A few weeks ago you may have heard that Microsoft began a pilot program to test a new retail model for the Xbox 360. The program, which we have been testing at Microsoft Stores in the U.S., offers customers the chance to purchase a 4GB Xbox 360 with Kinect and a two-year LIVE subscription with a low upfront cost of $99, and 24 months of Xbox LIVE Gold at $14.99 per month.

Today, I’m happy to announce that we’re expanding the pilot to all U.S. Best Buy stores and select GameStop locations later this month. This next phase of the pilot program will be limited in terms of both timing and the number of units available—we’re excited to forge new ground and explore a new retail model for Xbox 360, but also want to emphasize that this is a pilot period for the program.

Call your local Best Buy, GameStop or Microsoft Store if you’d like more information about how and where to purchase.

The next time you sign into Xbox LIVE while playing Skyrim, you’ll be prompted for a mandatory title update. This title update brings Kinect support to Skyim.  Adding a new dimension to Skyrim’s gameplay, the Kinect for Xbox 360 integration offers Voice Commands throughout the game including Dragon Shouts, Hotkey Equipping, Follower Commands, and all Menus (Items, Magic, Map, Barter, Container, Favorites, and Skills). With Voice Commands, quickly create and load saves during gameplay and access menus and inventories. Skyrim’s Kinect for Xbox 360 Support also adds new functionality including special map functions, additional hotkey options, and the ability to sort inventory items by name, weight, and value. A full list of English commands in PDF format can be found here.

Larry Hryb @majornelson

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Regardless if you plan on playing Mass Effect as a male of female Commander Shepard, BioWare has you taken care of. If you have the standard edition of Mass Effect 3, be sure to check out the reversible cover so you can match your game cover to your in game character – if that’s your thing.

If you have Kinect,  here is a handy PDF that gives you some tips on how to you voice commands in Mass Effect 3. Feel free to post in the comments and let me know what you think of the Kinect integration with the game once you’ve had a chance to play a few missions with it.

Last week in San Francisco, we held a special media event to show off some upcoming Xbox 360, Kinect for Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE Arcade, Games for Windows and Windows Phone titles. Keep any eye on the Inside Xbox channel on the Xbox 360 dashboard for the video coverage that will go up later today. Until then, here are some of the highlights from the press release:

Xbox 360

  • Halo 4(343 Industries) – Get an exciting first look at this year’s most anticipated blockbuster, “Halo 4,” through a behind-the-scenes video on HaloWaypoint.com. Launching worldwide this Holiday, “Halo 4” takes the iconic franchise in a bold new direction with the return of Master Chief, and the beginning of a new saga.

  • “Forza Horizon” (Playground Games) – “Forza Horizon” is a fast-paced, pick-up-and-play racing game and the newest entry in the Forza Motorsport franchise. Available this Fall, the game is being created in partnership with acclaimed racing development studio Playground Games.

  • Forza Motorsport 4(Turn 10 Studios) – Available this Spring, the Porsche Expansion Pack for “Forza Motorsport 4” will contain 30 modern and classic Porsche vehicles from the iconic German manufacturer, seven of which are new to the “Forza” franchise.

  • Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City(Slant Six Games, Capcom) – Program the Nemesis and unleash devastating attacks on your opposing squad in an exclusive fifth online competitive multiplayer versus battle available only for Xbox 360. 

  • Gears of War 3 (Epic Games) – The curb-stomping fun continues with the release of the “Forces of Nature” map pack for “Gears of War 3” on March 27. Included in the game’s Season Pass or available for 800 Microsoft Points, “Forces of Nature” will feature five maps, new characters, new weapon skins and a 250 Gamescore. Also, starting March 27, “Gears of War 3” will be available through Games on Demand.

