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http://www.gamersreports.com/news/106

Far be it from Microsoft to leave out anything that they can use to take more money from you. Come day one of the Xbox360 release, users will be able to choose from an assortment of downloads, all for a few bucks each. Are any of them worth it? Click read more for the full list and you decide.

In anticipation of the next generation console launch, Microsoft today announced that more than 400 pieces of downloadable Xbox Live Marketplace content—including free interactive demos for games like; "FIFA Football 06 Road to the 2006 FIFA World Cup" (Electronic Arts), "Kameo: Elements of Power" (Microsoft Game Studios), "Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie" (Ubisoft), "NBA LIVE 06" (Electronic Arts), and "Need for Speed Most Wanted" (Electronic Arts) will be available to Xbox 360 fans starting 2 December.

Freely accessible to anyone with a broadband connection, Xbox Live Marketplace is a digital download centre providing free and premium content for games, as well as entertainment content such as movie trailers and music videos.

Premium Xbox Live Marketplace content will be available for purchase with Microsoft PointsTM. Microsoft Points is a new stored-value system that will let consumers purchase a number of points, and then redeem those points for content online, ranging from gamer pictures and themes to full game downloads on Xbox Live Arcade. Microsoft Points will be available for purchase at participating retail stores and via the Xbox Live Dashboard. In EMEA, consumers can purchase a card worth 2100 Points for an ERP of £17.50. Offers in the dashboard will range from 500 points and up.

On 2 December Xbox 360 users who connect their console to a broadband connection and create an Xbox Live membership, either the paid Gold membership or free Silver membership, can look forward to content such as:

Amped 3 (2K Sports)

- Game Trailer (free)

- 10 Gamer Pictures (20 points each)

- 1 Theme (150 points)

Call of Duty® 2 (Activision Inc.)

- Game Trailer (free)

- 7 Gamer Pictures (20 points each)

- 2 Gamer Picture Bundles (40 – 80 points each)

- 1 Theme (150 points)

Condemned (SEGA)

- Game Trailer (free)

- 10 Gamer Pictures (20 points each)

- 1 Theme (150 points)

FIFA 06 Road to FIFA World Cup(Electronic Arts)

- Game Trailer (free)

- EA Sports Trailer (free)

- Game Demo (free)

- FIFA Team Logo Gamer Pictures (60 points each)

- FIFA Team Logo Themes (150 points each)

GUNTM (Activision)

- Game Trailer (free)

- 5 Gamer Pictures (20 points each)

- 1 Gamer Picture Bundle (80 points)

- 1 Theme (150 points)

Kameo: Elements of Power (Microsoft Game Studios and Rare Ltd.)

- Winter Warrior Pack (200 points)

- Game Trailer (free)

- Game Demo (free)

- 4 Gamer Pictures (20 points each)

- 2 Gamer Picture 5-pack Bundles (80 points each)

- 7 Themes (150 points each)

Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (Ubisoft)

- Game Demo (free)

- Game Trailer (free)

Madden NFL 06 (Electronic Arts)

- Game Trailer (free)

- EA Sports Trailer (free)

- NFL Logo Gamer Pictures (60 points each)

- Collection of All NFL Logo Gamer Pictures (500 points)

- NFL Logo Themes (150 points each)

NBA 2K6 (2K Sports)

- Game Trailer (free)

NBA Live 06

- EA Sports Trailer (free)

- Game Demo (free)

Need for Speed Most Wanted

- Game Trailer (free)

- Game Demo (free)

NHL 2K6

- Game Trailer (free)

Perfect Dark Zero (Microsoft Game Studios and Rare Ltd)

- Game Trailer (free)

Project Gotham Racing 3 (Microsoft Game Studios and Bizarre Creations Ltd.)

- Game Trailer (free)

Quake 4TM (Activision, id Software Inc. and Raven Software Corp.)

