Halo Wars and exclusive deals blitz X06

GTA IV, PGR4, Peter Jackson, more.

Microsoft has unveiled a whole host of software for the Xbox 360 and Windows at X06, including exclusive deals on some of gaming's most lucrative franchises and new IP.

Leading the assault was Halo Wars, an all-new real-time strategy game based on the Halo franchise and designed exclusively for Xbox 360 by Ensemble Studios, creators of Age of Empires - which goes some way to explaining why Microsoft was so keen to shutdown the fan-made Halo RTS, we suppose.

Bizarre Creations' Project Gotham Racing 4 was unveiled with a teaser trailer, while it was revealed that the next iteration of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto franchise will benefit from two exclusive 360 episodes available online within months of the October 2007 release.

Ubisoft's next Splinter Cell after Double Agent is also now exclusive to the Xbox 360 and Windows, as is Irrational's new IP Bioshock.

Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, also took to the stage in Barcelona to reveal a collaboration with Microsoft to create content hoping to blend movies and games, and has formed an offshoot of his movie company called Wingnut Interactive to work on a new Halo series as well as another unnamed project.

Rare's Viva Piņata also got special attention at the event, as did Mistwalker and Artoon's RPG Blue Dragon, with the queues at last week's Tokyo Game Show hailed as evidence of the respect the developer commands.

On stage Peter Moore boasted of 160 hi-def games for the console by Christmas, all with the 1080p support, before blitzing the attended crowd with a show reel of upcoming and previously announced titles including the hotly anticipated Gears of War.

The design team from Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed gave the first live demo of the game, while it was revealed that Kane & Lynch by Io Interactive will debut on Xbox 360, as will Crossfire from Pivotal, also due for Windows Vista.

The price of the HD-DVD for 360 was revealed to be EUR 199 or GBP 129, and will be released mid-November bundled with a media remote and a copy of King Kong.

Over 50 HD-DVD movies are promised by the end of the year, with Moore calling the peripheral "the perfect compliment to your gaming experience".

Stating "we're not complacent" with regards to Xbox Live, Microsoft's regional vice president Chris Lewis trumpeted the service and revealed that 60 per cent of users are now connected to the online service, compared to just ten per cent on the original Xbox.

Between them, users have access to 1500 items amounting to 57 million downloads to date.

Xbox Live Arcade has reached ten million downloads to date, revealed Lewis, unveiling new titles - both original IP and retro games - including Sensible World of Soccer and id's classic FPS Doom.

Microsoft's cross-platform offering - Live Anywhere - will incorporate a simple interface, with Shadowrun helping to launch the service next year, and Marvel Universe Online from Cryptic Studios - a previously unannounced title - to follow at a later date.

Lewis claimed that the rollout of Xbox 360 units, which now accounts for 1.3 million in Europe and 5 million worldwide, is the fastest any company has managed, and reiterated that the company aims to ship 10 million by the end of this year.

Other countries due to receive the Xbox 360 before the end of 2006 include Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and South Africa.

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