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E3 2009: Microsoft Announcements

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E3 2009: Microsoft Announcements

Microsoft definitely seems to be taking E3 seriously this year, with more announcements for the Xbox 360 than you could shake a very large stick at. So, without further ado, here's what's what:

1080p Films and Zune on Xbox Live

Tying in with its Zune services, the Xbox Live Video Marketplace will be seeing the addition of 1080p HD films - with 5.1-channel surround sound. These will be streamed using instant-on bandwidth scaling technology which starts streaming in a lower bit-rate so enabling films to be watched instantly, before ramping up to full detail. Hopefully there's an option to force 1080p from the start with some buffering for those who value quality over speed of delivery.

Social Networking on Xbox Live

Building on the addition of its Messenger service to the Xbox 360 Dashboard, Microsoft is now adding Facebook and Twitter to Xbox Live. I'm not convinced I'd be particularly interested in using either on a console, but I'm probably in the minority.

Last.fm is also being added to Xbox Live, enabling music to be streamed direct to the console.

Project Natal

Rumoured at before, Natal (nuh-tall, counter-intuitively to me) is a crazy-sounding sensor that enables control of the Xbox 360 without holding a controller. Through a combination of a camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone and a custom, proprietary processor brining those components together, the Project Natal sensor can track full body movement in 3D and respond to voice commands.

The system will offer voice and face recognition so that multiple players can use the controller together in multiplayer games. There's no footage available of the system in use, but Joystiq has managed to snag a video of what Microsoft hopes the finished result will be. (Update, video below). Suffice to say if Microsoft can pull this off it's going to be pretty damn awesome.

Games

Some of these details are already known, but Microsoft has detailed some more specific release dates and information about a few games. Halo: ODST has a firm release date, 22 September, and will offer - in addition to the single-player campaign - a four-way co-op mode called Firefight which sounds pretty much like GoW 2's Horde mode, with increasingly difficult waves of enemies appearing to be fended off. Alan Wake has a slightly firmer "spring 2010" release schedule, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction is set to arrive in 'fall' and Left 4 Dead 2 will be an exclusive on the Xbox 360 (in respect to consoles anyway).

28 July will see the launch of Gears of War 2: Dark Corners, bringing a new single player campaign chapter and seven multiplayer maps, Forza 3 is on its way and Crackdown 2 will arrive in 2010, too - which I can't wait for! There are also titles such as Modern Warfare 2 and Tony Hawk: Ride to look forward to - although those aren't exclusive to the Xbox 360.

PGrGr

June 2, 2009, 5:07 pm

"There's no footage available of the system in use,"





Hugo, there is on the BBC news website.

Alex.rar

June 2, 2009, 5:14 pm

It this sort of thing why people still buy xbox even knowing about the rrod

Tim Sutton

June 2, 2009, 5:27 pm

Are you saving the Metal Gear Solid news for a separate article? To be honest, I couldn't care less about MGS on any console but it was probably the biggest game announcement of the evening, certainly judging by the rabidly furious reaction of PS3 owners.

Cub

June 2, 2009, 5:29 pm

As previous comments may have given away, I'm not Microsoft's biggest fan, but...





Great news for movie buffs.


Nice intergration of the current internet fads. (I've tried, I see the appeal but I just can't get into Twitter/Facebook)


Amazing game announcements - Left 4 Dead is my one envy being a Mac using PS3 type person!


And, well... Then there's Natal. Disregarding the name (actually, no. I'm sorry, but 'Natal'!? To think people mocked Nintendo for their 'Wii'), I'm just not sold on this... For starters the majority of people just don't have large open plan lounges with TVs mounted at standing head height, Natal isn't practical in any sense in my mind. It's a great novelty, but I see no decent applications for it in this, or any foreseeable console generation. That said, it's a nice small step towards a holodeck!

Mik3yB

June 2, 2009, 5:59 pm

"It's a great novelty, but I see no decent applications for it in this"





I thought that too, but then I watched the Peter Molyneux video on the BBC site and he seems very keen on it. The guy loves innovation and his games revolve around interaction, I think it's definitely something to look at.