- Game Trailer (free)

- 7 Gamer Pictures (20 points each)

- 1 Theme (150 points)

Ridge Racer 6

- 6 Cars (pricing tbd)

- 6 Background Music Tracks (pricing tbd)

- Game Trailer (free)

Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 06 (Electronic Arts)

- EA Sports Trailer (free)

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (Activision)

- Game Trailer (free)

- 10 Gamer Pictures (20 points)

- 1 Gamer Picture Bundle (80 points)

- 1 Theme (150 points)

Plus:

- "Aeon Flux" HD movie trailer from Paramount

- Penny Arcade Gamer Pictures and Themes

- Red vs. Blue Videos

- High Definition Movie Trailers and Music Videos

- Game Trailers for upcoming games

- ...and much more!

The exclusive launch content also includes the next-generation Xbox Live Arcade online service, which is fully integrated into the Xbox 360 Dashboard providing a central destination for Xbox 360 gamers to download new games, access their game collections, check out new releases and experience around-the-game features. Xbox Live Arcade games will be available for 400, 800 or 1200 Points, with a majority of titles priced at 800 points or less.

Xbox Live Arcade for Xbox 360 games that will be available on 2 December include:

Bankshot Billiards 2TM (1200 points) – pixelStorm, Inc.

Bejeweled 2 (800 points) – Popcap Games

Gauntlet (400 points) – Midway Home Entertainment

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved (400 points) – Bizzare Creations

Hardwood Backgammon (400 points) – Silver Creek Entertainment

Hardwood Hearts (400 points) – Silver Creek Entertainment

Hardwood Spades (400 points) – Silver Creek Entertainment

Hexic® HD (full version included free with Xbox 360 System) – Microsoft Game Studios

Joust (400 points) – Midway Home Entertainment

Mutant Storm Reloaded (800 points) – PomPom Games

Outpost Kaloki (800 points) – Wahoo Studios

Robotron 2084 (400 points) – Midway Home Entertainment

Smash TV (400 points) – Midway Home Entertainment

Wik: Fable of Souls (800 points) – Reflexive Entertainment

Zuma (800 points) – Popcap Games

In addition, each Xbox Live Arcade game on Xbox 360 offers a fully playable trial version, enabling gamers to experience their favourite arcade games in high-definition before deciding to purchase.

"We're incredibly excited about providing gamers with that they want – inexpensive and entertaining digital content delivered right to their Xbox 360," said Peter Moore, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Marketing and Publishing for Xbox at Microsoft. "Xbox Live Marketplace puts the buying power directly into the consumer's hands, allowing each person to choose digital content they want, when they want it."

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.::: And people were criticising the Nintendo Starcatalogue. At least those points for buddy icons were delivered free with games...

Or am I the only one finding this a bit odd?

Also mind the 'true' downloadable content. So far only Ridge Racer 6 and Kameo have something substantial.

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.::: And people were criticising the Nintendo Starcatalogue. At least those points for buddy icons were delivered free with games...

Or am I the only one finding this a bit odd?

Yeah, I thought the same thing for the game-specific items (themes, pics, etc). Taking the piss slightly. Although there's potential for someone using it to offer a load of new content for their game. But again, that would have to mean new content on par with a retail add-on pack, not just individual levels and models that would otherwise be free.

I think (and don't have any market research to back it up) that people are more willing to buy big tangible chunks of content online rather than buying scraps of content for pennies. Microtransactions have entirely failed to work on the web, then iTMS and the like came along and offered people something they understood and had a pre-existing desire to buy, and they succeeded.

It's also a shame that developers won't see much (if any) revenue back from it in its current form, but competition from other platforms (and in the very long term, the switch to electronic distribution for full games) will eventually fix that.

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Yeah, I thought the same thing for the game-specific items (themes, pics, etc). Taking the piss slightly. Although there's potential for someone using it to offer a load of new content for their game. But again, that would have to mean new content on par with a retail add-on pack, not just individual levels and models that would otherwise be free.

