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Why PlayStation Move Being Wii HD Wouldn't Necessarily Be A Bad Thing

E3 will be the proper coming out party for both Project Natal and PlayStation Move. What's going to be particularly interesting is the kinds of games that publishers commit to each motion control platform. Mini-game collection? Hardcore experiences? Casual games? Most likely, it'll be a healthy mix of everything above and each design set comes with a different set of expectations, including price.

At the end of a a fiscal 2010 fourth quarter results call, one analyst quizzed THQ CEO Brian Farrell how much his Project Natal and PlayStation Move games might cost at retail later this year and beyond.

Farrell gave a surprisingly honest answer about his company's plans.

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 Project Natal

Microsoft’s Project Natal isn’t just about motion/body-controlled gaming; it’s about introducing an entirely new living-room entertainment experience. That is according to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 general manager, and Natal guru, Marc Whitten.

Whitten recently told Fast Company (via VG247) that while Natal definitely represents a significant shift in the way people interact with games, the technology’s reach goes well beyond the gaming space.

“...it's about all living-room experiences. Imagine a sporting event -- Natal could know which team you're for because it sees your jersey, or knows you thought a bad call was made when you yell 'boo.' It learns about you and gets smarter to create a more tailored entertainment experience,” Whitten explained.

“It learns about you and gets smarter”?! Um, terrifying. Actually, that sounds pretty rad. Of course, when you couple it with the potential swivel/tracking mechanism built into the Natal camera, I’m envisioning Natal coming to life and totally going HAL 9000 on people. But you know, instead of torturing you in space, Natal (aka NatHal) would just spontaneously turn on your Xbox 360 without you asking.

Source: Fast Company (via VG247)

Should the need arise, feel free to E-Mail me your tips, suggestions, and/or personal philosophies, or follow me on Twitter.

Project Natal Spotted In The Wild

An Italian website has what it says are the pictures of Project Natal for Xbox 360 in "the wild." Along with the device, their photographer seems to have taken shots of the manual which mentions a tilt mechanism for the camera, and reveals the need for a separate outlet to plug the thing in.

First the tilt. The supposed manual reads:

"The sensor array includes a new motorized tilt mechanism. Do not manually tilt the sensor array on its base. Doing so can damage the tilt mechanism."

Jake "Double Down" Gaskill and I have been puzzling over this tilting feature. First off, it probably should be called "pan" as opposed to tilt, but either way, if this is legit, it's both odd and cool. Cool because having your camera track you as you play games is amazing (and sort of scary), and odd because, why? Perhaps if you play in a very narrow room or stand very close to your TV you need a tilting camera to keep you "in frame," but how many people do that?

It's also strange that you'd need a separate power supply for Natal to run the motor that moves the camera. You'd think the number of people who play games in hallways would be smaller than the number who don't want to plug something else in...On the other hand, this could be fake, and if it's real, it's obviously pictures of a development kit, and the final design of the product could well be USB powered only.

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Five Years of the Nintendo DS

The big Nintendo rumor today is that the 3D-powered Nintendo DS could very well be released by the end of the year, a year that has been dominated by 3D talk, but is also going to be the year that Sony and Microsoft introduce their answers to the motion-controller revolution that Nintendo ushered in with it Wii. An October 3DS release would make for a very interesting holiday, as RockieOllie points out:

“If Nintendo pulls that off they’re basically spitting on Sony and Microsoft saying: 'Motion controls? That is so 2006. It's all about 3D guys.' Nintendo is just going to be one innovation a head of the crowd, leaving Sony and Microsoft trying to keep up with the Joneses.”

I don’t necessarily think Nintendo things all that hard about Sony and Microsoft, considering Nintendo’s dominance in the console/handheld market. However, I also don’t think they’re totally above pointing out that Sony and Microsoft are certainly playing catch up on the motion control front, even if the PlayStation Move and Project Natal end up being far superior pieces of gaming technology. And introducing a fully 3D supported device into gamers’ hands that doesn’t require an expensive new TV and glasses to enjoy it will definitely be an enviable position to be in, especially since it could very well shape how gamers feel about 3D gaming much in the same way the Wii laid the foundation for motion-controlled gaming.

