More MS Natal photos (beta)

I have to give Engadget all the credit for these snapshots, but these two photos may show a pretty close to final, or Alpha, represenation of Natal.

These photo’s show a ‘developer’ only model as indicated by the stickers, and may look a tad bland all in white, but you should get the gist of what Natal will finally look like sitting ontop of your Xbox 360.  I hope that if it is indeed a stand alone, that they will offer a variety of colors, as the stark white version shown here isn’t gonna look too good with my Halo green console.  It may be better suited sitting next to my Wii.

The pictures come from the D8 conference held earlier this week, and I’m sure we’ll get even a better look at E3 this year.  Rumors abound that Microsoft will be picthing the Natal very aggressively at E3, showing it off both Monday night and again during it’s stage show I beleive which is on Tuesday.  Hopefully we’ll all learn the street price, maybe see some finished color options, and most importantly some ‘real’ interactive games as opposed to Lionhead’s “Milo” (as impressive as it was last year) and the oft seen dodgeball/breakout demo that’s been making the rounds. 

If that is all there is, then I may indeed pass.  I need to see something deep and impressive besides a racing game if MS wants me to drop the rumored $150 bucks on this thing.

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More RB3 news + Natal

I’ll get to the Natal news first.   As you can imagine, it most likely will not be called Natal and I suppose we’ll here the official name announced at E3 next month.  The disapointing news, however, is that the price point may indeed be higher than expected….much higher.

Early rumors had hinted Natal maybe as low as $60, although I for one never believed that.  I thought a street price of $79-89 was more realistic (as a stand alone without and AAA titles), but recent speculation coming out of a mole at MS indicates that Natal may be at a price point of $149!  Hopefully this does include a title with games ala Wii Sports.  This may put a damper on my early adoption, definetly having me sit back and see the games announced and actual performance after initial release. 

Since it may drop in October/Novemeber, here’s to hoping that MS has some real hands on demo’s at E3.

Now Rock Band 3.

My earlier post this week indicated that we’d be seeing the inclusion of a keyboard of some type.  Well, it appears my guessing was a bit closer to the truth afterall.  It sounds like a ‘keytar’ will be the instrument debuting meaning a concentration on 80’s pop, funk, and new wave music.  I think many acts back in the 80’s including Devo, Thomas Dolby, Thompson Twins, Morris Day and the Time, and many more used the Keytar (think keyboard on a strap much like a guitar) in their songs.

Peripheral manufacturer MadCatz is teaming up with Activision to concentrate on the various intrument offerings where as the game developer itself says it will focus on the actual software.

The game will also offer a new ‘Pro’ mode, and while the actual facts are somewhat vague it seems there will be an emphasis on technique more than button mashing.  And three microphones for harmony are pretty much a lock at this time.

E3 2009: Microsoft Impressions

Since I own a 360 myself (and still waiting for Sony to drop their price), I was really looking forward to what on tap from Microsoft.  In today’s climate of financial skepticism, shovelware (Wii), and over-hype with little delivery, one has to be very careful in picking and choosing were one is going to drop their $60 for a title.  And as a side note…why again are next gen console games anywhere from $10-15 more than their PC counterparts?  I think that if Microsoft really wants a leg up on Sony, since Sony doesn’t look like their going to reduce the cost of a new Playstation, that Microsoft should drop the price of new games by $5-$10 to a price point model closer to Nintendo.  I myself have a psychological aversion to spending $59 on a new game, and would feel much more willing to gamble one a title if it was $49, but that’s just me.

Anyway, onto the Microsoft press conference:

