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Microsoft: No Blu-ray Drive for Xbox Planned

6 Jun, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

LOS ANGELES — Microsoft had plenty of Xbox news to share during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). But that news didn’t include a next-generation console or any plans for Xbox to eventually include a Blu-ray Disc drive.

“Today we are focused on the streaming aspects of Xbox, and that’s what we’re building on,” Jose Pinero, senior spokesman for Microsoft's interactive entertainment business, said when asked about the potential of a Blu-ray drive. “That’s our strategy.”

Regarding reports that Microsoft discussed but ultimately rejected the idea that its next gaming console ship with no optical drive at all, Pinero would only say: “At this point we are focused on Xbox 360, and keeping it fresh and new.”

Keeping with that, Xbox is aiming to double its current number of 60 content partners on the console this year, including more live TV options, he said. The biggest of the 35 new global partners Xbox announced at E3 is Viacom, which is giving Xbox 360 owners access to Paramount catalog movies, as well as Comedy Central and Nickelodeon TV programming. Xbox also announced that 24-hour ESPN programming would be available later this year.

Pinero was most excited about Xbox’s new SmartGlass app, a second-screen application that pairs content on the big screen with added content on smaller screens.

“There’s an opportunity here,” Pinero said of SmartGlass. “The technology should work so devices are smart and can talk to each other.”

Pinero showed off the possibilities with the Paramount film School of Rock playing on a TV and character profiles appear in tandem on a second screen.

“We’ve said to partners, ‘Here’s the development.’ We’ve given them the tools to create the content they want,” he said.

Microsoft is also debuting Internet Explorer for Xbox in the fall and pairing it with both SmartGlass and the Kinect voice and motion control system.

Over at the Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) camp, there was also no discussion about a next-generation console and no confirmation that the makers of the PlayStation 3 had looked at not including an optical drive in its next console.

Instead, Sony announced new content partners for its PlayStation Vita portable gaming device, adding the video service Crackle (which is owned by Sony) and Hulu Plus.

Sony also unveiled a new way for gamers to play against each other using the PlayStation 3 and the Vita at the same time (dubbed “Cross-Play”).

Lastly, Sony showed off its WonderBook device, which doubles as a book and second-screen application when paired with the PlayStation 3 PS Eye camera.

“We’ve been working with one of the most popular book franchises in the world for our first title: WonderBook: Book of Spells is a collaboration between PlayStation and J.K. Rowling, creator of the magical world of Harry Potter,” said SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton. “Book of Spells will feature exclusive and new original writings from Rowling and will utilize PlayStation Move, in the form of a magic wand, to help gamers learn and master the art of spell-casting.”

Nintendo was the only major player to share its next-generation console, confirming that the Nintendo Wii U would ship in time for Christmas. Nintendo also shared that the system will feature Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and more. The system will be backwards compatible with games and peripherals from the Nintendo Wii.

Besides 1080p video and a GamePad controller with an embedded touch screen, the system will also allow two gamers playing the same game with different experiences.

“The GamePad doesn’t just introduce a new type of game play; it redefines an entire dynamic,” said Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime. “With asymmetric game play, multiple experiences are possible in the same game at the same time. That's transformative.

“While games are the focus of this year's E3, the Wii U story also includes the enhanced social connections and integrated entertainment experiences created by the GamePad,” he added.

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