Project Natal And Releases- Microsoft's Latest Triumph, Or A Passing Gimmick?

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Note that Natal has now been given it’s marketing name- Kinect. This piece was written before the gadget was officially named.

What is project Natal?

Project Natal (Pronounced Nah-tal, it’s named after a Brazilian city, not the standard english word Nay-tal), is Microsoft’s upcoming new method for playing your video games. The system involves a unit mounted infront of your TV which has a pair of infra-red cameras embedded in it. These cameras pick up your body movement and identify key points such as your hands, elbows and knees. Each game will respond to different movements and positions in different ways. For example, you can control a burnout game by placing your hands on, and turning, an imaginary steering wheel.

So it’s a glorified Wii-mote?

Well… yes and no. The wii-mote detects motion in the controller, but as the project natal slogan reminds us- you are the controller! It’s more akin to the eye toy that was released on the PS2. However, the same basic principles behind game play will probably translate from the wii-mote to project natal.

Will I want project Natal?

That depends on how you like to play your games. Sales of the Wii have shown that there is a huge market for casual games, and it seems that project natal is Microsoft’s attempt to try and get a slice of that pie. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Natal will be limited to only casual games, indeed, Fable III is expected to be one of the first titles to support this new control system, right away from it’s release. No Offence to Peter Moyn… Mo…  * Checks google * Molyneux, but he has made some promises he couldn’t keep in the past regarding the Fable series. EA sports are also supposed to be working on a Tennis game for release alongside project natal

Various tech demos have also incorporated elements from games such as beautiful Katamari, as well as remaking old classics like breakout.

Are developers interested in Project Natal?

It would seem so. Microsoft claim that over 1,000 development kits where sent out on the day Natal was unveiled. How many of them will actually make games with this set up is yet to be seen. Initial interest does not mean that the system has sold though- if the first Natal games on release sell poorly, devs will be put off making Natal games in the future.

Will project Natal be compatible with my old Xbox 360 Releases?

We don’t yet know. However, Project Natal will require a considerable hunk of the 360’s resources to work properly (estimates are at about 10-15%) meaning that games which are optimised to squeeze every ounce of performance out of your little white (or black) box, may not leave enough room to spare for Natal. This also raises the question of the quality of Natal releases if they can’t use the full powers of the 360.

When is project Natal’s Release date?

No official release date is yet set, but Microsoft are aiming to get their new gubbin into stores by Christmas 2010.

What do you think about project natal?

Well it’s very nice of you to ask! I think that natal is an interesting experiment, but when casual gamers want to get into games, they think the Wii, and it will take a while to convince people to start thinking “360 and Natal” instead. I suppose Microsoft are aiming for the ‘pissed off spouse/ girlfriend’ demographic- I.E hoping that ‘hardcore’ gamers will use project Natal as a gateway drug to get people involved in gaming. Anything that makes our hobby more accessible is welcome in my eyes.

Personally, I’m not going to be rushing out to buy Natal though. I’ll see what sort of games come out and how well it supports ‘mainstream’ gaming before I make a choice. As a classic gamer, I don’t think Natal will offer much to me, but if there are some good party games on release, I may buy it as a fun toy to play while drunk with friends.

Love and peace y’all
-Evis T.


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