At a Monday press conference on the eve of the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) trade show, Microsoft revealed more information about games that will ship this year for its Xbox 360 video game console and home entertainment system, which the company expects to ship simultaneously in North America, Europe, and Japan in November. Perhaps more crucially, the company also began discussing its plans for backwards compatibility with previous Xbox titles, an issue that can be described, at best, as a mixed bag.

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Microsoft announced that over 160 Xbox 360 games are in active development from a variety of leading developers, including Electronic Arts (EA), Activision, and Ubisoft. Most notably, Square Enix, a Japan-based software development house that ignored the first generation Xbox, has signed on board for Xbox 360 and will release "FINAL FANTASY XI" for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, and work on future Xbox 360 titles with Microsoft.

 

Industry giant EA reported that it will support Xbox 360 with the widest title release it has ever shipped for a new console. The company has promised games such as "Madden NFL 06," "Need for Speed Most Wanted," "FIFA 06," "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06," "The Godfather The Game" and "NBA Live 06" for the Xbox 360 launch in November.

 

As for backwards compatibility, Microsoft is hedging its bets. Currently, the company is only promising that Xbox 360 will be compatible "top-selling" Xbox games, and not the entire catalog of first generation games. The problem, apparently, is that Xbox 360 runs on a completely different hardware platform than the original Xbox, and Microsoft will have to custom-create software fixes, or shims, that will let Xbox titles run normally on the new system.

 

On a related note, Microsoft also announced a number of software titles for the current generation Xbox, including "Half-Life 2" (Valve), "Far Cry Instincts" (Ubisoft), "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" (Buena Vista), and "Star Wars Battlefront II" (LucasArts), among others. The company reported that 200 new Xbox games will ship in 2005, with hundreds more in 2006 and beyond. However, these games will come from third parties, and not Microsoft's in-house game developers: Microsoft will stop supporting the original Xbox with new titles after this year in order to focus on Xbox 360.