Right?



Microsoft Keeps Natal Price Down By Removing ChipWith Project Natal looming in the wings, you can expect Microsoft wants to keep as much under wraps with regards to its lineup of Natal titles until they make their big push during E3 2010. However, one title that has managed to slip through Microsoft’s grip a little early, River Rush.

The first details about the previously unannounced Wii Sports Resort-canoe-mini-game-clone came from the screenwriter of Slither and Dawn of the Dead James Gunn, who posted some no-hands impressions of the  on his blog after he attended a recent Microsoft event, Joystiq reports.

As for River Rush, it sounds exactly like what you’d expect a rowing game to sound like. “It’s a game where you stand side by side in a river raft, so it’s two people playing at once. To move right, you have to step right; to move left, you have to step left,” explained Gunn. Players will also have to jump up to “slap floating stars,” which actually causes the entire raft to leap into the air.

I bet River Rush, as well as the oft seen human Breakout Natal game, will be part of a compilation game akin to Wii Sports, because there’s no real way they could be full blown games on their own. Or could they?

Source: Joystiq

Should the need arise, feel free to E-Mail me your tips, suggestions, and/or personal philosophies, or follow me on Twitter.

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Crysis 2

Crysis developer Crytek have long been known for being on the forefront of gaming tech, and judging from what we’ve seen of Crysis 2 (check out Andrew Pfister’s preview for details), they’ve been hard at work bringing their robust and PC-melting engine to consoles like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. So given the amount of time and attention the developer has sunk into harnessing the power of Microsoft and Sony’s machines, it’s hardly surprising to hear that they are also working closely with both company’s and their respective motion-control technologies.

Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli couldn’t say what exactly the developer has planned for Project Natal and the PlayStation Move, but Yerli did tell Develop that Crytek’s CryEngine does support both technologies. In addition to motion controls, Crytek said they are also looking at 3D gaming “very seriously.”

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In just a few short weeks, E3 2010 will be upon us (AHHHHH!!!!!), and that means, very soon, we should have a much clearer understanding of exactly what Microsoft’s motion-sensing Project Natal is really all about. What we’ve seen so far in the various demos and presentations have been interesting (and sometimes embarrassing), but there are still a ton of questions to be answered.

Case in point: a video has found its way onto the Internebs (picked up by VG247) that was taken during a Natal demo at Microsoft Israel R&D Center’s Think Next 2010 event. In said video, a female participant is shown moving around in front of Natal’s camera to demonstrate the level of motion-detection Natal is capable of. However, the most striking moment comes right at the beginning when one of the presenters points out that Natal has managed to identify the participating woman as…a woman.

That’s right. Natal can determine gender. At least, so says this particular demo. Whether that capability will end up in the final build remains to be seen. For now, though, it's definitely a compelling development.

I think the other big question this raises is: Can Natal determine if someone is not, in fact, a king? Because if it can, then I’m afraid G4’s famed King of Uno might be forced to reveal that he is a mere imposter. Care to comment, Mr. Johnson?

Source: VG247

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Rumored To Include Project Natal Support

If rumors about a slimmed down Xbox 360/Project Natal bundle didn’t satisfy your insatiable appetite for motion control conjecture, then perhaps this will do the trick: Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier could include Natal support.

(Pause for groans)

Ok. First of all, this info comes by way of the French gaming site Jeux Video (via Silicon Era) who cited an inside source familiar with the game, so it’s far from official. Also, according to the report, the game will feature a special Natal-powered mode, which would let players interact with the game’s UI while also using the controller to actually play. So even if the game ends up using Natal, it appears like it will be an entirely optional feature, which is good.

Of course, this begs the question of whether we could end up seeing support for Sony’s PlayStation Move as well. After all, Sony is pretty darn excited about SOCOM 4’s Move support. Having two tactical shooters to showcase their wonder wand with could be something notable. I guess.

