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Pre-E3: Natal Officially Named 'Kinect,' Ad Reveals Redesigned 360?

Pre-E3: Natal Officially Named 'Kinect,' Ad Reveals Redesigned 360?

June 13, 2010 | By Kris Graft

June 13, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC, E3

At Microsoft's E3 kick-off event on Sunday evening in L.A., a lavish Cirque Du Soleil event revealed Project Natal is officially "Kinect," while images of a redesigned Xbox 360 also circulate.

A USA Today report -- later confirmed at the multi-million dollar launch event -- that Microsofts Project Natal motion sensing camera, launching later this year, is now officially called Kinect.

The control solution, which also has a built-in microphone, has been using the codename Project Natal for a little over a year, since its June 2009 E3 unveiling. Despite extra information now available, the peripheral's pricing is still unannounced.

[UPDATE: The USA Today story -- apparently published early -- was removed shortly after this story was published, but the "Kinect" name was confirmed at a lavish, Gamasutra attended pre-E3 Microsoft event in Los Angeles on Sunday.]

Microsoft has also officially unveiled Kinect games, some previously known, some not. The previously-announced Xbox Live avatar racing game Joyride will allow users to hold an imaginary steering wheel to control their cars. The game is only now confirmed as a Kinect game.

Additionally, Kinect Adventures will include a river raft game, Kinectimals is a virtual pet-raising game featuring big cats, Kinect Sports includes boxing, bowling, beach volleyball, track and field, soccer and table tennis and MTV Games Dance Central is an aptly-titled dancing game.

Another demonstration included a Wii Fit-style yoga-related title, and a new Video Chat application for the Xbox 360 was also showcased alongside the games. The Kinect will also allow gesture-related navigation of the Xbox 360's dashboard, Minority Report-style.

USA Today also said that separate new games developed at Microsoft will incorporate Star Wars and Disney characters, thanks to partnerships with LucasArts and Disney. At the Kinect launch event, a new Star Wars-themed game with lightsaber and 'force push' effects was demonstrated, and Disney was represented purely by an animation of Tinkerbell.

The Gamasutra-attended Cirque Du Soleil event to showcase Kinect took place at the Paley Center at USC on Sunday night, in a special performance to be shown on U.S. TV channels including MTV, Spike TV and Nickelodeon on Tuesday.

With the audience donning white ponchos with light-up shoulderpads, the French Canadian circus troupe presented a complex one-off theater based around Kinect's power to bring the family together.

A giant light-up Xbox logo, a special 360 degree revolving room with players walking across the ceiling, customary eccentric mime work from Cirque regulars, and gigantic ceiling and wall projections were twinned plenty of motion-controlled game footage to introduce the broadly aimed peripheral.

Elsewhere on the hardware side, Kotaku reported that ads on an Italian gaming website confirmed a new, redesigned Xbox 360, to be unveiled this week. The new console is rumored to have a 250GB hard drive, built-in wi-fi and, like all Xbox 360s, compatible with the Kinect camera. As of this evening, the ads were reportedly removed.

There has been widespread speculation that Microsoft could reveal a revised version of its console in conjunction with Kinect. Microsoft last year promised a big marketing push behind its new controller, as Xbox 360 approaches its fifth year on the market.

[UPDATE: Details from Cirque Du Soleil event added.]

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