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Microsoft Announces Next-Gen Xbox Details At GDC

[UPDATE - a full write-up of J Allard's keynote speech is now available as pa...
[UPDATE - a full write-up of J Allard's keynote speech is now available as part of our (free reg. req.) in-depth GDC coverage.] In news debuting just ahead of his GDC keynote today, Microsoft Corporate Vice President J Allard has announced, via press release, the first details of its next-generation Xbox video game system platform, highlighting how hardware, software and services are being merged to power enhanced game and entertainment experiences. Allard cites the emergence of an “HD Era” in video games that is fueled by consumer demand for experiences that are always connected, always personalized and always in high-definition. “In the HD Era the platform is bigger than the processor,” Allard said. “New technology and emerging consumer forces will come together to enable the rock stars of game development to shake up the old establishment and redefine entertainment as we know it.” Allard also shared the first details about the next-generation Xbox guide, with features including: - Gamer Cards. Gamer Cards provide gamers with a quick look at key Xbox Live information. They let players instantly connect with people who have similar skills, interests and lifestyles. - Marketplace. Browseable by game, by genre, and in a number of other ways, the Marketplace will provide a one-stop shop for consumers to acquire episodic content, new game levels, maps, weapons, vehicles, skins and new community-created content. - Micro-transactions. Breaking down barriers of small-ticket online commerce, micro-transactions will allow developers and the gaming community to charge as little as they like for content they create and publish on Marketplace. - Custom playlists. This feature eliminates the need for developers to support custom music in games. The guide instantly connects players to their music so they can listen to their own tracks while playing all their favorite next-generation Xbox games. Typifying the HD Era game experience, the guide requires hardware designed with software in mind. System-level features of the guide such as custom playlists, the Xbox Live Friends list and voice chat are enabled at the chip level, liberating developers to focus on creating games, not developing for technical certification requirements (TCRs). To support consumer demands for the HD Era, the next-generation Xbox is designed around key principles that let developers maximize real performance, using concepts they are already familiar with. The next-generation Xbox hardware design principles include the following: - A well-balanced system that will deliver more than a teraflop of targeted computing performance - A multicore processor architecture co-developed with IBM Corp. that provides developer “headroom” and flexibility for the HD Era - A custom-designed graphics processor co-developed with ATI Technologies Inc. designed for HD Era games and entertainment applications In addition, familiar software technologies such as DirectX, PIX, XACT and the recently announced XNA Studio — an integrated team-based development environment tailored for game production — complement the new hardware. Gamasutra will have a full write-up of Microsoft's GDC keynote as part of its Game Developers Conference 2005 coverage, after the event.

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