Project Natal: Everything we know so far
The known knowns, the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns on Microsoft's groundbreaking piece of Xbox kit.
With Microsoft's Project Natal conference set for 3am GMT Monday morning, we round up everything we know so far about Xbox's new motion-tracking gaming system.
What is Natal?
Project Natal was first demo'd at E3 2009. An add-on for Microsoft's Xbox 360, Natal uses an RGB camera and a depth sensor mounted on top of your TV to track your position in your living room real time, interpret your motions and feed them into Xbox games for full arm-and-leg-flailing control. It also tracks and monitors your face and registers your voice for improved Xbox LIVE chatting.
The name "Natal" is the codename given to the project by its developers, although it is rumoured that the finished product will be called the "Wave".
When will it be released?
The final version of Natal gets its debut at E3 2010 at a special Microsoft press conference at 7pm in Los Angeles (3am in the UK) on Sunday, 13th June (or Monday, 14th June in the UK). As yet no public release date has been confirmed. Microsoft said at this year's CES that we could expect a release before Christmas, but Foxconn, the company that builds the Natal units (and also Apple's iPhone and iPad), are rumoured to begin shipping units in August. Further, a Microsoft marketing exec in Saudi Arabia let slip in a TV interview that customers can expect to get their hands on the system "sometime in October".
How much will it cost?
The cost of Microsoft's Natal unit has been kept a pretty closely guarded secret, but the Danish offshoot of GAME (game.dk) may have let it slip when they put up a Natal pre-order page, with the price at 1,299 DKK (about £145). Meanwhile, you can reserve your own UK Project Natal at GAME's UK website for £20 (for a place in the queue, not for the device itself).
Rumours from accross the pond suggest that the device will cost US customers about $150, or alternatively will be available as part of a bundle with the cheap-o Xbox 360 Arcade console - the bare bones 360 with a mere 256MB of hard disk space.
What games can we expect?
Since its debut last year, games so far have been limited to demo'ing Natal's features (read: lots of kicking of balls, painting of walls and conversing with 3D children from the uncanny valley), but soon after the 2009 conference Microsoft released details of the developers who would be working on titles for the new system.
The developers and publishers involved with Natal is a pretty comprehensive who's who of the gaming industry, and includes Activision (Call of Duty franchise), Blizzard (World of Warcraft), Bethesda Softworks (Fallout 3, Oblivion), Capcom (Resident Evil, Dead Rising), Konami (Metal Gear Solid), Disney, Electronic Arts, Square Enix (Final Fantasy), Ubisoft (Assassin's Creed, Tom Clancy franchise) and THQ (Red Faction).
In terms of actual titles, so far we've only got confirmations on racing pedigree Burnout Paradise and horror-thriller Alan Wake, but expect a host of games to land before this year's holiday season. In the meantime, take a look at some of the hints developers have been dropping about what we should be looking out for in the near future.
Unfortunately for gamers who already own an Xbox, it's unlikely that current games will work with Natal.
Read More about Project Natal on T3:
Official site: Xbox.com