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New Era in HD Gaming Unveiled

18 Mar, 2005 By: John Gaudiosi

At E3 this May, all three next-generation game consoles will be on display for the first time.

But at the recent Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft spoke to developers about next-gen gaming.

Microsoft corporate VP and chief XNA architect J. Allard unveiled a new “HD era” of gaming in his keynote address. The new Xbox console, code-named Xenon, will be an always-connected, always-personalized and always-high definition console. While some Xbox games are released in high definition, HD will be the standard on the next Xbox.

“In the HD era, the platform is bigger than the processor,” Allard said. “New technology and emerging consumer forces will come together to enable the rock stars of game development to shake up the old establishment and redefine entertainment.”

Microsoft's ‘Xenon'
While Sony has announced PlayStation 3 will support Blu-ray Disc technology, Microsoft hasn't confirmed which HD platform it will support.

“Microsoft has stressed that HD and wireless are strong design drivers for the next Xbox, but has made no specific playback format endorsements,” said Billy Pidgeon, video game analyst for Go Play Research. “They have announced that Longhorn (the new Windows Operating System) will support HD-DVD, but they will likely support Blu-ray if it gains traction. Both competing formats have announced support for Microsoft's codecs.” .

HD gaming will bring increased visual clarity in next-gen graphics and open the door to new mass-market interactive entertainment, Allard said.Xenon will serve as a launch pad for gamers to play online with friends, watch DVDs, listen to customized digital music while playing games and serve as a virtual marketplace. Microsoft will allow developers, publishers and gamers to sell custom content, including exclusive items to be used in games, episodic gaming content, and new levels and vehicles for existing games, for as little as 99 cents.

Xenon will feature a multi-core processor architecture co-developed with IBM that gives developers plenty of room for creativity, as well as a custom-designed graphics processor co-developed with ATI Technologies. The new Xbox also will support familiar software technologies such as DirectX, PIX, XACT and XNA Studio. The new Xbox, expected to ship by November, is rumored to not have a built-in hard disc drive like the current Xbox.

Nintendo's ‘Revolution'
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata confirmed that the new Nintendo console, code-named Revolution, will support Wi-Fi. Nintendo had previously sat out of the online console space. Revolution will be backwards-compatible with GameCube titles and will be powered by a custom processor from IBM and a graphics card from ATI. All three next-gen consoles will support online gaming for the first time.

In addition, Iwata said that Nintendo will unveil a free Wi-Fi gaming network for portable Nintendo DS at E3, which will allow the 4 million gamers who own a DS (6 million are expected to own one by E3) to play games online against players anywhere in the world. With text messaging and picture sharing built-in, a Wi-Fi network also will allow gamers to communicate globally.

Sony's PlayStation
Sony also was on hand at the conference to assure developers that the new PlayStation would be much easier to develop. PlayStation 2 was so complex that it took many game developers a year to begin to fully tap into the power of PS2. The new console also should feature better games. The new PlayStation, along with Revolution, are expected to ship in 2006.

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