Microsoft takes battle to Tokyo Game Show

Japanese-designed games boosting Xbox 360

TOKYO -- Microsoft reasserted its plan to take the fight over video game console dominance into Sony and Nintendo's backyard as the Tokyo Game Show kicked off Thursday.

The largest gaming show in Asia, the 13th TGS -- showcasing a record 879 titles, including the first generation of thought-controlled games -- is being held over four days in the halls of the Makuhari Messe north of Tokyo.

Microsoft vp John Schappert presented the upgraded Xbox Live service in a keynote address to the TGS Forum. Schappert said that the New Xbox Experience will launch worldwide Nov. 19 to coincide with the release of new game titles.

Among the slew of new features coming to XBox Live will be the addition of the long-awaited Netflix service, allowing users to download films and TV episodes. The New XBox Experience also will include a "party game channel" that allows for multiplayer fun; an adaptation of unscripted format "1 vs. 100" will be the first such game via Microsoft's licensing deal with Endemol.

While the Xbox 360 has not replicated its global success in Japan -- selling only 750,000 units there, versus the 2.4 million Sony PlayStation 3s and the 6.9 million Nintendo Wiis sold -- it outsold the PS3 in September for the first time after Microsoft hired more Japanese game designers.

"By the end of the year, we will have sold $1 billion worth of games by Japanese creators for our consoles," Schappert said, calling Japan, "the place where iconic franchises are created."

Upcoming titles include the latest versions of such franchises as "Halo 3: Recon," "Resident Evil 5" -- known in Japan as "Biohazard 5" -- and "Final Fantasy XIII," the first in the mega-hit Square Enix series to be released for the Xbox 360 as well as for the PS3.

Another major upcoming game is the first non-PlayStation version of Namco's "Tekken" fighting series, which has set a world sales record of 33 million units. "Tekken 6" is expected to be out early in 2009.

Despite Nintendo's annual no-show at TGS, there were more titles on display for its DS portable console than for any other machine, closely followed by games for mobile phones.

Meanwhile, Square Enix has teamed up with Californian tech-outfit NeuroSky, to create the first "thought-controlled" gameplay. The "judecca" game measures brainwaves to assess concentration, allowing players to influence on-screen action using thoughts.

"This is just the beginning," NeuroSky CEO Stanley Yang told The Hollywood Reporter. "We have a lot more we can do than we're showing here, and the applications go far beyond games."