Relatively new to the console scene is Microsoft with their powerful Xbox console. Boasting the best graphics, the Xbox bested even Sony?s PlayStation 2. But Microsoft is still learning how to play in the console market and has grown up significantly from initial release of the Xbox.
Microsoft dropped the bomb last week on MTV with the world exclusive first-look at their next-generation console. The company has done its research on both the design and color for their new machine, trying to develop a more aesthetically appealing game console that will look good in any room of the house. Microsoft hired teams from both San Francisco and Japan to help them get that perfect look for the Xbox 360 and after over 10 prototypes we have the final model that will ship to stores before Christmas.
Microsoft is taking on a new approach with their new console. Their lofty goal is to put the Xbox 360 in the hands of 1 billion consumers. To reach this goal, Microsoft will have to broaden their user-base significantly, relying not only on their core age 18-34 male market, but also pulling in new demographics, some of which may not even call themselves gamers. Their philosophy is that the Xbox 360 will be centered on the individual owner, fully customizable, fully connected, and completely personalized.
1 billion consumers is mind boggling and if it were any other company trying to accomplish the goal Microsoft has set for the Xbox 360, failure would be almost eminent, but due to Microsoft?s holdings in the computer market and bank account, the goal is set high, but still achievable.
Microsoft has said that it has taken into consideration every demographic and is convinced the Xbox 360 will have something to offer for everyone. They are changing the Xbox image. The Xbox 360 now won?t be just another game platform, but a fully realized media entertainment center. The Xbox 360 will be used to watch television and movies, listen to music, voice chat with friends, hold conferences, and of course, play games. Think of it as a simplified computer. You might not be able to type reports on your Xbox 360, but for entertainment purposes, it would seem the Xbox 360 has it covered.
We mentioned previously that the Xbox 360 is fully customizable to your personal preferences. This is possible through first, faceplates that will attach to the front of the console to fit in any room of the house or to fit any personality. It would seem third parties could possibly create custom face plates for the unit. The second way the Xbox 360 can be customized is through the interface. You can change the color scheme of the menus to fit your preferences. But Microsoft didn?t stop there, realizing that the future of games is on the internet, connected through a broadband connection or wirelessly, voice chatting, making new friends and playing games with others at your same skill level from almost anywhere in the world.
With Xbox 360, Xbox Live is taken to all new levels. Microsoft will offer a free ?Silver? level of the Xbox Live service to consumers who purchase an Xbox 360. The free level of service will allow you to connect, play games and use several other parts of the service, completely free. Additionally, if you want the most out of your Xbox 360 experience, you can upgrade to the ?Gold? level of service that offers even more possibilities! You will be able to watch, record, and see your favorite television programs over and over again whenever you want. Watch sports highlights with the touch of a button. Even purchase, download and play music through Napster, or watch the music video. This is all possible with Xbox 360 and Xbox Live.
Additionally, Xbox Live will connect gamers with downloadable demos, trailers and new content for use in their games through the Xbox Live Marketplace. Players can also send text messages to their friends, use voice chat communications in or out of game, and while your at it, why not add video chat to the mix with a web cam. With the Gold level of service, players will be able to enter into tournaments and win cash or be a spectator during a tournament. And you never have to worry about trying to find someone you want to play a game with. Your friends are automatically tracked through Xbox Live so you can see what games they are playing and you can even find them when they are offline and send them a message. This is what Microsoft?s always on, always connected philosophy is all about.
The Xbox 360 will offer the greatest sense of community of any game environment whether on the PC or console. Teaming up with Gamespy, Microsoft is really working hard to make sure Xbox Live is all that it can be. It may be just around the corner when we see PC gamers playing against console gamers all in the same game, on the internet, seamlessly integrated. Yes this has already been done to some extent, just look at Final Fantasy XII, but that was a third party. What would happen if a first party console manufacturer offered this type of support? The possibilities are really endless and with Microsoft?s abilities in the computer market, bringing the console market and computer market together does not seem that far fetched.
Let?s get back to what is happening rather than could happen. Xbox 360 is ready to handle 4 controllers wirelessly. Now we all remember the horrible experience we had with the original Xbox controller, but the Xbox 360 takes on a totally new design that is smaller and lighter than the massive original. Everything you need to play games, use Xbox Live and find your friends is contained within the controller. Xbox Live is just a button-press away. And if your controller is running low on batteries, you can simply plug it into one of the Xbox 360?s USB ports and charge it while you play.
The Xbox 360 ships with three USB 2.0 ports that can be used to plug in a Xbox Live camera and other peripherals. Additional peripherals on launch day include the camera, DVD remote and headset complete with microphone for voice / video chat.
IBM designed the PowerPC-based processor for the Xbox 360. The processor has three symmetrical cores that each clock in at 3.2GHz. It will be interesting to see how the Xbox 360?s processor performs against Sony?s custom Cell processor found in the PlayStation 3. Microsoft went with ATI to design the graphics processor for the Xbox 360 and with over 512MB of dedicated video memory, we expect the Xbox 360 to shine!
The big question up until now was would Microsoft keep the hard drive for the Xbox 360 and the answer is yes. The Xbox 360 will ship with a 20GB detachable hard drive that can be upgraded and expanded as you have the need. The Xbox 360 will also have an Ethernet port for connection to Xbox Live right out of the box and support for a Xbox 360 wireless adapter that supports all three main wireless standards (a, b and g).
You can be sure that your games look and sound great on the Xbox 360 as well. The Xbox 360 is capable of outputting graphics at the high 1080p high-definition resolution and all games created for Xbox 360 must meet a minimum of 720p resolution to even be sold! Xbox 360 also has full 5.1 surround support.
The Xbox 360 can also read a slew of different types of media from the normal CD to DVD and can read JPEG, MP3 and Wav CD?s just to name a few of the formats. With progressive scan technology, the Xbox 360 is ready for DVD movie playback right out of the box! The Xbox 360 will also come with parental controls to allow parents to control the movies, games and content their children see. Backward compatibility for Xbox games has also been a concern for Xbox owners and rest-assured, the Xbox 360 will be able to handle your old Xbox games, no problem!
The start of the console wars begins again slightly before Christmas this year and a whole new way to game is right around the corner. The HD (high-definition) digitalized era for gaming is beginning. Unfortunately, the wait has only just begun and we won?t know which console is king or what the full game lineup will be for any of the consoles until a later date.
» By Stephan Mack, Plain Games. Published 5/18/2005.