If you’re chomping for full-body control on your Xbox 360, the good news is that you won’t need a new console. The bad news is that it likely won’t be available for 10 months.
As part of his address to the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft’s head of “entertainment and devices” Robbie Bach confirmed that Project Natal will be available for play this year, though it will likely be timed for the holiday season which kicks off the day after Thanksgiving.
Project Natal is Microsoft’s answer to the success of the Wii. Rather than use motion sensor controllers, the product is based on a set-top camera which tracks body movements. (I’m going on record now predicting that there’ll be a YouTube clip of a child karate-kicking through a TV screen before year’s end.)
Bach didn’t give much detail about the pricing or sales process, but said the system will work on existing consoles. That probably means it will just be a case of buying the camera system, though it’s not yet clear whether only new games will take advantage of the product or if existing titles will be fitted with the functionality retroactively through downloads.
On the pricing issue, Bach has previously said the equipment will “go through the usual price curve”, which most likely means a high price when it goes on sale and then a reduction in early 2011.
In other news from the address, Microsoft is to launch an online arcade named “Game Room” through Xbox Live. The concept is that users can create their own virtual arcade, complete with decor choices, then buy retro games to put in it. Once the arcade is set-up, the user can invite other players to “visit” the arcade and play the games alongside them.
There’ll be 30 games at launch with a target of 1,000 titles by 2013. There’ll be a dual pricing system of 200-400 Microsoft points to buy a game outright, or 40 points for a single play. While the former is clearly much better value, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a lot of points spent by players trying out a game.
Meanwhile Modern Warfare 2 will have two sets of downloadable content this year, which will be timed exclusives: that is to say they’ll initially only be available for the Xbox but will eventually make their way to the PS3. Microsoft described them as “content packs” which Official Xbox Magazine speculates could mean single-player campaigns rather than just extra settings and modes for multi-player activity.