The Xbox 360 Media Briefing saw Don Mattricks announcing a new era for Microsoft, which will kickoff with the biggest year for the Xbox 360 – 2010. Microsoft says this will be the year when Kinect, what was codenamed Project Natal, will help the company redefine the way you play, and which along with Xbox Live will enable you to "break through the screen" to connect with friends, family, movies, music, and dance, apart from sports with ESPN. It's apparently all about your "living room" to Microsoft, and they're out to make it a more social place, as well as a gaming and entertainment hub for the entire family.
The announcement of Kinect and the new Xbox 360 Slim were leaks that were great to have confirmed, but what we all eagerly awaited was pricing and availability, especially for Kinect. Microsoft disappointed however, by holding back on the price of the 3D camera setup, but graced us with the knowledge that it would be arriving by November 4th, and would be accompanied by 15 launch titles.
The new Xbox 360 Slim looked like a smaller version in a glossy black casing that is a linearly stylized version of the original, all sharp angles. It was called the 'Kinect Ready' Xbox 360, and we hope this does not mean that the original does not support Kinect, even though the new one will be priced at exactly the same price as the original, $299. It will also feature some new hardware, in the form of the fastest WiFi on a console, 802.11 b/g/n, and 250GB hardrive space.
So, apart from the new non-Kinect Xbox 360 games announced (which you can catch read in our game special on Microsoft's E3 conference), the rest of the show was all about Kinect and Xbox Live, and these new experiences they will provide. All of which can be accessed Minority Report style - with the hand, or with voice control!
While Xbox Live users have had voice chat and party chat for a while now, with consoles even shipping with headsets, it's now time for video chat on Xbox Live. Yes, straight after Apple introduced FaceTime, we get to hear about Video Kinect. A service available only for Xbox Live Gold members, it will allow users of two Kinect enabled Xbox 360 consoles to video chat with each other, and apparently even check out movies and videos together, which we assume will also include other content... Seems pretty cool, and we can see applications of people watching the same thing simultaneously... Wonder how many different people voice chat will support at once, with how many PIP real-time? Windows Live Messenger contacts can also be chatted with.
While it is not clear whether you have to be a ZunePass holder apart being a Xbox Live members, you will be able to access a simplied UI when accessing Zune content, which Microsoft showed off with the statistic: 7 million songs on demand
Other content partnerships were also revealed, such as Netflix, Facebook, .Last FM, and ESPN. ESPN was really emphasized, and they announced great content (for Americans, wonder how it would translate worldwide) in the partnership of the "worldwide leader in sports" and the "worldwide leader in games" . This included college football and college basketball, apart from live scores, sportscenter, statistics, and more. ESPN is available free for Xbox Live Gold members.
Coming closer to the kinetic part of Kinect, we chose to seperate this announement from the many Kinect games revealed, as it can not only mean some serious exercise, but also lending itself to some very applications we find will be truly mind-blowing, like learning Kung Fu or Kendo. It recognizes your body type, mass, can calculate the calories you are burning, which body area is being targeted, give you combat training (sissy fitness version show, but imagining learning how to correctly wield a daikatana!) and "correct you" when you are going wrong, real-time.
Read on to know more about the Kinect titles expected, including some of the 15 launch titles....
Images courtesy: Engadget
Dance Central, in partnership with MTV Games and Harmonix, Microsoft Game Studios and Kinect enabled Xbox 360 controls will let players dance their way into high scores. Wow? Not really! But hey, some people like this stuff, and perhaps all's fare in the healthy spirit of competition, even if it is a dance off!
Star Wars, nameless, and due out only in 2011, this Kinect enabled game will allow gamers to wield light-sabers and more. The action certainly was interesting, and making actual motions to zing off a Stormtrooper's appendage is very appealing to everyone! However, the saber action looked decidedly slow, maybe it was on low difficulty or some training level or something! The trailer even showed off the player vs Darth Vader!
Kinect Adventures, shown off at last year's E3, this was a replay of the rafting-balance game, and the mine car action. Not so exciting... But could be entertainming to some people.
Kinect Sports, this where the Kinect will finally come into its own, and unlike Wii Sports, not require innovative uses and gestures of the Wii mote to emulate non-hand motion games, like athletics, football, and more. Jump over a hurdle in your living room! Lob that ball past mid-field, and other realistic sports moves... Now, while this may be more realistic than Wii Sports, it is also apparent that you will soon run out of space in your living room if you intend to do a serious tackle or jump real hurdle. And this is where the entire idea of the Kinect screwing up an entire generation of children really comes into focus, with them brining the outside sports inside, and only learning to run in the same place, quite figuratively. Sports injuries within the house will also become common place! Games showcased included: bowling, basketball, footballl, boxing, table tennis, and athletics.
Kinect Joy Ride, a fun and wacky racer for the entire family to play, gripping imaginary steering wheels and making vroom vroom noises.
Forza Motorsport 2011, possibly one of the most exciting moments of the evening, along with Star Wars and the whole bunch of other games released (to be found here), Forza Motorsport 2011 is expected early next year, and promises truly immersive racing that runs at 60 frames per second in full HD, and is completely Kinect ready. Also showcased was the car gallery, where users can users can 'touch' the car, and get to know more about it, and even sit in it!.
What this conference means to us
We feel Microsoft has really made something cool here, and even if it is priced at $189, this easily spread to many homes, revolutionizing motion controls and user interfaces, giving the Wii and Move a real challenge. Sony and Nintendo will really have to step up their games to match Microsoft's new found potential winner, which can be used you laterally, perhaps starting its way with gaming, but moving into a whole spectrum of value added services, from video chat and Windows Phone 7.
Complete list of Kinect launch game titles:
To see the highlights of the conference, log on to www.youtube.com/e3
Images courtesy: Engadget