May 12, 2005 6:30 PM PDT

Xbox 360 preview gets jump on rivals

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft has beaten its game console rivals to the starting line with a preview of its new Xbox.

The software giant unveiled the Xbox 360 during a pretaped MTV broadcast on Thursday night, edging out Sony and Nintendo to become the first to reveal details of a new console.

The most anticipated feature among the Xbox 360's specifications is its high-definition picture display. Pricing for the device hasn't been announced yet, but executives have said the console will be shipped in Asia, Europe and North America by the holiday season.

Xbox 360

Microsoft timed the announcement to hit before the start of a major gaming industry trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, set to take place in Los Angeles next week. The move pre-empts launches from rivals Sony and Nintendo, which plan to demonstrate their own systems at E3.

The new systems are expected to revitalize the gaming industry, which typically sees an upgrade cycle in consoles about every five years.

Microsoft is slightly ahead of that schedule, likely because it's eager to get leverage from the games foothold it got with its first Xbox, launched in 2001, and to get a jump on its competitors.

"We have been working on this for three years--twice as long as we did for Xbox 1," said J. Allard, a Microsoft corporate vice president. "We didn't have the team last time, we had the dream...We had an incredible amount of infrastructure (relationships with publishers and developers) to build up, and our initial Xbox was more to get a seat at the table."

Review
Under Xbox's hood
The Xbox 360 will deliver the power of a high-end gaming PC to the living room.
Analysts tend to agree that Microsoft is better equipped to gain market share with its latest console.

"Microsoft is better prepared this time around than last time," said Schelley Olhava, a games analyst with research firm IDC. "They put more thought into everything down to the controller, which feels more natural in your hand."

Olhava estimates that once the new generation of consoles are on shelves and games are released, Microsoft and Sony will constantly trade out the No. 1 market share spot in North America. For some time, the Japanese company has held the top position for consoles shipped by a wide margin.

Under the hood
The Xbox 360 will display games in high definition when used with HDTVs, but it will scale down to the best resolution of the television set, Microsoft said. In addition, the redesigned white console will be able to connect to the Xbox Live marketplace using a built-in Ethernet port and broadband Internet access. At the marketplace, gamers will be able to download content such as new game trailers, new game levels, weapons and vehicles for games and more.

The console will come with a 20GB detachable and upgradeable hard drive and a 12x dual-layer DVD drive that reads DVD, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-R/RW, WMA and MP3, among other formats. It will also stream media from other Windows XP-based PCs, Microsoft said.

Despite all these features, Olhava said she expected none will have as big an impact as the support of game makers. During its initial effort, Microsoft was slow to get a rich portfolio of third-party games for the Xbox.

Microsoft expects that to be different this time around. Representatives said that by the end of this year, there will be 25 to 40 titles supporting the Xbox 360.

25 comments

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What do you know....????
I missed the entire event. Darn. Well, maybe I'll try again when the
Xbox 720 comes out. But that's just 'maybe'. Right now, I just don't
have any reason to think about game machines. My real life is far
too interesting to waste time on games.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't you worry, Earl
I'll keep the big bad Xbox away from you by playing enough for the both of us. :)
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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interesting?
but not interesting enough to not waste time replying to online comments made about the xbox2?
Posted by bob blob (118 comments )
Link Flag
missed it too...
they say anything about backwards compatibility?
Posted by (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No, unfortunately
But I would be surprised if it weren't a feature. They're putting Live on it, which is a carry-over from the old Xbox days. Making it interface with Xbox Live titles as well as Xbox 360 titles would not be remarkably difficult.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
You missed nothing
That show was pure misery. It seriously lacked any useful content.