I'm currently waiting to hear back from Ubisoft about all of this, so stay tuned.

Source: Silicon Era

Should the need arise, feel free to E-Mail me your tips, suggestions, and/or personal philosophies, or follow me on Twitter.

Microsoft Keeps Natal Price Down By Removing ChipGo-to industry analyst Michael Pachter has once again looked into his crystal ball, and this time, he’s seen the could-be-true-but-also-might-easily-not-be-true future of the Xbox 360.

According to Pachter’s prediction, there is a good chance that Microsoft will introduce the long rumored slim version of the 360 at the end of the year. Not only that, the console will come bundled with a 250GB hard-drive and Project Natal hardware, all for $299.

In an address to investors, Pachter said that the slimmer 360 Natal bundle will be positioned as the “standard SKU in late 2010” and Microsoft might even introduce a price cut in the coming months “if it begins to lose significant market share to Sony.”

Seeing as there’s little chance of a price cut from Sony, $299 seems like the most likely price point. As for the slim bundle, I wouldn't be surprised in the least. Now, a slim 360 with a built-in Natal camera? That would be something (not necessarily something good, but something).

Source: VG247

Should the need arise, feel free to E-Mail me your tips, suggestions, and/or personal philosophies, or follow me on Twitter.

Microsoft's Project Natal Built On PrimeSense Motion Technology

Microsoft announced today that 3D motion technology firm PrimeSense contributed an “important component” for Microsoft’s Project Natal motion control system.

“The engagement with Xbox 360 establishes PrimeSense’s position as a leading supplier of 3D-sensing technology,” PrimeSense chief executive officer Inon Beracha said in a statement to the press today. “We are especially honored to have a partner like Microsoft who share our vision for bringing innovative and engaging natural experiences to consumers.”

It isn’t clear exactly how much of PrimeSense’s own tech was used in the development of Natal, however according to PrimeSense president and founder Aviad Maizels, “Xbox 360 Hardware Engineering teams developed the ‘Project Natal’ sensor based on the PrimeSensor reference design to support the special requirements” of Natal.

Considering this PrimeSense’s demo reel features a couple browsing movies with hand gestures -- a scene later mirrored almost exactly in Natal’s E3 2009 promotional video (skip to 3:10) -- it appears that PrimeSense’s role has been largely concentrated on the user interface/dashboard control aspect of Natal, as opposed to game integration. But then again, Microsoft has yet to share those details, so nothing is known for sure.

Should the need arise, feel free to E-Mail me your tips, suggestions, and/or personal philosophies, or follow me on Twitter.

Natal And Yoga: Perfect Together

A since-taken-down web listing from retailer Amazon and an internal memo from GAME both reportedly contain a listing for a Yoga game for Natal.

Along with the obvious huge interest among fans of Downward-Facing Dog, Xbox 360 owners take note: The game was dated for October in both publications, leading to the obvious speculation that Natal is hitting shelves in October.

A word of caution: Retailers are often wrong with these kinds of release dates, so it's far from confirmed.

A word of warning: If Natal Yoga features online multiplayer, I will kick your ass. I swear to god; I will break out King Dancer Pose, follow it up with Revolved Half Moon Pose, and then bust out with Little Thunderbolt Pose -- Blaow! Finishing move! Yogality! You'll be sitting there doing some half-assed Mountain Pose with your weight unevenly distributed and your Chi flowing out of your fifth chakra asking, "Damn, how can he be so serene?"

Source: VG247

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Microsoft Announces Pre-E3 Project Natal

Last year’s E3 was all about Microsoft and Sony debuting their respective motion controllers. E3 2010 will be all about selling gamers on both technologies, and proving why they are the “necessary” next step in gaming. Microsoft has announced that it will, once again, preempt Sony’s efforts, by holding a Project Natal "experience” event June 13, the Sunday night before E3 officially begins.

Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg told VG247 that the Natal event is designed to “[demonstrate] the universal appeal of Xbox 360.” Sounds like we’ll be seeing more than just body-based Breakout demos this time around. Plus, it sounds like Microsoft plans to make the Natal case to core gamers, which might end up being very interesting or just sad.

Microsoft will follow up the Natal event with its regularly scheduled press conference on Monday, June 14. Expect plenty of more details as we approach the biggest gaming event of the year.

Should the need arise, feel free to E-Mail me your tips, suggestions, and/or personal philosophies, or follow me on Twitter.


 

Microsoft Staffing Up For Internal Project Natal Game Studio

According to the company, Microsoft's Natal motion-control system will work in smaller living rooms. There was some concern, especially in Japan, that those with smaller rooms would not be able to use the device. At issue was this description of Natal:

"To be precise, you'll want to clear an area extending at least 4 meters (a little more than 13 feet) away from the television."

Which would seem to imply you need more than 13 feet in your living room, acing out those with tiny hovels and people who live in suitcases. It's a mistake, though. According to Microsoft:

"The comments recently about the play space for 'Project Natal' were misinterpreted," Microsoft told game blog Kotaku. "It is true that the 'Project Natal' sensor reads the configuration of your room and adjusts play space, as appropriate. We know that living rooms come in all shapes and sizes, and have conducted numerous play tests to ensure everyone will be able to jump off the couch and into the fun when 'Project Natal' launches globally this holiday."

I hadn't considered the dimensions of my living room when thinking of Natal, but it does make sense that room configuration would have to play some part in how/whether the device works. I wonder how much effect the lighting scheme in your living room/basement/bedroom will have on Natal.

Source: Kotaku

Let's keep in touch. My twitter feed is here. My email is here. Follow me on twitter and let me know if you hear any interesting news.

GDC 10: PlayStation Move and Sub-Controller Photo Gallery

Microsoft and Epic Games partnered to make Project Natal part of Unreal Engine 3, allowing any developer creating games via Epic Games' technology to also leverage Project Natal. I sat down with Epic Games VP Mark Rein shortly after PlayStation Move was revealed at the Game Developers Conference and asked whether Move would be incorporated into his company's technology, too.

"That's a good question," he told me, smiling. "Well, I saw one on someone's desk so I assume we're doing something with it. [laughs] I don't know the answer to that."

The reason he didn't have a concrete answer, Rein explained, was because Move is more of a traditional input device than, say, Project Natal, which doesn't even have a controller attached.

"We give you a basic controller code [in Unreal Engine 3] and then people go and take off," said Rein. "Even if we weren't doing it [adding Move support into UE3], I know there are several licensees doing games for Move. I'm not sure whether it's because we helped them figure out how to use, or it's just a controller so they figured out how to make it work."

There were no Move games announced at Sony's press conference that utilized Unreal Engine 3, but many more Move-related announcements are expected at events like E3 in the months ahead.

As mentioned, however, adding support for Project Natal was a bit more of an undertaking.

"There's a lot more code behind Natal because it's more than a controller," he said, "it's about controlling your avatar, it's about syncing your objects to your guy, it's about knowing where the bones in the body are, so clearly there's more to do there. But Microsoft's done a lot of that work already for Unreal Engine 3, so they're already in pretty good shape there."

The bottom line: there's motion coming to your Unreal Engine 3-developed games in the future.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.



Peter Molyneux and the team at Lionhead Studios are taking the award winning Fable franchise into some interesting and bold new directions. From weapons that reflect your characters behavior, to the ability to “touch” other characters in the game, and even potential Project Natal integration, Fable III is easily one of the more ambitious titles coming this year (Molyneux and ambitious? No!).

X-Play
recently grabbed Mr. Molyneux for an All Access look at his highly anticipated title. Here’s a little bit of what he had to say about the game’s rumored Natal support:

"Fable III is definitely a controller based game, principally…But we’d be crazy not to use some of the Natal functionality.”

While you speculate about what this could mean for the game, feel free to check out the full interview below:

Fable III All Access Preview »


 

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