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With all the rock and roll and laser lights focused on the Xbox 360 at this year’s E3, it was as though Microsoft forgot the current Xbox even existed. The company did squeeze in a mention that more than 200 games are scheduled for the Xbox for the remainder of 2005 (and “several hundred more” for 2006 and beyond). But almost all of those are coming from third parties that are also bringing these games to PlayStation 2 or, to a much lesser extent, GameCube.

What’s Xbox got that the others don’t? Not much. A few notables include first-person shooters Half-Life 2 and TimeShift (if you don’t count their PC versions), Stubbs the Zombie, Blazing Angels, and Ninja Gaiden Black. But again, these are all coming from outside parties, as though Microsoft has all but abandoned its own platform. “We haven’t announced anything after Conker: Live & Reloaded,” says Shane Kim, general manager for Microsoft Game Studios. “We made a conscious decision to start focusing a lot more of our resources on the Xbox 360. Our job is to drive the new platform.” Microsoft may be able to get away with this since third-party support is so strong (and generally speaking, multiplatform games look better on the Xbox anyway and may include online play not available elsewhere), but it still leaves some of us wondering if the company is moving on a bit too soon.

Notable Games

A quick look at the major titles heading to Xbox in the months to come. (Games noted with an asterisk are confirmed to have online functionality.)

August

*Madden NFL 06

September

*Far Cry Instincts

*Half-Life 2

Ninja Gaiden Black

*SSX on Tour

Stubbs the Zombie

October

James Bond 007: From Russia

With Love

*Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects

The Warriors

*TimeShift

November

*Battlefield 2: Modern Combat

*Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII

Peter Jackson’s King Kong

Prince of Persia 3

The Godfather

The Matrix: Path of Neo

December

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend

Fall 2005

50 Cent: Bulletproof

*Burnout: Revenge

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness

Hitman: Blood Money

Shadow the Hedgehog

*Star Wars Battlefront II

*Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

*X-Men Legends II: Rise of the

Apocalypse

Ultimate Spider-Man

2006

*Black

*StarCraft: Ghost

“1” Isn’t So Lonely a Number

Recent shortages of Xbox 1 hardware left some speculating that Microsoft is no longer producing the system so that it can make way for the Xbox 360. “We’ve got a couple more years for sure in the hardware,” says Xbox Corporate Vice President J Allard. “We’re still manufacturing them, and we’ll be selling them through next year.” But as far as a slimmed-down, redesigned model (à la PSone and the new DVD-case-sized PS2), “That’s probably not in the cards,” says Chief Xbox Officer Robbie Bach. “Because the Xbox has mostly off-the-shelf parts, it makes it really hard for us to redesign.”

Report Card: C-

Strengths:

+ Lots of third-party support

+ Downloadable content will keep some Xbox games fresh past their expiration dates

Weaknesses:

- Lack of high-profile exclusives

- No Halo-caliber “got to get it” games

Overall:

The Xbox will be seeing a lot of games in ’05, but almost all of them are also coming to other systems, including Xbox 360! So really, who needs the Xbox?

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.






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