Having said that, I don't think the humble joypad will ever go out of date fully - it's been the standard gaming input device for years because it just works.

jopey

June 2, 2009, 6:48 pm

I don't care about the jumping around and the "wii but better" stuff that might or might not work as advertised, who knows. I'm interested in the voice/face recognition and the stuff Molyneux showed off. That has a much higher likelihood of working and it could lead to some cool innovations. Like the death of that incredibly boring RPG multiple choice conversationing. Plus if a character is really annoying.. for the first time you might just be able to tell them to get lost :P





Oh and.. CRACKDOWN 2! Best news.. probably of all of E3.

Cub

June 2, 2009, 6:53 pm

We'll always have the joypad in some incarnation. It works, for sitting on a sofa playing games, it works.





I've just watched Microsoft's advert for for Natal (why is it Microsoft can't make decent promo adds, it reminded me far to much of their songsynthsmith music thingy) and I'm still not sold. There's a part where a kid is being represented on screen by a Barney-esque monster, the monster's rampaging through the streets as the kid stomps his feet... Waving his arms... Stomping his feet... With every stomp, inching closer, and closer, and closer. Another 30 seconds on that clip and he would have knocked the TV on the floor.





An inherent flaw in VR/body control, surely? I've seen a lot of Star Trek and I don't think even they managed to come up with how you walk around in a small room without bumping into the walls...





Out of interest, will people that are against using their body as a controller be AnteNatal?

GoldenGuy

June 2, 2009, 7:09 pm

Am I sensing some PRE-Natal Depression, Cub? (Baw-bom!)

Cub

June 2, 2009, 7:19 pm

@GoldenGuy - Bu-dum Tsch!





One possible application, although it's not necessarily 360 related, would be TV control. Being able to change channel, adjust volume, switch inputs, etc. without fumbling to find the remotecould be very useful...

DrDread

June 2, 2009, 7:19 pm

Pretty damn excited over this Natal thing. Thinking of trading my PS3 back to a 360...





and...Metal Gear Solid!!!!!!!

jingyeow

June 2, 2009, 7:21 pm

I was seriously impressed by Natal, it's a step above the Wii controller, and expands the xbox beyond just gaming. However as mentioned above, I can't see this as a success fot eh 360, but an integral addition to future consoles. Instead of the controller we'll probably start moving towards Natal, in conjunction with a Wii type remote. E.g. Steven Spielberg could re-create Medal of honour in First Person, with the remote as the gun.





When watching the demo of the boy on BBC News, other than thinking he was annoying chirpy I was also thinking about the Sims and how Natal could improve the interaction between characters there. I would certainly be interesting to be able to play from a first person perspective. I would certainly like to scrap with somebody in there :)

Hamish Campbell

June 2, 2009, 7:24 pm

Whats wrong with Natal? Now you wanna take Christmas away from all the little portuguese speaking boys and girls?


...unless they named it after the Sth African province. Maybe Balmer is a big Super 14 fan and we'll see tech named after all the teams.

GoldenGuy

June 2, 2009, 7:33 pm

@Cub





Yeah, I love the Minority Report-style stuff the ad has been showing, but very sceptical as to how good Microsoft's execution is with regards to how seamless and easy they make the experience. Even voice recognition is still tricky. Having said that, they've been a bit better at games than OSs lately.

Cub

June 2, 2009, 7:56 pm

@GoldenGuy


That they have. If I had to choose between using Windows, of any flavour. A Zune. Or an xBox, it would be the xBox, no doubt... If just to play L4D on!


Unfortunatly, of course, the 360 uses an OS, and I've never been impressed from what I've seen of it... It looks even more Fisher Price freindly than the Wii's.

Dcoz

June 2, 2009, 8:44 pm

I was a big skeptic at first until I saw how accurate it was with that girl hitting the balls at the blocks with her body. Also if you read over at IGN they describe how great it is to control burnout with it.





The thing is we all know MS is going to pour money into this thing and market it like the console is useless without it. For the right price it can easily sell, just look at wii fit and the balance board. To be honest I will probably buy it just because I can enter my room and switch on, automatically log in and control my console without even looking for my pad. Amazing.

Luan Bach

June 2, 2009, 10:19 pm

"An inherent flaw in VR/body control, surely? I've seen a lot of Star Trek and I don't think even they managed to come up with how you walk around in a small room without bumping into the walls..."





