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Microsoft's Bach: Natal A 'Midlife Kicker For The 360'
Microsoft's Bach: Natal A 'Midlife Kicker For The 360'
May 25, 2010 | By Chris Remo

May 25, 2010 | By Chris Remo

After announcing his upcoming departure from Microsoft, Entertainment & Devices head Robbie Bach has characterized the company's upcoming motion-sensing Natal peripheral as a "holy grail" of the console world, thanks to its potential to deliver a new console game experience without resorting to a generational shift.

The comment came as part of a lengthy TechFlash retrospective interview discussing Bach's two-decade tenure at Microsoft, including his leadership of the group responsible for the Xbox platform.

"There's a tremendous opportunity from a business perspective to produce a new experience for people without shipping a new console," Bach said of Natal. "That's sort of the holy grail, in many ways, of the console world."

Bach, who will continue to serve at Microsoft for another six months, said gamers are going to feel "the broader impact" of Natal "over 12, 24, 36 months," and added that "you've got three, four years of some really cool innovation that can happen" -- suggesting the device could prolong Xbox 360's lifespan considerably longer than most historical console cycles.

"It's a jumpstart catalyst," the executive said. "It's a midlife kicker for the 360, and it's an opportunity to really drive that business in a dramatic way."

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Brad Borne
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Aka Microsoft believes Nintendo's lunch to be delicious.

Funny, in the good old days, this is when devs came to grips with the hardware and made the generation's best games. No 'midlife kicker' necessary.

Fábio Bernardon
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And just like the MotionPlus, few games will use it. I don't see it being different from all the slate of peripherals of previous generations.

Doug Poston
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@Brad: I think the 360 hardware is a little easier to 'come to grips' with than previous generations. IMHO this isn't a bad thing.

Terry Matthes
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I don't really understand the point of putting this technology on the 360 this late in the game. I think people have cast each console into it's own light and the people who bought and enjoyed a Wii for this technology aren't going to pick up a 360. Vise versa, I don't think the people who currently own a 360 care to much about this type of technology because if they did they would have bought a Wii.

Marco Devarez
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SONY and MS needed the 10 year cycle badly, and these mid-cycle introductions prove their commitment to it. With enough time these "peripherals" can be successful, but of course its all about implementation.

Wave will get wii ports, and Natal will need further innovation... for that reason i think we cannot predict success.

Matthew Campbell
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First, I am personally a big fan of a longer life-cycle of the consoles.. we don't need another new console with new hardware... we can't even write software now that's good enough to fully utilize the XBox360 and the PS3. The last thing we need is another new set of hardware to figure out.

Second, I see Natal as the next generation of "wii" technology. Not having a wand, wheel, or whatever in your hand, to me, is pretty slick. I hope this technology gives us innovative ways to interact with games and entertainment software. The days of "who has the coolest graphics.. who has the coolest tech" is coming to an end and folks need to realize that if they want to sell their games, they need to make GOOD games, LONGER games.. (another thing that consoles with longer life-cycles should help).. hopefully Natal will aid in the further development of good games.

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Anything to keep the next-gen away. Unless you consider this the next-gen.

I would still like to believe my 360 is relevant in this generation lol.

Maurício Gomes
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And here I am, still coveting a PS2...

Fiore Iantosca
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There are so many games on the 360 and PS3 I have yet to play. I really hope they stretch this generation out some more. I have ZERO desire for the move or natal so hopefully those items will help stretch this generation.

Doug Poston
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Personally, as a developer, I'm excited about Natal.

There will be some silly Wii-clone ports, but not as many as people fear.

I could think of a dozen in game uses for a feature that identifies different people by their face alone.

Amir Sharar
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Terry Matthes said: "Vise versa, I don't think the people who currently own a 360 care to much about this type of technology because if they did they would have bought a Wii."

I agree to an extent. It really depends on how differently consumers view the Natal in contrast to the Wii. I would almost contrast this to the "dumbphone" to "smartphone" jump many consumers made, and whether they see the latest smartphone as a similar jump. Similarly, many jumped from SDTV to HDTV, and need some more convincing to get a 3DTV.

I think the Natal can be an incredible success if they targeted some specific demographics. The weight loss industry is still an active market and with some key software tied into other popular products (ie. The Biggest Loser TV show) it can become the de facto product in that regard.

I mention this because "success" is going to mean a lot to different people, and to gamers most of the success this may achieve is not relevant to their interests. I certainly hope that the Natal is robust enough to support peripherals like "LightGun" equivalents so shooters like House of the Dead can make it to the console, to satisfy my gaming tastes.

Mark Harris
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You need to think long term as well, beyond this generation of consoles. Bach specifically mentioned "3 or 4 years of innovation" on Natal. They're looking at this as a platform in itself, or at least as an inclusion in the Xbox platform beyond this generation. The 360 is a test platform for Natal, and if it makes a profit in the meantime then that's just icing on the cake.

If all goes well with Natal; some good games come out, some cool experimentation happens, people develop a solid software base, the hardware continues to improve, etc., you can count on Natal's tech being an integral part of the Xbox 720 (or whatever they name the next one). They are trying to position themselves as the tech and brand leader for this technology, believing it is more robust, more versatile, and more attractive than the Wii wand and Move. Time will tell if it bears out, but I can guarantee you MS is not planning this as just a midlife kicker for the 360.

Sebastion Williams
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Gamers + Project Natal = > Cro-Magnon + Fire

If done right, this peripheral could open the flood gates to non-traditional gaming. I have worked with very restless kids who needs direction and outlets for their energy but I could never consider letting them use my Nintendo DS, use the keyboard and mouse or put a delicate controller in their accidentally destructive hands. Think of the money and grief saved!