I think (and don't have any market research to back it up) that people are more willing to buy big tangible chunks of content online rather than buying scraps of content for pennies. Microtransactions have entirely failed to work on the web, then iTMS and the like came along and offered people something they understood and had a pre-existing desire to buy, and they succeeded.

It's also a shame that developers won't see much (if any) revenue back from it in its current form, but competition from other platforms (and in the very long term, the switch to electronic distribution for full games) will eventually fix that.

Yeah but can you play Gauntlet 4 player over Live ? This question needs answering. Part of me believes that this Live arcade business will feature games re-coded for online play. Surely the all singing all dancing 360 can manage that ? Or is the whole point of Live arcade to get money for old games ?

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Yeah but can you play Gauntlet 4 player over Live ? This question needs answering. Part of me believes that this Live arcade business will feature games re-coded for online play. Surely the all singing all dancing 360 can manage that ? Or is  the whole point of Live arcade is to get money for old games ?

After some consideration I'm thinking 'no'. Live is for the big guns I reckon, these downloadables are for four mates on the couch.

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Gauntlet... 4 way... over live... knew I'd seen it somewhere..!

Retro Meets High Tech on Xbox 360- GameDaily

Mix one part classic retro titles, with one part fresh & original content, and combine that with next-gen hardware and a tightly managed online network, and you get Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360. Live Arcade has come a long way since its inception. We speak with Greg Canessa (left), Group Manager of the Xbox Live Arcade business, about the company's Arcade strategy.

GameDAILY BIZ: Since the released list of Xbox Live Arcade developers, many gamers have been quick to list classic titles that they'd like to see revived on Arcade. Will these developers be focusing more on new software or classic titles?

PROFILE

Greg Canessa

Group Manager of Xbox Live Arcade

Microsoft Corp.

History: Greg is an accomplished games industry veteran with over 12 years experience. Prior to MS he spent 6 years at VU Games as Director of Marketing and drove brand and product strategy for the company's various games.

Highlights: Greg recently served as Director of Business Strategy in Microsoft's game division, where he drove product strategy and incubated several new online games businesses, including Xbox Live Arcade and MSN Messenger Games.

Currently: He has spent the past 5 years at Microsoft, where he is currently Group Manager of the Xbox Live Arcade business for the Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles.

Greg Canessa: It's going to be both actually. At launch we're going to have a nice mix of the retro coin-op, classic stuff and titles that maybe have existed on other platforms and have been upgraded for 360, and completely new and original content. So we really have a nice offering, and you're going to actually see that on Xbox Live Arcade going forward. That's really the vision for Arcade, to have that central destination for small, downloadable games of all types in your Xbox 360 dash. We consider both [types of games] to be huge opportunities; and since retro coin-op games are small, downloadable games, they fit, as well as originally developed content from smaller developers and larger publishers.

With regard to the coin-op opportunity specifically you see that we have relationships we announced with every major IP owner of all retro coin-op stuff, so you've got Capcom, Konami, Sega, Namco, Midway, Atari -- they're all there. At launch we announced four titles from Midway. We're going to have Joust, Robotron, Gauntlet and SmashTV all there at launch. And what we're trying to do with the retro coin-op games is we're trying to take them a half step further. We're trying to innovate even on the retro coin-op stuff, give it a nice twist and provide a lot of extra value for the 360 customer, especially since we are on 360 and have these awesome online capabilities.

So what we've done is two quick things to those games. The first thing we did is we actually tweaked the graphics a little bit; we "up-resed" them for high definition. So it's pretty cool in a minor way. If you look at Joust, the little guys are "up-resed" a little bit so they're not blocky, the little jousters. And if you don't want that, you want total old-school and you're a purist, you can actually turn that off in the options menu in real-time and go back to the original graphics. We also actually added a little bit of a hi-res background behind Joust and we've done the same thing with a lot of the different coin-op games.