People say MS is smart, but every forum I have read so far all say the same thing - XBox infomercial sucked, the games look horrible and there was no content at all from the unveiling, which of course, was already beaten to the punch thanks to the internet.
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Link Flag
Big misconception....
I don't why most people believe this, but just b/c you own a video game system doesn't mean you're sitting in front of a screen with a 3 liter of bootleg coke, and family size bag of chips with zero outside contact. It is possible to have "a life" and still be a video game honk. End of short rant.
Posted by tahbasco (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
C. Jones
actually remember the tail end of freshman year? :S oh and last year at the apt.
lol
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
I dont know what I saw...
What I saw lat night was not a show about the Xbox, it was a show to show everyone commercials. I actually timed it, the show was 12 minutes long!! 12 minutes!!!!!!!!! 18 minutes of commercials. Thats not including the commercials before and after the show began. I feel ripped off and I didnt even buy anything...

I will still buy it but what a brilliant way to get millions of people to watch commercials. God MS is smart.
Posted by baggyguy1218 (155 comments )
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One Gamer's Perspective
Despite my personal standards and morals, I resolved to watch the unveiling of the Xbox 360 on MTV last night. Watching MTV is generally a terrible uncomfortable experience for me, but I decided to suffer through the pop-culture drivel to catch a glimpse of what the next generation holds.

I apologize in advance for the length of this essay, but I just thought I would share my thoughts about the next Xbox, as someone who's been playing games for more than 20 years. Without further ado...

Aesthetically, the Xbox 360 is pleasing to my eye. It has broad, sweeping curves and the white casing is very nice. What looks to be stainless steel serves as the drive plate, which also looks good. The ability to remove the front plate and customize it with a replaceable "skin" is a degree of customization that I feel Microsoft is wise to support. Gamers, for the most part, are unique individuals. Catering to customization will instill an enhanced feeling of ownership.

Initially, I was extremely turned off by the vertical orientation of the console, which was highlighted in every picture. My experience with seating PS2s vertically is that it's a quick ticket to disc read errors, which renders your console inoperable. Positioning a console vertically also reduces the footprint and gives it a higher center of gravity, increasing the likelihood of damage should it ever fall over. I was very relieved to see the Xbox 360 laying down last night.

The addition of wireless controllers, in my opinion, is a major selling point of the Xbox 360. Until Nintendos WaveBird, wireless controllers were only really useful in practice as paperweights or doorstops. While I have yet to hear what technology the Xbox 360s controllers will use to communicate with the console, I would not be surprised if they chose to go with Bluetooth or a similar high frequency, high speed communicator. However, exactly how much of a selling point the controllers will be remains to be seen, pending whether the controller has built-in rechargeable batteries or not.

The controller is nice, in and of itself, but I wont know for sure until I wrap my hands around it. I liked the bigger Xbox controllers, so Im slightly put off by their decision to pursue the smaller designs. I would wish for a larger controller option, but I doubt I would get it.

Technically, I was blown away by what the Xbox 360 is capable of. Three dual-core 3.2 GHz processors power this thing, packing in roughly a teraflop of processing power. It has a proprietary ATi 3D card in it, which clocks at 500 MHz and has 10 MB of dedicated memory. That seems very low to me, but it has 48 pipelines in it, which is something Im still trying to wrap my brain around. When it all came down, I could not deny the high quality pictures my eyes were seeing (the only exception being Perfect Dark, more on that in a bit). There is an option to include a removable 20 GB hard drive, which mounts to the side or the top, depending on how you orient your console. This will keep costs down and allow users the option to just use a 64 MB memory card, for which the console has two slots on the front.

Game-wise, I was not impressed much at all. The next Need For Speed and Project Gotham Racing games look to be the absolute benchmark by which the next generation will be judged. Quake 4 also looked very impressive, as did Madden 2006. I cant wait to see information on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Unfortunately, we didnt get to see much of those games; they chose instead to highlight Perfect Dark 0, which looked disappointingly horrible. Inconsistent frame rates, low poly-count models, and design changes to the lead character, Joanna Dark, have killed this game for me at this point in time. I realize that its still in development, though, so I hope they turn it around. In all honesty, the game looked like it belonged on the PS2, not the next Xbox.

