Microsoft ‘Kinects' At E3

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Los Angeles - Motion-sensing game control and 3D graphics are among the bigger hardware trends expected to pop out at this week's

Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)



started the early buzz at the show Monday by introducing a slimmer version of the Xbox 360 console and by demonstrating its long-awaited controller-free gaming device called Kinect (formally code-named Project Natal).

The new Xbox 360 went on sale Monday at a $300 suggested retail.

Features in the slimmer console include a removable 250GB hard drive (up from 120GB), 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity, five USB slots, touch-sensitive power buttons and backward compatibility with all games.

The new unit is also said to be quieter than previous iterations, using one fan instead of two.

A Kinect-Ready port on the console hooks up directly to the new Kinect motion-control system. The Xbox 360 accessory, which will be released later this year, uses multiple cameras to track a player's body movements and translate them into game controls.

New titles that make use of the system were announced by several developers, including Konami and Activision.

Kinect is Microsoft's attempt to compete with Nintendo's Wii, which has used motion control in games for several years, and Sony's new motion wand accessory called Move.

Like Kinect, Move uses a motion-sensing camera called the PlayStation Eye (successor to EyeToy), which tracks the motion of a handheld wand.

Microsoft's system, on the other hand, does not require a wand or controller, cueing only on a player's hands and gestures.

For its part, Nintendo will use its upcoming E3 press conference to introduce the 3DS, a handheld gaming system that allows users to play 3D games without the need to wear 3D glasses.

In other news at the show, Game developer Ubisoft announced a game for both the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation3 that has players sing and dance like Michael Jackson. Versions will also be available for the Wii, DS and PSP.

Players are supposed to sing and dance like Michael Jackson and are then scored on the quality of their performance.

The game includes songs from Jackson's catalogue of hits and is slated to launch along with the November release of a new album of unreleased Jackson recordings.

The game will join Harmonix's Dance Central and Konami's Dance Masters in the category of dance-centric games designed for Microsoft's Kinect.

Ubisoft also announced a new game, called Child of Eden, that will use both motion control for Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's PlayStation Move.

The game is said to be similar to the previous game Rez.

Meanwhile, Richard Branson's Virgin enterprises announced its return to the gaming industry by unveiling a new online platform designed to track online multi-player gaming for the PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 and offer players the ability to compete for cash, points and prizes.

The Virgin Gaming platform will use a "game verifier" technology, which was originally developed for partner WorldGaming of Toronto, based on an algorithm that reads player skill levels and ranks them.

Players will have the ability to win a cash payout for a single game and for tournament progression and will be free to use, Virgin executives announced.

Players must register on the site and then play on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. The service will track the winners and losers.

The service launches today and tournaments will begin immediately. Leaderboard challenges will be offered, and all tournaments will be free to enter.

The site is international in scope with a focus on the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. All payouts will be transacted in U.S. dollars.


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