Microsoft's E3 press conference this year brought the Xbox several steps closer to achieving what was the Trojan-type goal from the beginning, with media and communication convergence jostling with videogames for the world's attention.
An aggressive Microsoft wowed audiences with what was, without question, its most vehement attack on Sony, with the software giant focusing on its online technical dominance.
After years of "knowing our place as the newcomers" rhetoric, Microsoft's approach to the console race switched, with an unusually flat J Allard introducing a movie the firm has commissioned to illustrate its points.
Using a parody of the Donald Trump reality TV show The Apprentice, in which Trump sought to enrol an employee, Microsoft showed two teams vying for online approval. Team Microsoft featuring Allard and former Sega exec Peter Moore went up against Team PlayStation, headed by PlayStation craftsman Ken Kutaragi. Incredibly, Microsoft decided to portray Kutaragi as a bumbling, pizza-scoffing oaf, a move that amused the amassed crowd as much as it offended.
The outcome - Trump says to Team PlayStation, "You didn't talk to customers, [your online plan] has been a complete and utter disaster," rounding off with the accusation that it relied on "peripheral garbage" to function. Incredible stuff indeed.
Peter Moore asking jokingly if Live! should be bundled with a new version of Chu Chu Rocket perhaps says more about the man's character than a thousand hours of preaching from a press conference stage.
The entire event was orchestrated by head Xbox evangelist J Allard, with the man seeming somewhat deflated when he opened the show. Keen industry analysts will be aware that Allard is a joy to watch on stage, with his enthusiasm for Microsoft's wider philosophy and its unarguable furtherment of the sector. He recovered well towards the middle, and was back to his old self at close - perhaps nerves, perhaps complacency, perhaps - knowing J as we do - a blistering tequila hangover, but there was a noticeable 'something' missing from the Xbox frontman at the top of the bill.
Allard went on to do what was effectively the recently-departed Ed Fries job of talking about gaming specifics, something that he obviously enjoyed a great deal, sharing responsibilities with the Bungie team and Peter Moore. This is in stark contrast to Fries' unmistakable reluctance to take on the role of chief protagonist at last year's X03.
In terms of the conference as a package, Fries' absence was somewhat unusual. We have been to a fair few Xbox events and there is a well-established flow to proceedings, with Allard, Fries and Bach running the show. It was strange not to see Fries there, as he was always the true gamer in the pack, loved by the development community and adored by fellow gamers. He somehow operated as a buffer between the mega-corporation that is Microsoft and all of the social, economical and political baggage it carries, and the games industry. With this element missing, it becomes much easier to stare into the eyes of the beast...
...Especially when the next announcement from Microsoft was to unveil a fully spec'd communication tool for the Xbox, a decision that negates yet another strand of the console's unprecedented duplicitous pre-launch positioning. A reaction to the recently revealed EyeToy Chat - a project we exclusively exposed at the beginning of this year - the as-yet untitled software/peripheral combo will see up to five users be able to communicate in a single session, and will incorporate videomail, a feature introduced by former Playboy centrefold Jenny McCarthy. Which was nice.
Perhaps the most important revelation during the evening was the addition of file-sharing to the Xbox Live service, without doubt the first step towards in-living room digital media rights management. Later this year, users will be able to swap movie and music files at will - something that Microsoft said would never happen. "Video communication is the next step," proclaimed Allard, "...that will revolutionise communicating" and result in Microsoft's opposition "...getting even smaller in our rear view mirror."
With Peter Moore taking the stage, the street date for Halo 2 was revealed as November 9, an announcement that was rightly met with absolute jubilation. The game, as played out in the previous section of the conference, looked sublime, a true piece of videogame craftsmanship that will dominate its genre. Investing in Bungie and enabling the firm to create the game it wanted is the crowing glory of the Xbox's life to date - a valid reason for the machine's very existence.
Other games, however, did not go down so well. Doom 3 (its new logo making it look like Doom Cubed - someone needs to fix that) made an immediate and unwanted impression on the audience. The teaser opened with a statement that explained that the entire featurette was game-engine, direct from the Xbox. This may have been something of a mistake. It looked to have some serious frame-rate issues, though looking at the build on the showfloor today, this is not reflective of the game as a whole, with the code coping well, albeit presented in demo form with only smaller rooms accessible. We can reveal that the final game will be capped to 30 frames per second to cope with the GPU-busting level of detail, and the game is unlikely to see a release this year.
It was strange that Tecmo showed nothing new at the conference, especially given Moore's rapturous introduction. However, this situation may have changed at time of going to press.
Again illustrating Microsoft's aggression in the marketplace, a Gran Turismo-killer was unveiled, carrying the title Forza Motorsport. It will offer 150 cars from 60 manufacturers, including the TV ad-friendly offerings from Ferrari and Porsche. Most important is the fact that it will be a true simulator with a full damage engine, something that Polyphony never managed to agree with the world's famously precious car manufacturers.
Proceedings came to a close with the long-expected announcement that Electronic Arts, the driving force behind PlayStation 2 online in the US, would be releasing Xbox Live! Compatible games this year, offering a full EA Sports line-up as well as franchises including Burnout 3, TimeSplitters and Battlefield.