live the live of a Roman Centurian in a series of grizzly battles. And both “Mass Effect 3” and “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier” will incorporate elements of the controller’s functionality into the game.

For families and casual gamers, Microsoft had a slew of titles on display, including the Sesame Street tie-in “Once Upon a Monster” and Disney’s “Disneyland Adventures.”

While the company didn’t announce the Xbox TV original programming channel that has long been rumored, television is becoming much more important to the console. Later this year, the 360 will support live television viewing through a variety of cable partners – though Microsoft did not announce any names.

In addition, the company announced a new search service combining Bing with video delivery providers that has many of the earmarks of Google TV. Essentially, owners can find the programming (as well as games) they want when they want it simply by using voice commands.

“This is the year that live television comes to Xbox 360 as we partner with leading television providers, both here in the U.S. and around the world,” said Marc Whitten, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox Live division. “This is our vision of the future of television.”

Through the search service, users will be able to use voice commands to search for programming of interest to them using Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The service will then search through the archives of video providers, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and more for available video.

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