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Xbox Live Anywhere
game: Xbox Live
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Microsoft
developer: Microsoft
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date posted: 09:28 PM Tue May 9th, 2006
last revision: 09:28 PM Tue May 9th, 2006

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Click to read.Microsoft\'s pre-E3 2006 press conference was full of good news. Not the least of these revelations is news of Xbox Live Anywhere, the evolution of the Xbox Live service that incorporates PCs running Windows Vista and Windows Mobile devices. Xbox Live Anywhere is not just adding friends list management or messaging; rather, this is a fully integrated system for multi-platform interoperability that should significantly enhance the current Xbox Live network.

The new Xbox Live Anywhere service will roll out alongside Windows Vista, which, it was suggested, means January 2007. The system unites gaming across the Xbox 360, Windows Vista and Windows Mobile devices, meaning that gamers can send invites, participate in mixed-platform games, and much more.

The flagship title Microsoft used to display the systems prowess was Shadowrun, currently in development by Microsoft\'s FASA Studios. Shadowrun will release simultaneously for Xbox and Windows Vista, and it features mixed-platform multiplayer. A user on a Windows Vista PC can view her friends list at a glance. If a friend with Shadowrun is playing on the Xbox 360, the Windows user can send an invite directly. Both players can then play the game on their own system-- if PC gamers don\'t like the Xbox controller, they\'re welcome to play with mouse and keyboard. Teams in the game are not divided into PC and Xbox; rather, teams are comprised of as many of each system as desired, allowing a level of unity between PC and console gamers that has not been exploited much in the past. (It should be noted that Quake III for Dreamcast also featured multiplatform interoperability, but that was plagued with issues including lag differences, special patches for the PC version, and limitations to the variety of mixed-platform multiplayer games.)

Microsoft is leveraging their Hotmail and MSN Messenger brands to make Live Anywhere a true powerhouse. The MSN friends list is mixed with the Xbox Live friends list, and the interface is cohesive and simple. In general, the Xbox Live Anywhere system on the PC looks and feels very much like the current Xbox Live system gamers have become accustomed to.

Perhaps even more surprising is the inclusion of Windows Mobile devices in the paradigm. These devices will be used in a variety of ways. For example, a gamer can play an Xbox Live Arcade game like Zuma on the Xbox 360, and they may pause their game because they have to leave the house. The game is saved on the Xbox Live servers so the user can call forth the paused game state on the Windows Mobile device. This means that you can begin a game on your Xbox 360 and finish it on your cellular phone or PDA.

More features are planned to integrate the various levels of Xbox Live Anywhere service. At Microsoft\'s press conference, Bill Gates used the example of Forza Motorsport. The Forza development team envisions users being able to send messages containing new vehicles to other users\' mobile devices. On the mobile device, one may be able to tweak out different tuning options and save them into the car\'s data file. That same file can be transferred to a Windows Vista PC and the user may decide to visually customize the vehicle, taking advantage of the PC\'s natural ability to handle design and large-scale multimedia applications. Finally, the vehicle can be transferred to the Xbox 360 and gamers can use it in the game to race against their friends.

This evolution of the Xbox Live service really raises the bar for online multiplayer services. With an integrated voice chat, multimedia messaging and multiplatform interoperability, Xbox Live has once again proven why it is the service to beat. And perhaps after Xbox Live Anywhere launches we can finally settle the debate about which is better: mouse/keyboard or dual-analog controller.

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