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Next Xbox Won't Support HD Movies

16 May, 2005 By: John Gaudiosi

Scene from Condemned

Microsoft has officially unveiled its next game console, Xbox 360, which will have high-definition gaming but won't support either of the HD movie formats.

Xbox 360, announced with an MTV special, will launch in November, making it the first next-generation game console out of the gate. Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution are expected to ship in the second half of 2006.

The box will come with a 20GB hard drive and a progressive-scan DVD player. Xbox 360 will support DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, WMA CD, MP3 CD and JPEG photo CD playback.

No price was given nor is one expected until closer to launch. However, analysts predict Xbox 360 will be about $299, which was the launch price for Xbox and PlayStation 2.

PJ McNealy, video game analyst with American Technology Research, believes Microsoft will ship 1.8 million to 2.4 million units during launch, with the majority allocated to North America and Europe and as few as 200,000 pegged for Japan.

McNealy believes 15 to 25 Xbox 360 games will be available by the end of this year. Although Microsoft has officially said it will support its current platform for several years, McNealy thinks the company may discontinue production of the current Xbox later this year.

“We believe Microsoft is positioning its multitiered online services and capabilities with the next-generation box to be a crucial differentiator from Sony's next-generation console,” McNealy said.

He added that if Sony's PlayStation 3 supports both Blu-ray Disc and current DVDs, it would be an all-in-one entertainment box in addition to a new game console. Sony has already said its next-generation console would support Blu-ray.

“Every Xbox 360 lets you plug in your MP3 players, digital cameras and Windows PCs to amplify your stored music, photos and TV shows through your Xbox 360,” said David Hufford, Xbox group manager for Microsoft.

“Some of the best Xbox 360 experiences come when players remix media. For example, you can listen to your music anytime in any game, and it's easy to watch a photo slideshow while listening to your own tunes.”

Xbox 360 will include the adapter that allows the console to become part of the Wi-Fi Media Center PC home. (For the current Xbox, that adapter retails separately for $99.)

Beyond the 20GB hard drive (twice the size of the Xbox hard drive), Xbox 360 users with a Media Center PC will be able to download movies and music to store on a PC hard drive and share on an Xbox 360.

Downloadable game content will be a major part of Xbox Live for Xbox 360. All Xbox Live content will be free, except for actual online gaming, which means every consumer with an Xbox 360 can download new game characters, levels and episodic content directly from publishers, developers or other players (for various pay-per-download fees) through a marketplace. Game demos and trailers can be downloaded on demand, and players will be able to access voice and video messages from friends. Xbox Live subscriptions are expected to remain on a par with current rates, which are $50 a year.

Another issue that Microsoft has yet to address is the backwards compatibility of Xbox 360 to current Xbox games. John Taylor, video game analyst with Arcadia Research, said that while backwards compatibility would be a definite advantage for consumers, the key to Xbox 360's success will remain its games.

“Microsoft needs to have a really good-looking and fun launch portfolio, and a steady stream of follow-on titles,” Taylor said.

Although a full launch title list isn't expected to be announced until E3, Microsoft is developing first-party games like Perfect Dark: Zero, Project Gotham Racing 3 and Kameo,/I> for Xbox 360. Sega has two Xbox 360 games: the racing combat game Full Auto and the horror adventure Condemned. Atari will ship Test Drive Unlimited for Xbox 360 this fall as well. Electronic Arts is expected to bring Madden NFL 06, The Godfather and some of its key franchises to Xbox 360 this fall. Activision, Tecmo and Ubisoft also are on board to support Xbox 360.

“In games, this renaissance will be illustrated by a significant leap to high-definition graphics, where character movements and expressions are believable; multichannel, positional audio fidelity is so clear and precise that players will hear the faintest enemy footsteps sneaking up from behind; there are more social online communities that integrate voice and video chat into the experiences; and there's an abundance of on-demand content,” Hufford said.

Hufford compared the leap into HD gaming as a significant step in game development, just as important as the introduction of 3-D gaming.

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