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E3 2007: If Microsoft told you to 'jump in,' would you?

The revamped video game conference is well under way, with Xbox 360 and Games for Windows announcements kicking it off.

Xbox Live usernames of E3 attendees are displayed prior to Microsoft's evening press event. Also note the pool.
Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

Microsoft's media event on Tuesday evening--the first slot on our E3 2007 agendas (aside from picking up our press badges)--came with the company slogan: "Jump In." It was displayed on signs outside Santa Monica High School's outdoor amphitheater, where the event took place, and on the giant projection screen behind the stage (when the screen wasn't displaying a tag cloud of the Xbox Live usernames of those present). The slogan was even on the access badges that were mailed to us a week in advance, with the admonition that if we didn't have the badges, there was no way we'd get in. Yup, welcome to the "New E3."

To top it all off, the folks from Redmond (or somebody they hired) installed a moat-like pool in the middle of the amphitheater stage. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was expecting some Microsoft representative to actually jump in, or at least wade in, at some point. Nobody did. It was a ghastly disappointment. To alleviate the situation, I was tempted to obey Microsoft's orders and "Jump In" myself, but was concerned that it would result in CNET's expulsion from the New E3 clique's lunch table.

Anyway, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Games for Windows spectacles ranged from Halo 3 to Viva Pinata: Party Animals to the highly anticipated Rock Band. (Microsoft interactive entertainment exec Peter Moore played a somewhat hilarious rendition of the Hives' Main Offender.) There were also a couple of minor console announcements: a Halo 3 special edition Xbox 360, and a new, rather Wiimote-like, controller to go with the upcoming Xbox version of the movie trivia game Scene-It. You'll be hearing more about those from CNET's Dan Ackerman and Rich Brown later.

If you were expecting the New E3 to be devoid of pop-culture opulence (populence?), then you'd have found the audiovisual-heavy Microsoft event to be quite the surprise. Overall, it was extremely theatrical, thanks to the massive screen, stadium seating, a sound system that was probably turned up well past 11, and dozens of colored stage lights that could change the ambiance of the event pretty rapidly. (You know, different colors when talking about Call of Duty 4 versus Viva Pinata.)

Plus, there's the well-documented fact that video game trailers and promotions are looking more and more cinematic. Not only is the quality of many high-end games approaching seriously lifelike caliber, but promotional trailers are increasingly structured to emphasize the storyline, complete with narration, no matter how much the game itself touts role-playing and interactivity.

Movie-style game trailers do keep you on the edge of your seat, so to speak, but I'm sure some people wish they could spare their thumbs the agony and just sit back and watch with some hot buttered popcorn.