E3 2010: the 4 things you need to know about Microsoft's press conference

newxbox360quarter.jpgMicrosoft were the first to bat at this year's E3 videogame expo, before its official Tuesday opening (following Nintendo and Sony's own presentations), with both the bacchanalia of Sunday night's Cirque du Soleil-headlined event to reveal the final form of its motion-control system now known as Kinect, and with this morning's press conference to show what the next year has in store for their flagship Xbox 360. Here's a quick rundown of what we learned: 1.) Microsoft are releasing a new, slimmer Xbox 360 model this week. The new model, simply being referred to by Microsoft as The New Xbox 360, will be sold at the same $299 pricepoint as the current Xbox 360 Elite, but will increase the hard drive size from 120 to 250 gigs, and come standard with a built-in wi-fi adapter. 2.) Microsoft are banking on motion-interface Kinect to make the Xbox 360 a new "family console" choice. Previously known as Natal, Kinect is a motorized camera and motion sensing bar that adds a controller-free gestural interface to the Xbox 360, due for release in North America on November 4th for a yet-unannounced price. On the console level, Kinect will add both voice and virtual touch controls to the 360's interface, as well as face recognition -- selecting your profile amongst the many on your console was demonstrated by simply facing the camera and waving.
kinectbar.jpg Their hope, it seems, is to further expand the role and the image of the 360 as a "hardcore" game console, make it a necessary center-point of the living room by adding more content partners like ESPN (no sign of the previously much-rumored Hulu), and become a true rival to Nintendo's all-ages-marketed Wii, though: 3.) Microsoft do owe at least a small debt to Nintendo's foundational family lineup. kinecttiger.jpgThe initial lineup of software for Kinect will sound vaguely familiar: bowling, boxing and track and field events in Kinect Sports, and the motion-controlled mini-games in Kinect Adventure all follow closely in the footsteps of Wii Sports/Resort and Wii Fit. Kinectimals, a virtual jungle-cat pet sim developed by Elite & LostWinds creators Frontier, contains more than a few traces of the paws-on-the-screen virtual affection of Nintendogs (though, having brought a child on stage to show off its pre-teen appeal, it did come off as the most honest and genuinely affecting demo of the entire presentation). Other games demonstrated included Ubisoft fitness package Your Shape, racing games both casual and core with Kinect Joy Ride and Forza, and Dance Central -- a full-body dance-battle game from Rock Band creators Harmonix (no strangers to dance games, having previously added Dance Dance Revolution steps to Konami's Karaoke Revolution Party), set to feature music by Lady Gaga and M.I.A. 4.) Microsoft want you to know that despite all this they haven't given up on the "core" gamer. Having rested much of their E3 presence on pushing the 360 as a mainstream device, Microsoft spent the rest of the presentation on triple-A titles: new Gears of War, Call of Duty, Halo and Fable sequels, and Metal Gear Rising, Konami's sword-play focused side-story that provided the only true moment of levity to the lineup, as franchise star Raiden carefully sliced and diced a watermelon with the same sword he'd previously used to cut a van (and numerous soldiers) in two. Not so much as a word came on Xbox Live Arcade or Indies, nor whether the latter will have access to the Kinect SDK to come up with their own gestural games, though presumably we'll see much more of that on the show floor when the E3 expo properly opens tomorrow.


    1. Well, creative misspelling has long been a popular way of coming up with product names. In this case, I’m guessing they’re blending “kinetic” with “connect”

    2. In the world of silly names, “Kinect” is nothing compared to “Wii.” It’s been a couple of years, so we’ve all gotten used to it, but remember how much fun EVERYONE made of Nintendo for that name?

  1. It may seem odd but the announcement of ESPN for the 360 was the best part of the press conference. Making it free for gold subscribers is an amazing value.

    Kinect didn’t come off as very compelling at all. Only Kinectimals and Dance Central were at all interesting. Forza was kind of cool but nothing you can’t do with a controller really. Far more interested if they can add head tracking to the existing game. The gesture controlled interface seemed somewhat awkward, a lot of holding your hand in place or fiddly back and forth to rewind. Voice control is interesting but I’m wondering how much training it will take. All in all I’m not sure it’s worth the rumored $150 above the standard console price.

  2. I’m guessing the Peter Molyneux virtual-child game they demoed last year has been delayed a bit to downplay the uncanny-valley quotient. Fuzzy tiger cubs are more family-friendly than bringing a new little kid into the house.

    1. They’re not demoing the Peter Molyneux child-fondling simulator because they can’t ship a programmer with every copy to sit behind your TV pulling the strings.

  3. I wonder if the free ESPN will be like the free Netflix Integration. AKA totally useless if you’re not in the USA.

    1. Given what the advert on the 360 dashboard says, you will only get it if you can already get ESPN 3 (formerly ESPN 360).

  4. A Metal Gear game on the Xbox is pretty significant, isn’t it? It’s the PS flagship franchise.

  5. When i hear Kinect, see a webcam-esque device, and read about motion tracking, it all reminds me of PS2’s EyeToy and Kinetic. I bet EyeToy is just as fun as whatever Mircosoft’ll release. Which means that its not that big of a break through.

    Microsoft, bringing you what everyone else had years ago in a shiny black package and a weird name.

    1. That’s a bet you’d LOSE. The eyetoy and PS3 eye have, until this point, been very under-utilized. If not for ‘Eye of Judgement’ and some Singstar integration, it would be totally useless.

      I downloaded some of the PS3 eyetoy ‘toy’ applicatinos…and felt cheated by them. They were boring and weak and my family and I were bored with them in five minutes.

      The kinect launch titles are already more compelling than anything Sony has released in the last four years for the eye-toy except for ‘Judgement’. Sony’s ‘pet’ application was looking good…but now Kinectimals looks to up that ante by a great deal. Frankly, Sony really needs to up their game…and the eyetoy has been forgotten (as Sony and Nintendo both tend to do) in favor of Move.

  6. I don’t care how flashy and fancy they make their consoles. Microsoft isn’t getting another dime from me until they build quality hardware that doesn’t overheat to the point of breaking the entire sytem.

  7. More gigabytes of HD means more sloppy spaghetti code.
    They have to learn you lock 6 teenage code geegs in a room and pass pizza and Cokes under the door and only go in when they say it’s okay.

    1. Games still have to fit on a small number of DVDs, usually 1. And code, spaghetti or not, is generally dwarfed by art and other game assets in terms of size.

      And it’s not like developers want to alienate the millions of users with smaller hard drives.

  8. I’m only interested in a stable Xbox 360 that doesn’t die after a year. Having been through 4 boxes, this is far more important to me. I don’t care about motion tracking or any of that crap. I sit on my rear when I’m playing video games. If I want a workout, I’ll go to the gym or buy the craptacular wii dust collector.

  9. So the family gamers get “Wii II” and the hardcore gamers get sequel after sequel after sequel after sequel.

    Nice to see MS bringing the same spirit of innovation to their gaming operation as has long characterized their office suite business.

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