Another thing Im reserving judgment on is the issue of backwards compatibility. Personally, I feel it would be a terrible mistake for Microsoft to not include this feature in Xbox 360. Sony is on record for strongly considering putting it into their PS3 and Nintendo has announced that its considering building in Revolution with GameCube play capability. The system is pretty much being developed around Xbox Live, which many Xbox games support. To allow people to continue to play their old Xbox games on Live on the Xbox 360 would mean that your existing user base has an automatic reason to upgrade. As a friend of mine put it, Im not ready to get rid of my Xbox, yet. I was more upset than surprised when the rumors the Xbox would play Dreamcast games was debunked, but I would be very surprised if Xbox 360 didnt play Xbox games.

If they were taking pre-orders, Id plop down money today. Overall, Im very impressed with the Xbox 360 package and I look forward to getting one later this year. Im a serious collector, so price isnt much an issue with me, but the way it sounds, the system may introduce at a reasonable price point without the hard drive.

I cant wait to learn more at E3.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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Thanks
Thanks for an informative and insightful post! It was a pleasure to read =)
Posted by (3 comments )
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Points on Points
PS2 Vertical - I have never had a single problem having mine vertical but I mine is one of the last generation non-slim versions.

Dual Core - I don't think the PowerPC chip used is dual core. It is described as "two hardware threads" and that sounds more like hyperthreading to me.

Even so, thanks for the write-up.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Not A Slam Dunk At All
Yeah, I watched the MTV special, but besided that fact that it had wireless controllers I didn't learn much. It's going to have Madden? Project Gotham Racing? A FPS? You don't say?

Most importantly, I didn't really hear any killer features or see any killer games. They were trying to make HD their killer feature, but it seems a little high end(of course, broadband was pretty high end a few years ago). Customization via micropayments? If it costs money, I don't think gamers will do it.

What I really wanted to know was:

- is it backward compatible? My guess is it isn't considering they never mentioned it during the broadcast
- how much is it going to cost?

I own an Xbox and a PS2 right now, and I didn't see anything I'd want to give up those systems for. My gut says Microsoft might have a real problem on its hands if people decide the current generation is "good enough" and/or want to wait for Sony to respond with their feature set.
Posted by rutabagaman (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Xbox ALREADY is HD!
The funny thing with "HD games" being the killer application of Xbox 360 is that XBOX ALREADY HAS HD GAMES SUPPORT!, both in 720p and 1080i - you just have to purchase a 20 dollars cable to get it (Xbox High Definition Pack)...
The only problem right now is that only a few games support the feature of the Xbox. We will see what happens with Xbox 360.
Posted by aemarques (162 comments )
Link Flag
I don't get it...
I have a PS2 with a wireless controller. I have Jak II and Gran
Turismo 4, both of which I can play in high definition. Add the fact
that the PS3 is going to have BluRay DVD and the XBox 360 won't,
doesn't make me want to put a deposit down on the new XBox.
Nothing new here... waiting to hear what Sony is going to come up
with!
Posted by HBFarker (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blue ray
While personally I don't give a rats butt about the Xbox (In fact I haven't played a console game in 3 years, I'm just really interested in the technology). Blue Ray will offer almost no advantage to the system. Yes, EXTREMLEY large games will now be able to use 1 disk, for 25 - 50 gigs of data, But most games out there don't even touch on the 9 gigs of data they have to play with already, the few that due, really don't touch on the almost 20 gigs they get out of two disks, leaving little to no point in bothering with these new technologies, untill they have settled in their place and been 'Proven'.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Ugly...
This thing is ugly. Looks like my old Dell Dimension case, just in
silver instead of the black/dark gray. Is it a PC? Or is it a gaming
console? The world will never know.
Posted by hatandglasses13 (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
pc with windows
hehe, it's probably a PC running on windows
architechture. can't wait to play Halo 3 and see
a blue screen.

blue screen vs blu-ray. which is best?
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
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