  • Dragon’s Dogma(Capcom) – Explore the woodlands surrounding a collapsed fortress and battle against its fearsome inhabitants, including a monstrous Cyclops, a vicious Chimera and a savage Drake Dragon. Additionally, purchasers of the Xbox 360 version of “Dragon’s Dogma” will be able to redeem a token and download the “Resident Evil 6” demo globally on Xbox LIVE® Marketplace 60 days earlier than on any other platform, starting July 3.

  • Darksiders II(THQ/Vigil Games) – Explore non-playable character gameplay interaction with exclusive fiction reveals from the vast Makers Realm in “Darksiders II.” Fans who pre-order the game will receive a complimentary upgrade to the Limited Edition, or can pick up the Collector’s Edition.

Kinect on Xbox 360

  •  “Fable: The Journey” (Lionhead Studios) – From the creative geniuses at Lionhead, “Fable: The Journey” is a whole new way to experience the deep storyline, heart-pounding action and picturesque world of Albion. “Fable: The Journey” launches this Fall on Kinect for Xbox 360.

  • Mass Effect 3(BioWare, Electronic Arts) – Step into the role of Commander Shepard and use voice controls to direct squad mates during battle and command weapon selection to quickly engage in combat. “Mass Effect 3” supports dozens of commands to interact with the world and the characters, without pausing the action.

  • Kinect Star Wars (Microsoft Studios) – In “Kinect Star Wars,” available April 3, Star Wars fans can physically hone their Jedi skills, wield the power of the Force in their hands, pilot iconic ships and vehicles, rampage as a vicious rancor monster and dance with iconic Star Wars characters.

  • Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13” (Electronic Arts) – Featuring a more immersive Masters Tournament experience as well as Kinect for Xbox 360 integration, the world’s number one golf video game is back with “Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13.”

  • Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor(Capcom) – Launching on June 19, fight side by side with your comrades and retake Manhattan Beach from the enemy. Defend your infantry and blast every VT that crosses your path!

  • Kinect Rush: A Disney•Pixar Adventure(Microsoft Studios) – Pixar fans will be able to scan themselves into an avatar based on their favorite character from Disney•Pixar’s "Up" and venture into the vast interior of the Spirit of Adventure. Players will also team up with characters from “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Cars” and “Toy Story” to solve puzzles and uncover secrets.

  • Dance Central 2(Harmonix) – Experience new add-on songs from electro-pop sensations LMFAO, including their hit single “Party Rock”.

  • Kinect Sports: Season Two (Rare Studios, Big Park) – Launching worldwide on April 3, the all-new basketball game add-on content puts players’ basketball skills to the test by shooting, passing, and scoring with the new activities.

Xbox LIVE Arcade

  • “Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition” (4J Studios, Mojang) – Coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade in Spring 2012, “Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition” brings the global PC phenomenon to gamers for the first time on any console platform.

  • “Wreckateer” (Iron Galaxy) – “Wreckateer” uses Kinect for Xbox 360 to put players in control of a massive castle-wrecking ballista. With the help of Wreck and Tinker, players can travel the land and destroy 60 castles infested with goblins using six magical projectiles.

  • “Fable Heroes” (Lionhead Studios) – “Fable Heroes” delivers a fresh spin on the “Fable” franchise with an action-packed hack-and-slash adventure on Xbox LIVE Arcade.

  • “Trials Evolution” (RedLynx/Ubisoft) – Coming soon are new “Trials Evolution” maps in the next dimension of the smash-hit, award-winning “Trials HD.”

  • “Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD” (Robomodo, Activision) – Activision’s “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD” for Xbox LIVE Arcade takes the best elements of “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” and “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2” and upgrades them with sharp visuals and fresh content.

  • “South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge” (South Park Digital Studios, Other Ocean Interactive) – Scott Tenorman is back and he wants revenge! Play multiplayer with Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny to take on Tenorman and his army of Ginger robots before they destroy South Park!

  • “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (Hidden Path Entertainment, Valve) – The all-new “Demolition” mode in “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” delivers a fast-paced game experience made up of tight small maps to get into the action quickly.