  • LAST.FM: Later this year, we can expect to stream music from the online service at no extra cost.  Seems like a pretty nice bonus for those that don’t already having digitable cable or sattelite radio in their homes.  I for one will be checking this out for dance channels and a little something else.
  • Twitter: Well there’s a new interface to use here, but with lack of a full keyboard, I’m not going to be sitting there using my controller to hunt and peck out messages.  I understand why Microsoft is doing this, but since I have an aversion to Twitter, I don’t see myself using this, nor most of my friends.  If we already have live chat, cell phones, email, FB and more, do I really need yet another way to read micro blog posts?
  • Facebook: Not sure exactly what to think about this move.  It uses the new NBE layout to navigate, and it looks good for viewing pictures and ties in smoothly to your Xbox friends profiles…but again, I just can’t see myself using it to type updates or all the other apps, when I have a PC that is so much easier to use for this type of thing.  Again, I understand why Microsoft is leveraging the popularity of Facebook, but the too early to tell how easy it will be to use or what people will use it for.  This one could go either way.
  • Avatars:  Microsoft said that you can expect unlockable items, (finally), in titles that will be appearing starting this fall to further customize your avatars.
  • 1 vs 100: The beta finally hit, and after we saw a glimpse of it when it was announced last year…and then delayed for whatever reason…I guess we can finally expect to see some live gameshow style events later this year.  I’m actually looking forward to this, and still wonder why it will take almost 1.5 years from it’s initial announcement to launch (pratically a year late from it’s intial planned debut).
  • Microsoft Points: May be going the way of the Do-do bird…meaning it’s rumored that MS points will lose their ‘point’ status and revert to ‘real money’….thank God.  I always hated tring to figure out the conversion that something cost , 160, 800, 1200, 1600 pts.  Just tell me how much already, I don’t want to think about it.
  • Zune: Looks like the next version of Zune hardware/software will integrate even more by the end of this year and loads of new content will be available through Xbox marketplace making Zune more of an extension of the Xbox similar to what the iTouch is for Apple and PSP Go is for Sony.  Video services will be relaunched at this time as well, and expect more HD content than ever.
  • Netflix: Update to make queing movies directly from Xbox instead of a PC.  Easier navigation as well.
  • Xbox originals: This service will be discontinued soon, or at least no new titles from first gen Xbox will be appearing.
  • Crackdown 2 (Ruffian Games): I’m jazzed about this as the first game was so much fun.  It didn’t get the recognition it should have as it was over-shadowed by Halo 3 at launch, but it has quite a cult following and is a blast!.  Anyway, expect better graphics (of course), 4 player co-op!, and 16 player versus modes.  Not too much details were given yet, just a teaser.
  • Halo Reach (Bungie): Just announced for a 2010 release and open beta for those that pre-purchase Halo ODST.  No details…just a tease.
  • Halo ODST (Bungie): Show some gameplay, of course looks great.  The setting is 3 weeks before the events in Halo 3, and you play a new character (not Master Chief).  Expect new weapons come Septermber 22nd, 2009.
  • Left 4 Dead 2:  Wow, I’m surprised how fast this sequel was announced and it’s progression in development.  Makes me wonder if some of the ideas/content was originally slated for the first, but didn’t make the deadline.  Or they new the 1st was going to be a hit, they had already started working on the sequel before the 1st was released.  Expect new weapons including chainsaw, melee weapons, characters, etc.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Announced for Xbox, but no details.  Just a big fat tease that have MG & Xbox fanboys screaming.
  • Rock Band Beatles (Harmonix): Opening trailer looks really neat and stylized to compliment the look of old school Beatles graphics.  Yoko One and Harrison’s widow comes out on stage…they wave…and walk back.  WTH?  How much did they pay them just to wave.  Could care less about them, and they didn’t sell me the game….waste of money and PR in my opinion.  Wait….Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney walk out as well…Why the hell is Paul chewing gum…I don’t care if he’s an icon or not…looks silly chewing gum.  He and Ringo say something unintelligible and then leave just as fast.  Wow…I would have hated to write them a check for that worthless appearance. “All You Need is Love” will be an exclusive Xbox track.
  • Joy Ride: XBLA arcade style kart game.  It’s free and utilizes your avatars, but lokks ‘okay’.  Good thing it’s free.
  • Shadow Complex: XBLA exclusive.  Pretty side scroller which will debut this summer.
  • Forza Motorsport 3: Shipping this fall.  I don’t know what to say about these racing games.  To me, they all look amazing whether it Project Gotham or GT or whatever.
  • Alan Wake: Gameplay footage is shown from this game that seems to have been in development forever.  They say Spring 2010, but we’ll see.  Not holding my breath, but looks pretty awesome nonetheless.  Look like a cross between Silent Hill and other freaky, tense, horror stealth titles.  Good solo game for playing at night near halloween.  Yeah, that type of scary and tense game.
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware): Oh, nerdgasm.  Showed an epic trainler set in the SW universe.  Jaw dropping and Xbox exclusive.  I am really looking forward to this one.
  • Mass Effect 2 (Bioware): 2010 release.
  • Project Natal (MS): Working title and most likely change.  Looks like MS is entering the motion control arena
    Natal

    Natal

    with there own sensor bar that you don’t need any controller at all….just your body.  They demonstrate some prototype games including racing sans steering wheel, a version of the classic ‘breakout’ called ‘Ricochet’, skateboarding, etc….Looks slick, but no launch date or price is mentioned or games for that matter.  Does voice and face recognition and can automatically sign you into XBLA when you walk into a room.

While I was indeed happy with what I saw (and I’m not metioning many of the cross-platform titles, ala Modern Warfare 2, DJ Hero, Assassins Creed 2, Bioshock, etc.), Microsoft seems to be focusing a lot on social networking this time around.  While I am happy with some of the AAA titles and some of the exclusives mentioned, I have a feeling that Sony may have a bit more up their sleeve this year than they did last year and may up the ante on Microsofts offerings.  Nintendo also better deliver this year as 2008 was disapointing and underwhelming.  They may have a lock on console sales, but the games are mostly crap right now with only a few bright spots in their IP offerings.