Err...Not a trekkie but even I know that it's base on transporter tech, you get zap back without noticing it when you're about to walk into a wall.

Wesley8ad

June 2, 2009, 11:56 pm

While I think Natal looks interesting I just don't think its going to be that great. And honestly I hate having to talk to my video games. I feel like an idiot yelling at a game console. And it also caters to people in good physical health, so people with physical ailments like myself (I've got fibromyalgia, a bad hip, and a compulsive eating problem) won't be able to fully enjoy it because we won't be able to jump around as much or do roundhouse kicks or whatever. I wonder if microsoft took into account the fact that a large percentage of their customers are obese Americans (myself included). People who are seriously into gaming tend to sit around all day eating junk food and drinking energy drinks loaded with caffeine and sugar. People who like to play games and are in shape tend to buy the Wii not the 360.





However I am excited about Crackdown 2.

rav

June 3, 2009, 1:06 am

maybe i should give crackdown 1 a go?

jopey

June 3, 2009, 2:28 am

@ ravmania Yes you should. It's the best game on the 360.

Cub

June 3, 2009, 1:04 pm

@Luan Bach - Not driven by a force to prove people wrong here, but 'zapping' didn't sound right, got to love Wiki!


Apparently, holodecks work by "suspending the participants on force fields which move with their feet, keeping them from reaching the walls of the room"





I'm going to assume Microsoft haven't gone this far with Natal...

Luan Bach

June 3, 2009, 3:48 pm

@Cub, you are assuming that the wiki is correct! :-) as I am never wrong.

gareth edwards

June 4, 2009, 12:17 am

Just on the subject of NATAL.


I've been reading all the coverage of this new system and watched the video but there's one thing that seems to be avoided when talking about this system in relation to how it is seen to be used and that's available space.





Now, don't get me wrong, the future has been shown to look NATAL-esque in many people's vision of computing but the one thing that always is a constant when these groovy machines are used is the huge floorspace that allows interaction. Infact the future really is a sucker for people living in open plan flats and the like with masses of space.





Meanwhile back on planet now many of us, me included live in average or modest homes. Take for example a starter home in the UK or a terrace house. To go fully NATAL I would have to not only invest in a flat panel TV (which is coming) but also either ditch my sofa and chairs and coffee table or have wall mounted fold out chairs - neither of which are practical.





It's a small issue (litterally) one that's never even mentioned.









Keldon

June 4, 2009, 7:27 am

Natal looks interesting, if it works the way the videos show it too.





I see only onr flaw, I love "feedback" in games, from firing an emplaced MG in COD until my hands are numb to clipping a curb and feeling it on the G25 it draws me in as much as a good music score or strong scenes in a movie.





waving my hands around to drive a car or waving a bat around to shoot arrows on the PS3 idea looks very "flat" and uninspiring.





Maybe its just me but nothing draws me in like the feedback in COD 2 and the screaming ruskies charging the german lines because as unrealistic as a rumble pad is its better than nothing!

Patti Jordan

June 6, 2009, 1:56 am

GestureTek is the inventor, pioneer and world leader in video gesture control technology for both 2D and 3D cameras. Our software works with 3DV, Mesa, Prime Sense, Canesta and other 3D depth cameras. For more than 20 years, we have been creating 3D tracking technology and evangelizing video gesture control as the next step in computer human interaction. With more than 4000 public installations worldwide, we have a robust library of video gesture control technologies, applications and patents. GestureTek has licensed these patents and technologies in various ways to a multitude of consumer electronics providers, including for PlayStation, Xbox 360, Hasbro, etc. GestureTek is proud of the trail we&#8217ve blazed in the area of 3D depth tracking and control and our current leading position in the market today.





Here&#8217s more on GestureTek&#8217s 3D tracking and control software: http://www.gesturetek.com/3dde... .





Here are some examples of work that GestureTek was showing more than a year ago, before Natal:





- Beijing Olympics Flight Simulator http://www.gesturetek.com/3dde...


- Two-Handed Control Driving Demo http://www.gesturetek.com/news...


- Rock em Sock em Robots http://www.gesturetek.com/3dde...


- Our technology is also being used in a 3D depth sensing interactive digital signage system for Sprint.

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