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Microsoft's Future Begins Now: Shane Kim Speaks
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Microsoft's Future Begins Now: Shane Kim Speaks

June 16, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

BS: Natal is obviously a much more inclusive type of environment for players. How do you foresee Microsoft as a company trying to attract people to it? Is the scenario: the box is in the home on the back of the hardcore kid who bought it, and now the mom is going to be interested in it? How do you see yourselves pushing that forward?

SK: All of the above. I do think that today, obviously, given the core gaming base that we have -- we have 30 million Xbox 360s out there today -- we've already seen this with NXE and Netflix, that there's greater usage in existing Xbox 360 homes. Do I think it's helping sell Xbox 360 more people? Absolutely.

But where we're seeing a lot of benefit is in those existing homes, where we're getting great usage, and I do think that's part of the reason why our Live membership has grown so much now to 20 million members.

In the future, as we continue to add more content, we expand the social networking integration, and create gaming experiences like Natal -- based on Natal for a broader audience -- I think you're going to see Xbox 360 become much more appealing to a much wider fan base.

BS: The social networking and the accessibility, it strikes me more as something that would support people that came to the console that were more casual -- rather than drawing them in, necessarily.

SK: That's right. You know, I'd love for this to be the case, that people went out and bought a 360 and said, "I did it specifically because I want to have the Facebook experience on my television instead of on my computer." But the more that we add functionality like, like instant-on 1080p HD, and so on and so forth, I think it really starts to make those kind of scenarios more realistic.

You look at what we're doing in the UK with SkyTV. With Sky, we're delivering live television programming now over Xbox Live, something we don't do in the U.S. today. That's again another compelling reason why you might go out and buy an Xbox 360 even if you're not a core gamer.

BS: Will Natal be usable on arcade consoles that don't have a hard drive?

SK: Yeah, I believe that.

KG: How far off is it? I'm sure there's no specific date, but you're showing it here, so?

SK: No. There's no specific date. It's not in 2009, but we have delivered development kits this week, so it's more real than not. That was not concept technology. That's real technology. We wouldn't be able to send dev kits for partners if there wasn't anything to start building off.

So, there's still a lot of work for us. There's no question about that. We feel really good about the progress that we've made. We've been working on it for quite some time. Now was the right time to unveil it to everybody, and I think the reaction that we received validates that decision.

KG: How does the marketing shift? It seems like it's going to aggressively evolve once Natal changes the situation. You and I have talked about going after casuals before -- but this goes way beyond just launching Banjo-Kazooie.

SK: Oh yeah. It's going to be the launch of Xbox 360.

KG: It's going to be like a relaunch?

SK: Absolutely. It will be that big. Now, the good news is that it's not a new hardware architecture; we're not forcing customers to have to go buy a new console because it will work with every existing Xbox 360 out there. But in terms of its importance and scale of what we're talking about, yeah, absolutely, it will be like the launch of a new Xbox.

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Anatoly Ropotov
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Kim has an awesome vision and this interview is really enjoyable.

MS makes the wave and forces everyone to swim along with it: bring something "just a bit" innovative and you can't be seen by height of their wave, produce something half baked and you are far behind.

Now, bring in new Zune integration from day 1 to make it worth it to own for every X360 owner.

Mike Lopez
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"We know where your shoulder is, we know where your hand is, where your elbow is. That's just math. "

The questions for me are: 1) how precise is the detection and 2) does the system differentiate between each finger as well? Fully articulated hand gestures will be a lot more easy to leverage and engage gameplay with than less precise, non-digit full body gestures. Also, full body gestures will be much more physical in nature (good only to a point) and so prone to exhaustion sooner (imagine Wii boxing fatigue x10).

Matt Ponton
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"The questions for me are: 1) how precise is the detection and 2) does the system differentiate between each finger as well? Fully articulated hand gestures will be a lot more easy to leverage and engage gameplay with than less precise, non-digit full body gestures. Also, full body gestures will be much more physical in nature (good only to a point) and so prone to exhaustion sooner (imagine Wii boxing fatigue x10)."

First, of course we can only go by current interviews but I believe either Peter Molyneux or another Xbox rep said in an interview (possibly Kotaku) that it could register your fingers if the software designer wanted to.

Second, exhaustion is something that would have to be left up to testing/game design.

One thing I want to add though, no where have I seen anyone say anything about the 360 controller not able to be used during the camera work. Theoretically you could use an actual baseball bat as you play the next MLB game, or use a 360 controller as a "hand gun" with the trigger button as you stealth around your living room. I've been taken in by the hype of eye-toy-like cameras before but I am looking forward to seeing what Natal can do and, more importantly, what designers do with it.

Kouga Saejima
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"does the system differentiate between each finger as well?"

As long as one finger doesn't hide another, I guess "yes".

Sander van Rossen
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What would/is the cpu usage for Natal on the xbox360? Processing all these images most certainly won't be free..

So either there's a processor in the camera device or the xbox360 would need to sacrifice some performance.

Kouga Saejima
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@ Sander van Rossen

According to several reports NATAL will have and use its own processor. So basically no sacrifice of performance.

William Swaney
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So he can't even say how much of it was faked? "Conceptual" :) We'll be waiting a long time for this to come to market.

Bob McIntyre
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Oh, I'll save you the trouble and tell you right now. It was pretty much all fake, scripted, conceptual, or however you want to phrase it. Especially that whole Milo thing, that was pure make-believe. Then again, I don't think they were trying to fool anyone into thinking Milo was real; they had Molyneux up there, and that guy is the industry leader for talking about cool things that aren't really going to ship.

Sean Francis-Lyon
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3rd parties have gotten to test Milo live and while it is not everything Molyneux would lead you to believe, it certainly was not all scripted. IGN had an article on it:

Kouga Saejima
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Not all but enough to question it.

Bob McIntyre
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I guess it just seems pretty unimpressive because it doesn't really seem to do the cool stuff. For example, Milo picks out your shirt color. That's really easy to do, because you can guess that their shirt is in the top part of the screen, you have an RGB readout, and you have the depth value, so it's just a quick color-average of a chunk of pixels. Or he greets you by name when you say your name, step back, and step forward again. That's cool if it's "real," but that's also very easy to hard-code. If there had been five people who gave their names and stepped back, then stepped up in a random order and Milo still recognized their faces, that would be something, because that implies he's not just hearing a name and then using that name to greet the next person who steps up.

This stuff is all really cool if it's "real," but it would be so easy to fake that I'm not going to believe it without seeing a more convincing demo. It's in such an early stage that the character doesn't understand a lot of what's said to him anyway, so while I don't want to say it's crap and it'll never work, even MS is telling us that it's not ready yet, and that makes it even more likely that the demo is faked. It's just too soon to say what this will become without wildly speculating and projecting what we hope it will be onto what we're actually seeing.

John Petersen
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I don't care how innovative they think they're being. There's only one way to get me to go back to a 360, and that's to give me one. (The one I deserved to have had replaced for free, but never was)

There is a point where it doesn't matter how flashy, or gadgety they can be, none of it matters if it isn't reliable. None of it matters if I don't like how your treating me.

I would rather play backgammon on an old wooden board.

Elvis Fernandes
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It was a really good interview, but I wish for these things to come true

1. Project Natal should be compatible with the existing Xbox 360s, coz I have one, I dont wanna buy an Elite now (lol)

2. Hope they have a dev kit for the XNA developers too