  • “Quantum Conundrum” (Airtight Games, Square Enix) – Enter a new dimension – the heavy dimension – in the latest environment-bending feature in the quirky, first-person puzzle game “Quantum Conundrum” from Square Enix and Airtight Games.

  • “Bloodforge” (Climax Studios) – “Bloodforge” combines devastating melee, ranged and magical attacks to deliver a fast-paced, bloodthirsty, brutal combat experience available exclusively on Xbox LIVE Arcade.

  • Deadlight” (Tequila Works) – “Deadlight,” a brand new experience for Xbox LIVE Arcade, is a narrative-driven puzzle platformer set in the post-apocalyptic 80s devastated by a zombie epidemic.

  • “Diabolical Pitch” (Grasshopper Manufacture) – Available beginning April 4, Kinect for Xbox 360 turns living rooms into playing fields and the “Diabolical Pitch” is the main attraction.

  • “Joe Danger: The Movie” (Hello Games) – Race jetpacks against hoverboards and skis against skidoos in all-new multiplayer modes in “Joe Danger: The Movie.”

Xbox 360 Hardware

  • Xbox 360 Kinect Family Bundle – The Xbox 360 Kinect Family Bundle features everything a family needs to get started playing together. Available globally beginning February 28 for $299, the bundle includes a limited edition all-white Xbox 360 4GB console, white Kinect sensor, white Xbox 360 wireless controller, “Kinect Sports,” “Kinect Adventures,” and a three month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold—the complete Xbox 360 experience.

Games for Windows

  • Microsoft Flight (Microsoft Studios) – Available to download for free at www.MicrosoftFlight.com, “Microsoft Flight” is a new Windows PC game that lets players jump into the thrill of flight with no special hardware or past experience. This Spring, fans will be able to purchase the Journey to Alaska Pack, the second in a series of expansion packs for the game with over 1.2 million square miles of captivating scenery, additional missions and new aircraft.

Windows Phone

  • “Carcassone” (Microsoft Studios) – The award-winning tile-based board game “Carcassonne” is coming to Windows Phone! With the online multiplayer, Xbox LIVE achievements, leaderboards and more, this game never gets old.

  • “Civilization Revolution” (2K) – Award winning Sid Meier’s “Civilization Revolution” is coming to Windows Phone! Build, Discover, Rule the world.

  • “DODONPACHI” (CAVE) – An original shooter by Arcade veteran CAVE is arriving for Windows Phone. Can you handle EVAC Industries’ Maximum Bullet Simulator.

  • “GeoDefense Swarm” (Microsoft Studios) – The fast-paced tower defense game “GeoDefense Swarm” for Windows Phone gives the power to obliterate a horde of vibrant, vector-styled enemies with multiple weapons of choice.

  • “Gerbil Physics” (Microsoft Studios) – In “Gerbil Physics,” a physics-based puzzle game that blows up buildings made of gerbils for Windows Phone, it’s all about adorable destruction.

  • “Pinball FX2” (Microsoft Studios) – “Pinball FX2” for Windows Phone features new tables and all-new features including a state-of-the-art physics model and a connection to your Xbox 360 “Pinball FX2” scores.

  • “Pirates!” – Available now on Windows Phone, Sid Meier’s “Pirates!” is an exciting high-seas adventure overflowing with intense pirate action and a treasure chest of gameplay riches!

  • “Pro Evolution Soccer 2012” (Konami)This spring, the unrivalled and award-winning football simulation from Konami is entering a new season on Windows Phone!

  • “Shoot 1UP!” (Microsoft Studios) – This Spring, an armada of ships is coming to Windows Phone in “Shoot 1UP.”

  • “Wordament” (Microsoft Studios) – In the world of “Wordament” for Xbox LIVE, Windows Phone word searchers across the whole Internet compete on the same board, in real-time, to get the highest score.



