Microsoft tours studios to spur Natal development

Microsoft tours studios to spur Natal development
Michael French

By Michael French

November 11th 2009 at 9:30AM

Launch details and more emerge from secret UK talks format-holder hosts with publishers and developers

Microsoft is been conducting secret Natal demos in recent weeks in order to drive development support for its 3D camera peripheral, Develop can reveal.

The move comes ahead of the planned November 2010 launch for the innovative device.

Our sources say the format-holder has been telling publishers and studios that the controller-free 360 kit will be released worldwide in November 2010.

Microsoft is planning to manufacture 5m units for day one release, with a mix of console and camera plus solus SKUs expected.

The device should cost under £50 when sold solo. One publishing source says Microsoft is “trying to get as close as possible to ‘impulse buy’”. Another even says the camera could even retail for just £30.

14 games are being readied for launch.

Natal was unveiled earlier this year at E3 in Los Angeles. The device uses an array of cameras and microphones to track player movements.

Activision, Bethesda, Capcom, Disney, EA, Konami, MTV, Namco Bandai, Sega, Square Enix, THQ and Ubisoft all pledged to make games for the device in an announcement made at last month's Tokyo Game Show.

It’s expected a large chunk of launch games will be first-party offerings from studios such as Rare with third-party games to follow. It is not known if Lionhead’s widely-discussed Milo, which uses advanced AI to create realistic characters, will be in the mix.

Natal will arrive almost five years to the day after the Xbox 360 and is perceived by many, Microsoft included, as a way to lengthen the lifespan of the hardware without resorting to a new console launch. The first Xbox was sold in the UK for only three years before 360 hit.

This summer Xbox studios boss Phil Spencer told MCV the 360 still ‘hasn't peaked’.

“When Natal arrives it will feel like a new generation has come,” he said. “I see it like the launch of 360 in November ‘05. Consumers don’t want another $400 box right now.”

Sony has said it will launch PS3’s motion-sensing wand peripheral – movement of which is tracked by the already-available PlayStation Eye camera – before Microsoft’s kit in spring 2010. However, so far the Japanese firm has kept details of the launch closely under wraps.