May 21, 2013 at 10:01 AM
You’d never guess that the video game business has slowed from the Microsoft campus, where the company unveiled its new “Xbox One” console in a high-voltage event designed to build anticipation for the system’s release this fall.
Unlike previous versions of the console that initially targeted game enthusiasts, the new version is designed from the start to be both a game and entertainment system that adds Microsoft’s technology to users’ televisions, including motion-control, voice recognition and online entertainment services.
Don Mattrick, president of the company’s interactive entertainment business, said the new system was designed to be “simple, instant and complete.”
“We believe we can evolve what you love to make it decidedly better and deliver breakthrough innovations,” he said.
Mattrick declined to provide a sales price or specific launch date beyond “later this year,” saying more details will be released at the E3 game conference in June.
During a demo by Xbox vice president, Yusuf Mehdi, the box was used to turn on a TV set with voice controls. On startup, the TV displayed the Xbox tiled menu with services such as Skype and Netflix.
“What if that device can turn on your TV and talk to all the devices in your living room,” Mehdi said.
“Xbox, watch TV,” Mehdi said to the box, launching a TV show, “and with that simple command, I’m watching live TV.”
Mehdi also demonstrated “instant switching,” by saying “Xbox game.” The console then switched immediately to a racing game. Switching between games, movies and TVs is as quick as switching channels on a TV, Mehdi said.
The console itself looks like a stereo receiver or a large DVD player, with a disc slot in front of the silver and black box. A new, smaller version of the Kinect sensor system is contained in a separate, rectangular device and not built into the console as some had predicted.
The console has 8-core processsors, USB 3.0, WiFi Direct and 8 gigabytes of RAM. The new Kinect sensor, which will come bundled with the console, tracks more joints and can read your heartbeat, Xbox Vice President Marc Whitten said, calling it the “binding power” between devices connected to the console.
Mehdi also demonstrated a group video calls using the Skype app on the console. He also showed a new interactive ESPN TV application that blends live TV and fantasy sports; if you’re watching a game and one of your players scores, a small window surfaces with the update.
The new console will arrive with a new version of Microsoft’s Xbox Live service powered by 300,000 serviers – “more than the entire world’s computing power in 1999,” Whitten said.
New features of the service include a “game DVR” that saves games online, improved matchmaking and achievements, and bigger matches with more players, Whitten said.
Andrew Wilson, head of EA Sports, said his company is developing four games for the new console – Fifa, Madden NFL, NBA Live and UFC. They run on a new game engine called Ignite that’s designed to “help us blur the line between real and virtual” and provide ten times more animation detail, he said.
Exclusive new titles for the console include Microsoft’s “Forza Motorsport 5,” an even more realistic version of its photorealistic racing game.
The platform’s enabling developers to build new types of games, such as cloud-powered games that change based on the actions of the gaming community, with visuals so real you’ll see imperfections from wear and tear, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s game studios said.
Spencer showed a demo clip of a game called “Quantum Break” that started with a filmed, movie-style opening with real actors before transitioning back and forth between animated sequences of mass destruction.
Microsoft is investing heavily in studios around the world to “jump start” the new generation of gaming Spencer said.
“We have more titles in development now than at any other time in Xbox history,” Spencer said, adding that 15 exclusives will launch in the first year after Xbox One arrives, including eight entirely new franchises.
The platform will also be used to further blur the line between games and TV. Microsoft’s working with Steven Spielberg to produce a live-action TV series based on the company’s “Halo” franchise. Spielberg appeared via video to announce the project.
Microsoft’s also working with the NFL to add new interactivity features and bring exclusive content to Xbox One, including extended content that will be available on tablets and phones through its Smart Glass technology. While watching a game, real-time fantasy football stats can be displayed on the screen and people can chat with friends via Skype, for instance.
Mattrick said the partnership with “redefine” the NFL experience for fans using the console.
“We’ve an ambitious vision for Xbox One to become the all in one system for every living room – the one system you’re going to use and love every single day,” he said.
The event closed with a peek at “Call of Duty Ghosts,” a new version of Activision’s blockbuster action game. It’s coming to multiple platforms but Xbox will be the first to receive some downloadable add-ons for the game.
“Ghosts” is based on the story of an elite group of special forces soldiers. It has cinematic graphics taking advantage of powerful new consoles plus a new character – a dog that plays a greater role in the game.
May 20, 2013 at 9:00 PM
Seattle ad venture HasOffers has cash in hand — $9.4 million in its first round of fundraising.
May 20, 2013 at 12:16 PM
The video-game industry’s health meter is blinking red, and its ammo belt is nearly depleted.
Industry players are crawling through the darkness, frantically looking for first-aid kits and new weapons to get back into the action.
Down one path a pulsing green light beckons, promising resuscitation, new capabilities and another round of fun.
May 17, 2013 at 3:35 PM
Tableau Software isn’t a rags to riches story, but it’s close.
May 16, 2013 at 6:02 PM
Whether or not Dave Cotter’s new venture takes off, he has a future in fund raising.
Cotter lined up a remarkable team of investors behind SquareHub, a new private networking service for families called SquareHub. The service provides messaging, status updates, a shared calendar and photo sharing through a free iPhone app that became available this week.
Cotter, a former Amazon.com manager and co-founder of Seattle’s AdXpose, had personal motivations. He needed a better tool to stay in touch and coordinate schedules with his children and ex-wife.
“Especially with our teens and ‘tweens, we noticed that the more gadgets family members had and the more networks we used, the harder it was to stay coordinated and emotionally connected,” he said in a release. “Facebook is too noisy and public. Our kids rarely use email, and filtering out the important stuff from hundreds of text messages was too cumbersome.”
Co-founders — who together have nine kids — include Gilles Anquetil, an Apple veteran and former chief executive of MotionBridge; Barry Chu, former vice president at BlueKai and Medio; and Bruno Botnivik, former MotionBridge chief technology officer and Bing mobile lead developer.
SquareHub works primarily on iPhones but can also send messages to other devices via email or SMS. It also works with an iPod Touch or iPad, and the company plans to release an Android version of its app this summer.
The Seattle-based company raised $650,000 from investors, who can presumably throw more into the pot if necessary.
Backers include former T-Mobile marketing chief Cole Brodman, Isilon founder Sujal Patel, investor Geoff Entress and aQuantive co-founder Mike Galgon. Plus some of the top executives at Amazon.com, including senior vice presidents Jeff Wilke and Brian Valentine; Kindle Vice President Ian Freed; App Store VP Mike George; and development manager Prakash Bulusu.
“Today’s families are bombarded by demands that push them apart,” Brodman said in a release. “While mobile technology makes it easy to connect with a lot of people during the day, it has never really tackled the problem of bringing the most important people closer together — your family.”
Here’s Cotter providing a demonstration:
May 16, 2013 at 5:00 PM
Gamers are apparently saving up for the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles coming out later this year.
May 16, 2013 at 4:00 PM
Watch for fireworks along the shore in Medina tonight, or at least the fizz from a celebratory soda.
May 15, 2013 at 4:15 PM
It looks like Fremont-based Tableau Software’s stock will begin trading on Friday, with the excellent ticker symbol DATA.
May 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM
Today’s forecast for Bellevue: Cloudy with showers of cash, raining down on business software startup Apptio.
May 14, 2013 at 10:12 AM
No wonder Boeing is moving tech jobs from Seattle to the Midwest and South – tech workers in Washington are among the highest paid in the country, according to a new national report.
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