The second thing we've done and the really cool innovation is—and this has been kind of under publicized... and I think the gamers will be pretty happy when they download it—we've cracked the original ROM code for all these games. And for the first time in 20-25 years in the history of these games, we've added full Xbox Live multiplayer support. So you're going to be able to play Joust or Gauntlet, which is awesome 4-way over Live in real-time with a headset.

BIZ: That was actually one of my questions, if games like Gauntlet supported 4-player online and apparently the answer is, yes.

GC: Absolutely! And let me tell you it is a freakin' blast! When you get your hands on it, old-school Gauntlet playing with your buddies over Live just kicks ass. I'm a total old-school fan.

BIZ: Midway, Namco, Capcom and several other publishers have already released classic collections on the Xbox. The main issue we've seen with these is generally in the quality of the port. Will Xbox Live Arcade games be emulated titles like many of the other compilation discs and what kind of quality assurance does Microsoft have in place for Arcade?

GC: Every Xbox Live Arcade game is a full Xbox 360 game, by TCRs and requirements and the certification process that all Xbox 360 games go through. For quality assurance Xbox Live Arcade games will go through the exact same process. So from a quality assurance standpoint we test the heck out of these things as much as a Project Gotham Racing or a PDZ or a Kameo would be tested. It goes through the exact same team, and so to your point there are some of these retro coin-op games that have maybe small problems with them and that gets corrected.

We actually take a look and we say, "Is that a glitch in the game that clearly provides a bad customer experience or is it something like in the case of Joust, for example, or Ms. Pac-Man (as a theoretical example -- we haven't announced Ms. Pac-Man yet)?" The old-school games have like "cheats" in them or glitches in them that were actually part of the design that the guys in the coin-ops in the '80s actually figured out how to exploit; we've actually maintained those in the games, and you can toggle them to turn them on or off. We want them to be true to the old-school purists, if you really want to play with the "cheat" mode on, but if you want to turn it off and be clean you can do that too. So there's a nice balance for everyone that loves these coin-op games.

BIZ: So you've mentioned some of the big guys like Namco and Midway, but it seems like Xbox Live Arcade is starting to attract a lot of indie devs who might have trouble getting their games noticed at retail. Why do you think this has become so appealing for many independent developers?

GC: It's one of the things that I'm most excited about; it's one of the ideas behind me incubating Live Arcade in the first place. I'm a huge fan of the indie game developer community and personally I feel like if you take a couple steps back and you look at why Arcade was created in the first place—we looked at the market a couple years ago and we saw a number of trends going on in the market place. Games are getting more and more expensive to produce; the console games are $15-20 million bucks a pop. And what that's leading to is it's sort of like the Hollywood summer blockbuster phenomenon. Games get more and more expensive and the bar goes up and up and up—everything has to be in hi-def and play length is a big issue and what that's leading to is a lot of the larger publishers are saying, "We're not going to take the risk on any sort of innovation because it's not proven and if it falls flat we're screwed."

And so there's been kind of a dearth of innovation and there's really been a lot of "sequelitis." So as hardcore gamers, we probably nod our heads at a lot of that. At the same time, you have this indie game development movement that has spawned largely because of the PC downloads phenomenon... They don't have to worry about large publisher economics and overhead of Electronic Arts or whatever—we love EA, they're a great partner, and we have that same sort of cost structure here—and these guys are like 3 guys in a garage and it costs them like $100,000-$200,000 to develop a title. And so they can innovate and try stuff out; they can create niche products and the economics just work because (assuming a frictionless distribution system like online) they don't have to deal with all that overhead, so they can innovate and the gamer wins.

At the same time you marry that with a couple of other industry phenomena like digital distribution becoming legitimate, like iTunes and the casual games download business and stuff, and [Valve's] Steam, and then you marry that with the fact that there's been publisher consolidation so it's harder and harder to get games published with fewer and fewer large console publishers and you have developers kind of itching for something to do between their long three-year development cycles and they want an expression of their creativity with a smaller idea, AND you marry that with the decreasing shelf space and increasing number of titles at retail and the disappearance of a lot of really cool genres that we all grew up with that are still cool genres but no one can make any money off them anymore, like shoot 'em ups and side-scrolling platformers and 2D platformers and stuff like that.