Overview video

Retail titles Xbox

LIVE Arcade titles

Halo 4

Demo: Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect™ 3Content: Mass Effect 3 Demo
Price: Free
Availability: Check availability in your Xbox LIVE region
Dash Text: Fire the first shots in the war to take Earth back! Voted Most Anticipated Game of 2012 at the SpikeTV VGAs, Mass Effect 3 puts you at the center of an all-out galactic war – and how to wage that war is up to you. The demo begins in dramatic fashion with the spectacular attack on Earth, followed by a mid-game section showcasing the groundbreaking interactive storytelling, adrenaline-pumping action, ruthless and intelligent enemies, and deep customization that make Mass Effect 3 the must-have title of 2012. Jump into 4 player co-op missions with your friends in two maps from the full game and earn a wide variety of upgrades for your characters. The multiplayer portion of the demo features an early-access period, so visit http://www.masseffect.com to find out how you can be among the first to the front lines!

Add the demo to your Xbox 360 download queue

Like the demo? Purchase the full game

Note: This demo contains Kinect integration. While not required to use the demo, if you have Kinect you’ll be able to use your voice to control your squad via voice.

Update: We’ve got a blog post up on Xbox.com about the demo, and here is a helpful PDF that shows all of the voice commands if you are using Kinect.

Limited Edition Kinect Star Wars Bundle

The Kinect Star Wars Bundle and Game will be released on April 3, 2012.

Here are some details from the press release:

With five dynamic modes – Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising, Podracing, Rancor Rampage, Galactic Dance Off and Duels of Fate – “Kinect Star Wars” makes it possible for Star Wars fans of all ages to delve into immersive Star Wars experiences. In addition to the previously announced Jedi, Podracing and Rancor modes, Xbox 360 and LucasArts have today unveiled new additions to the game, including:

New experiences within Jedi Destiny Mode, including:

o Space battles: As you travel the Galaxy to face an evil that threatens to undermine the fabric of the Republic, you’ll engage with forces of the Empire in intense space battles

o Speeder Bikes and Landspeeders: Pilot iconic Speeder Bikes and Landspeeders on your epic journey 

o New duels: Battle opponents like Count Dooku and Darth Vader on your journey to become a Jedi

· New Duels of Fate mode, a battle-by-battle experience to sharpen your Jedi skills against the Dark Side.

· New Galactic Dance Off mode loaded with Star Wars-themed pop tunes where those still honing their Jedi skills can take a break to battle Darth Vader on the dance floor or bust a move “Solo style.”

Additionally, the Xbox 360 Limited Edition “Kinect Star Wars” console bundle will feature an exclusive C-3PO unlockable for Dance Mode. With these new reveals and the ability to play in 3D, “Kinect Star Wars” adds to the growing popularity of the family-friendly gaming portfolio for Kinect for Xbox 360.

Fans of the game can get a sneak preview on Saturday, February 11th at select AMC Theatre locations across the United States. In celebration of the theatrical release of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace 3D on February 10th, select theatres will feature a day full of Star Wars activities, including hands-on time with “Kinect Star Wars.” For participating theater locations, please visit http://www.starwars.com/news/episode_1_amc_screenings.html.

Demo: Kinect Disneyland Adventures

Disneyland AdventuresContent: Kinect Disneyland Adventures Demo
Price: Free
Availability: Check availability in your Xbox LIVE region
Dash Text: Harnessing the controller-free magic of Kinect for Xbox 360, Kinect™: Disneyland® Adventures is your ticket to the timeless lands of Disneyland® park right in your living room.



Add the free game demo to your Xbox 360 download queue

Note: You’ll need Kinect to enjoy this game

If you are at CES this week, drop by the Microsoft Booth (#7244) and see how KinectScan will put you into such Disney Pixar films as Cars, The Incredibles,  Toy Story and more.

March 20th will see the release of ‘Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure.’ I’ll add in a video link when it becomes available.

Update: Below is the official trailer