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E3 2008 rundown

The 2008 E3 Media & Business Summit has come to a close with not to a lot to whet our interest.

The 2008 E3 Media & Business Summit has come to a close with not a lot to whet our interest. Screaming headlines aside, the event did see the three videogame platform leaders Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo deliver just enough to keep gaming enthusiasts talking for weeks to come.

One of the biggest announcements made had to be Microsoft's new Xbox 360 Live experience. Accounts can now be customized using avatars and users will be able to share films, television programs, photographs and other media with friends in an interesting ‘party mode'.

In an exclusive partnership between Xbox LIVE and Netflix, and through deals with NBC/Universal and NBC for downloadable entertainment content, users will soon be able to stream thousands of movies and television programs over the internet as well.

Microsoft plans to roll out this new phase in development through free downloadable software available on Xbox LIVE. At present the service is not available in this region but here are some images that have been posted on WIRED's blog network of what it will look like for other lucky users.

It was Microsoft's surprise announcement that the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII will be released on the Xbox that made waves though, as it signaled the end of Sony's exclusivity with the blockbuster franchise.

Nintendo continued its emphasis on casual gaming with the new Wii MotionPlus making moves on everyone's mind. The MotionPlus, which allows the console to detect subtle wrist twists and movements, can be experienced firsthand when the flagship title Wii Sports Resort is released next year. Here is a preview of the game and Wii MotionPlus.

Nintendo will also jump on the musical bandwagon with Wii Music, which has been slated for release by the end of 2008. The game will see players using the Wii Remote controller to stimulate playing more than 50 different musical instruments.

Its rivals - Rock Band and Guitar Hero - also made headlines. More than a decade and a half after releasing their last album, Guns N' Roses will put out a new song titled ‘Shackler's Revenge' from their forthcoming album in the videogame Rock Band 2.

Guitar Hero World Tour, the latest installment in a franchise that has acquired more than 1 billion in sales over two years, also garnered attention. Aside from a comprehensive track list, a new music studio tool in the game will now allow players to record original music.

Microsoft hit another high note with their announcement of a new music franchise exclusively for Xbox 360 - Lips (view trailer). It's the first singing game that has wireless motion-sensitive microphones, which brings a whole new karaoke experience to gamers this year.

At Sony's press conference, CEO Jack Tretton claimed that "this is the year of the PS3" with a lineup of new titles to keep fans entertained. A price drop for the 80GB PS3 was also announced, with the console selling for $399 this September. Sony also had good news for PlayStation 2 fans - announcing that more than 130 games will come to the console this year.

Home, Sony's virtual world that allows players to build digital communities and create 3D avatars, was also a highlight at the summit. A quick video shown at the conference featured a series of avatars running, dancing and getting ready to play games like Warhawk and Resistance: Fall of Man in the digital environment. The video, along with footage of the entire press conference, can be seen here.

In another positive move, Sony's PlayStation movie and television download and rental store was formally unveiled. What differentiates it from Microsoft's Xbox existing LIVE service is the fact that users can download content from the PlayStation 3 and then move it to the PlayStation Portable for convenient viewing.

For details on the latest games, interviews and trailers, visit the official E3 website at www.e3expo.com

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