LOS ANGELES - Microsoft was first out of the gate today with their major press conference, and there was no shortage of surprises and stunning moments.
The star of the show was Microsoft Kinect, the final title for the controller-free gaming experience called Project Natal during development.
Critics were saying pre-show that Microsoft really needed to wow the gaming public, and media, to influence others to hit critical mass come holiday shopping season. It's clear from the reaction in our ballroom that they wowed 'em.
"No barriers, no learning curves..." was the branding slogan, and Kinect lives up to the promise.
The motion-detection system, combined with accurate voice-recognition software, ensures instant interaction with the Xbox in movies, games, social networking and more. With dance, sports and fitness titles ready at launch, it's obvious that Kinect is a throwdown to Nintendo and the Wii system.
Titles for Kinect include Kinectimals, a pet-care sim that was incredibly adorable in the demo; Kingdom, for the medieval gamer in all of us; Dance Control from Harmonix (which may get me up and learning how to boogie) and Metal Gear Solid: Rising, a stunningly violent yet poetic title involved nasty swordplay. Don't forget the new partnership with Lucas Arts, and the Star Wars title slated for release in 2011. Light sabre battles with Darth Vader... oh, yes they did.
Taking all controllers out of the mix is the new frontier in entertainment, and based on the demo, Microsoft nailed it.
A surprise at the end of the presser was the unveiling of a new, streamlined Xbox with a 250 GB hard drive and a built-in Wireless N router. It's available to retailers today for the same price as the 360 Elite.