You combine all those things together and it's like "Well, crap, there is a huge market opportunity for someone here to come along and say, 'Wow, let's create a destination in the next console for people to get all of those cool, innovative smaller games of all types for low cost.'" So that was the genesis behind Xbox Live Arcade, and to get back to your point—sorry I'm being kind of long-winded here, but it provides context—this is where I'm so excited about the indie game developer opportunity, and why you've seen me talk a lot about it, and this is the future. In my opinion, this is the Sundance Film Festival. This is the way for us to reach, and finally in the console business, for us to finally have some way to get indie developers on a console (some genres just work better on a console) in the living room and get people to see these on a mass market scale. I'm super excited about that.

BIZ: It also seems like it could be something that gives MS an advantage. Obviously we have a ways to go before the PS3 launches, but Sony doesn't seem to have any plans like this... not yet, at least.

GC: [laughs] Well right, not yet. I don't know what Sony is doing over there but they don't even have a competitor to Live yet, so maybe when they get a competitor to Live, then they can think about those kinds of problems.

BIZ: Many of the titles that gamers are hoping to see on Arcade could exceed the 64 MB limitation of the Xbox 360 memory units. How does not having a hard drive in every console affect which titles can be ported over to Arcade?

GC: I think that's a great question and I'll tell you a couple things. First of all, our design goal with Xbox Live Arcade is to create a marketplace for those small downloadable games of all kinds—games without retail components, games that sort of need that digital distribution. And so there are a couple components to that. File size is part of it; download time is part of it because you want these games to be quickly downloadable without having to sit and keep your 360 tied up for 12 hours while you're downloading some 4 GB file. You know, that's not really practical either, given broadband speeds today.

And the memory unit was a great factor for us to consider in this because we wanted Xbox Live Arcade (because it has broad appeal in a lot of ways) to be able to reach the entire Xbox 360 audience, especially with the core system not having a hard drive. What we did is we decided that games for now, in Arcade, will all fit on the memory unit. So all the games are 50 megs or less... and most of the games in reality are actually 25 MB or less, so you can fit two per memory unit and still have a little space left over for a save game [file] or something.

So we were smart about that and all the games at launch will fit that parameter; and then going forward, were I to ever make an exception if some super cool game came along that was just a really killer landmark title that fit sort of the other characteristics of Arcade games, in that they're small and 15 minutes of fun guaranteed and no instructions required sort of experience, but it was 75 meg and from some really cool, awesome developer—I don't know—we might do that. I'm not necessarily going to close the door to do that, but the goal is to provide as much accessibility as possible. So we're going to try to really push that 50 meg requirement as much as possible, at least until we have larger size memory units and then we can experiment a little bit further.

The other thing I want to mention about memory units is we were actually really smart about roaming; so you can not only actually take those memory units and save games on them if you have a core system, but you can also take them over to a buddy's house and if you own the fully unlocked version on your memory unit, you can stick it into his [360] and soon as you log into your Live account over your friend's house, we can verify that you have the full version and you can play the full version at your friend's house... Likewise if you want to leave it over your friend's house on his hard drive it will revert to the free-trial version.

BIZ: That, in addition to the free-trial stuff, sounds like a good way of marketing the Live Arcade offerings...

GC: Yeah, exactly. You get 'em hooked and then you can save the download time. He doesn't have to download it again because you've already given it to him. And, if you actually accidentally (or intentionally) delete the game or lose your memory card or whatever, you can actually download the full version for free again off of Arcade. So we don't make you pay for it again if you lose the game and it's on a memory unit. We were pretty smart about how we did all that management, security and stuff.

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