App offers content interaction via vidgame console
In between touting upcoming high-profile releases like “Halo 4″ and “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” Microsoft had Hollywood’s transmedia producers revved up Monday as it introduced its SmartGlass application for the Xbox 360.The technology, revealed during a presser that kicked off this week’s E3 videogame confab, will enable film, TV and game producers to supply additional content to smartphones and tablets as programming plays on their TV sets through the videogame console. Viewers of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” for example, would be able to see bios of characters or a map of the fictional land Westeros as episodes unfold. The free application will support Windows 8, Apple and Android-powered devices — “devices you already own” — when it bows in the fall, according to Xbox Live head Marc Whitten. Gamemakers behind “Halo 4,” “Madden 13,” and “Ascend: New Gods” already are developing extra mobile screen content for the SmartGlass app when those titles are released this fall, but Microsoft also believes film and TV producers will take advantage of the technology. Immediate beneficiaries would be those who have a streaming app on Xbox Live, like HBO Go and ESPN. Paramount, for example, has experimented by making scenes from “School of Rock” accessible using a smartphone when the film streams on the Xbox 360. Producers have long discussed the prospects of delivering content across multiple screens, but were held back by the inability for most devices to seamlessly connect with each other. “It’s all about simplicity,” Whitten said, “and coming up with ways to make entertainment experiences better in the livingroom.” SmartGlass also enables users start a film on a tablet and continue playing it on the Xbox 360, and use their smartphones as remote controls to surf the web via Internet Explorer that will soon be integrated into Xbox Live. How content owners would be able to monetize the new app’s capabilities have yet to be worked out, but are being considered. Move is the latest for Microsoft as it looks to turn the Xbox 360 console into an entertainment hub for all forms of digital content, and is the company’s answer to Apple’s long-rumored plans to produce an Internet-accessible TV. Through its new software any TV connected to an Xbox 360 would become a smartTV. “This is the web transformed for TV,” Whitten said. Exec searched for and played a clip from Fox’s “Prometheus” during the presser, and visited Aston Martin’s website to demonstrate Internet Explorer. Additionally, Xbox Live functionality also is being added to Windows 8 devices, broadening where content can be accessed for Microsoft’s partners. With more partners being added, Microsoft enhanced its Bing search engine to enable content to be located by genre, rather than just title. Results bring up titles and which video services offer them. Bing’s voice search capabilities also will expand to 12 countries, including Mexico, this year. Over the next year, Whitten said Xbox Live plans “on doubling” the number of content partners that stream video on the Xbox 360. On Monday, it announced 35 new content partners, including Paramount, Nickelodeon, Univision, NBA, NHL and Machinima to provide programming to Xbox Live. ESPN will also add more daily programming. Microsoft also will launch Xbox Music, delivering 30 million tracks to Xbox 360s, PCs, tablets and phones. The rest of Microsoft’s presser proved a quick affair at USC’s Galen Center, as execs from Microsoft and gamemakers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft briefly introduced new footage from games like the more mature reboot of “Tomb Raider,” “Resident Evil 6,” “Fable: The Journey,” “Forza Horizon,” “Nike+ Kinect Training,” “LocoCycle” and the next “Gears of War.” “Wreckateer” is Microsoft’s medieval answer to “Angry Birds,” exclusive to Xbox Live, that launches this summer. Details of Gore Verbinski’s “Matter,” developed for the Kinect, were muddled, with a rushed presentation that did not have the helmer take the stage. Game bows next year. Given that the event was broadcast simultaneously on Spike TV, Xbox.com and on the Xbox 360, Microsoft tubthumped its high-profile titles bowing now through 2013 with celeb appearances. Usher performed his single “Scream” while dancing and demonstrating how he’s integrated into “Dance Central 3,” while former football quarterback Joe Montana promoted “Madden 13.” EA Sports said it would be making its biggest investment ever in “Madden 13.” “South Park”-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone revealed “South Park: The Stick of Truth,” out March 5, 2013, in which players become the fifth of the show’s four boys. First “South Park” game bowed 14 years ago. “How many times have you been watching an episode of ‘South Park’ and thought, ‘I’d like to be able to watch this on my television, while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device, which is hooked into my oven, all while sitting in the refrigerator,” quipped Parker when taking the stage to mock SmartGlass. New “South Park” game forced the series’ creators to map out the town in the show for the first time to figure out where characters lived. The two had been approached to develop a “South Park” game before, but didn’t want to produce one unless “it felt as if you were in an episode of ‘South Park,'” Stone said. “It had to look like an episode of ‘South Park,’ which is pretty crappy.” Company gave “Halo 4″ first billing out of the gate with new footage shown of the actioner, out in October, that continues Microsoft’s long-running franchise. Xbox’s Kinect division also touted voice commands, built into new games like “Madden 13, “Fifa 13″ and “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist.” Event closed with an extended look at “Black Ops II,” which Activision hopes will continue as the top-selling videogame when it hits stores Nov. 13, a month after “Halo 4.”
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