Hands-On With Microsoft's Game Room -- Classic Games Emulated On Your Xbox 360 Or PC


Posted January 11, 2010 - By bleahy

Announced at CES 2010, Microsoft will be bringing classic game emulation to the Xbox 360 and Windows PCs in Game Room. The service, which will be released this Spring, will initially have around 30 games available to purchase or play. At this point, Microsoft hopes to release 7 games a week with the final goal being over 1000 games available.  The Game Room is an actual 3D space for your avatar that can be customized and decorated. Your friends can even visit your personal arcade. If you don’t care for the virtual space, the entire experience can be navigated by menus.

Microsoft Game Room CES 2010 Announcement Trailer »

Initially, games will range from classic arcade titles to consoles titles from the Intellivision and Atari 2600. For a full list of the launch titles, skip to the end of this story. For pricing, the model is a bit different from anything Microsoft has done before on Live. For 40 MS Points or 50 cents, you’ll be able to play a game once. That’s right, just like dropping two quarters into an arcade machine, Microsoft will allow gamers to insert credits into these classic titles. It makes sense if you want to try a bunch of games before buying, in order to find something you like, but 50 cents a pop could add up before long.

If you want to purchase a game, it’s going to run you $3. This enables unlimited play and placement of the game in your arcade space. It won’t, however, allow you to play that same game on your Xbox 360 and PC. If you want cross-platform play, the price will kick up to $5, but will allow you play the game on any supported platform according to Microsoft’s Frank Pape, senior director on the project, which might not be limited to the 360 and PC, though no new platforms were announced at CES. If I had to speculate, I would look to Windows Mobile as a possible platform. Live was just announced for Windows handsets and it would give Microsoft some ground against Apple’s iPhone and its growing game library.

Keep reading for more on Game Room.

While there is no multiplayer planned, gamers will be able to issue challenges to their friends to compete for high scores in any of the games. When entering your arcade, a green light will appear above cabinets that you hold the high score on. Red lights will show games with high scores owned by friends. Friends will be able to visit your arcade, however, and try any of the games you own once, for free, bypassing the 50 cent cost. You won’t have to wait in a line at any virtual machine, though.

The arcade games, themselves, are emulated perfectly and the ROMs haven’t been modified in any way. This is why the achievements are tied to Game Room itself (of which there are 99 initially) and not built into each title. On a per-game level, players can earn 3 “medals” for each title. These are custom to each game, but generally include a high score medal. Certain games will even allow the player to edit different DIP switches for a true arcade experience. The games launch quickly and play well for the most part. The less-than-ideal d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller makes some of the games a little tricky, but the analog stick is more than capable, especially since many of these games were played with arcade sticks originally. Personally, I’ll probably get some more use out of my MadCatz FightStick.

Although the games are starting back in the original arcade era and early consoles, Frank Pape says that the emulation could continue all the way through the 16-bit era. I wouldn’t expect to see any games from NES or SNES, though, as Nintendo isn’t going to license its platform for emulation to a direct-competitor. SEGA’s catalogue is a definite possibility, however. After the initial announcement, representatives from Electronic Arts and THQ approached Microsoft at CES 2010 for potential inclusion in Game Room. Microsoft has finished porting around 400 games with 700 being worked on now.

Personally, I might pick up a few games, but I’ll probably wait until the 8-bit and 16-bit eras before any major purchasing. I was hoping there’d be a subscription-based model, but it looks like Microsoft will be pursuing an a la carte model. Overall, I was impressed by Game Room, but the price of building a collection is worrisome. I don’t know how I feel about paying $3 for an arcade game from the 70’s when I can get a brand-new game on my iPhone for .99 cents. Time will tell, however. Look for Game Room on your Xbox 360 and PC this Spring with the following 30 games available at launch:

  • Armor Battle (Intellivision)
  • Asteroids Deluxe (arcade)
  • Astrosmash (Intellivision)
  • Battlantis (arcade)
  • Centipede (arcade)
  • Combat (Atari 2600)
  • Crystal Castles (arcade)
  • Finalizer (arcade)
  • Football (Atari 2600)
  • Gravitar (arcade)
  • Jungler (arcade)
  • Lunar Lander (arcade)
  • Millipede (Atari 2600)
  • Mountain Madness Super Pro Skiing (Intellivision)
  • Outlaw (Atari 2600)
  • RealSports Tennis (Atari 2600)
  • Red Baron (arcade)
  • Road Fighter (arcade)
  • Scramble (arcade)
  • Sea Battle (Intellivision)
  • Shao-Lin's Road (arcade)
  • Space Armada (Intellivision)
  • Space Hawk (Intellivision)
  • Star Raiders (Atari 2600)
  • Sub Hunt (Intellivision)
  • Super Cobra (arcade)
  • Tempest (arcade)
  • Tutankham (arcade)
  • Yar's Revenge (Atari 2600)


Hands-On With Microsoft's Game Room -- Classic Games Emulated On Your Xbox 360 Or PC


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