Microsoft came to its E3 press conference Monday morning intent on hammering one major message into our heads: Use Kinect, use Kinect, use Kinect.
From "Dance Central 2" to "Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster," the company's presentation focused on how the motion-tracking peripheral, which promises to players that they are the controller, will add to game-play in many upcoming titles.
For "Mass Effect 3," it was a demonstration of players can use simple voice commands to order AI-controlled teammates around and make dialog choices, in place of hitting buttons.
In "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier," Kinect-integration will mean players can customize their weapons by using gestures and voice commands in a special weapon shop, as well as aim and fire those guns on a target range. It was unclear, however, if gesture-based combat is part of the game at large. It was announced, however, that all future Clancy titles will use Kinect.
But in "Fable: The Journey," the Kinect will be a dominant, overall control scheme, used to drive horse-drawn carts (by pretending the player is holding the reins) and fighting enemies through pointing and gesticulating in front of the device's camera.
A new, permanent addition to the Xbox 360 dashboard -- "Kinect FunLabs, available now -- also leverages the power of the peripheral using a variety of new tools. "Kinect Me" will allow players to scan themselves, including clothing, to create a more realistic avatar. "Sparkler" demonstrates the system's finger-tracking abilities and its understanding of dimension. And "Googly Eyes" allows real objects to be scanned for use in a virtual space.
Microsoft did have a few other things to announce, of course. The company has signed a deal to make YouTube's vast collection of videos available for viewing on the Xbox 360, and it has also formed partnerships with broadcasters so players can watch live TV on their consoles.
And the company is incorporating its own search site Bing into the Xbox 360, as a new search tool for games, music and videos.
But the announcements that may have struck the strongest cords with many gamers were the declarations that:
1) a remastered version of an original Xbox title is on the way. "Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary" will have updated multiplayer maps and an improved campaign mode, as well as full support for cooperative play over Xbox Live.
2) there will be a new "Halo" trilogy, started with the release of the just announced "Halo 4" around the 2012 holiday season.