Microsoft’s motion-sensing video game controller will be integrated with a new Xbox 360 model, due to arrive in 2010, according to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer, quoted by TG Daily at an Executive’s Club of Chicago event today, said the console will have a “natural interface” with a built-in camera that can detect movement and voice. That sounds like Project Natal, the 3D motion-tracking camera announced at E3, to me.
Ballmer’s comments confirm — in a roundabout way, perhaps, as TG Daily’s report doesn’t mention Project Natal by name – at least a portion of earlier rumors. 1UP had reported that Project Natal will be integrated into Xbox 360 hardware in 2010 as a rebranded console, along with some minor boosts to the hardware. The motion camera will also be sold as a standalone product for existing Xbox 360s, 1UP’s story said.
This week, the Xbox 360′s director of product management, Aaron Greenberg, halfheartedly debunked the rumors, telling Eurogamer that Natal will run on the Xbox 360 and that “no new console investment” will be necessary to enjoy the motion controller. Another anonymous Microsoft source said the company urged people not to believe the “nonsense on the Internet.” Neither of those comments are firm denials of upgraded hardware, and TG Daily had nothing to report on the matter.
I’ve already talked about why a new console with shinier graphics is a bad idea. In short, the headaches for existing console owners and for game developers would outweigh the benefits of more processing power. But it’s perfectly logical for Microsoft to release an Xbox 360 SKU with the motion camera built in. If the company’s looking to attract new gamers, selling an all-in-one bundle is the best way to do it.
Update: Here’s what Microsoft is saying on the matter; it seems very similar to what Eurogamer got this week: “As the Xbox team stated at E3 two weeks ago, we are not even halfway through the current console generation lifecycle and believe Xbox 360 will be the entertainment center in the home for long into the next decade. Project Natal will be an important part of this platform, but we have not confirmed a launch date at this time.”