Unlike Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft didn't have a new console to announce at this year's pre-show E3 press conference having been first to market in the current next generation of machines, and instead focussed on additional accessories and forthcoming titles which would bolster both their Xbox 360 and Windows Vista platforms.


Microsoft Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive


The add-on HD-DVD drive was Microsoft's key hardware being revealed during the press conference, and will allow full High Definition playback by connecting via USB 2.0 to the Xbox 360, whilst other hardware shown off for the first time included a force feedback wireless steering wheel complete with pedals, a 256MB memory card offering four times the space of the current one, and a new headset which will removing the need for a cable trailing between control pad and headset by making use of wireless connectivity.

Xbox Live's "Vision Camera" is also finally becoming a reality, despite having been talked about right at the very outset of Xbox 360's existence but disappearing from all mention when the console launched last year, with a release now expected to happen this September, and working with forthcoming titles including Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas, TotemBall, World Series of Poker, and Xbox Live Arcade title Uno.

Games confirmed for Xbox 360 included the already announced Viva Pinata, Gears of War, and Forza Motorsport 2 all due in time for Christmas, but you'll be waiting until sometime in 2007 for Halo 3 and until October 2007 before seeing Grand Theft Auto 4.

Windows-based gaming seems to have received somewhat of a return to glory during the announcement - after being pushed aside in favour of the Xbox brand during recent years - and will see a simultaneous launch of Shadowrun on both Xbox 360 and PC later this year, alongside Flight Simulator X which will be a Windows Vista launch title, featuring richer and more realistic worlds with scenario based missions and new aircraft.


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Microsoft also gave a glimpse in to what they expect the future will be, by suggesting a "Live Anywhere" network which will link Xbox 360 gamers with Windows Vista users, providing a similar on-screen dashboard in Vista and sharing the one gamertag with gamerscore, friends list and achievements across both platforms, whilst also allowing gamers to interact with their games using mobile phones.