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‘HD Era’ Opportunities

Next Xbox Details Revealed!

March 9, 2005, San Francisco, Calif.—Today at the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC), Microsoft® announced the first details about its next-generation Xbox® video game system. Hardware, software, and services are being fused to power enhanced gaming and entertainment experiences.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Chief XNA™ Architect J Allard further outlined the company’s vision for the future of entertainment, citing the emergence of an “HD Era” in video games, 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.”

Building on 10 years of innovation with the DirectX® API, the Microsoft Windows® and Xbox platforms will enable ground-breaking game experiences in the HD Era. To show what this will mean for gamers, Allard shared the first details about the Next-Generation Xbox Guide. Persistent across all games and media experiences, the Guide is an entertainment gateway that instantly connects players to games, friends, and digital media.

Features of the Next-Generation Xbox Guide include:

  • Gamer Cards: These cards will give gamers a quick look at key Xbox Live™ information. They will help players instantly connect with people that have similar skills, interests, and lifestyles.
  • Marketplace: Browse-able by game, genre, and 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 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 the Marketplace. Imagine players slapping down $.99 to buy a one-of-a-kind, fully tricked-out racing car to be the envy of all their buddies.
  • 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 gaming experience, the Next-Generation Xbox 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.

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.
  • 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) and an integrated team-based development environment tailored for game production complement the new hardware. The goal is to help game developers unlock increasingly powerful and complex silicon.

The HD Era gaming platform will strike an elegant balance of hardware, software, and services to power the new experiences that consumers demand. Gaming and entertainment features, such as the Next-Generation Xbox Guide, represent a shift toward more immersive and integrated consumer experiences. This shift will be further illustrated by:

  • A significant leap to high-definition graphics, in which character movements and expressions are intensely vibrant and nearly indiscernible from real life,
  • Multichannel, positional audio fidelity so clear and precise that players will be able to hear the faintest enemy footsteps sneaking up behind them,
  • Richer online communications, and
  • An abundance of on-demand game console content.

About Xbox
Xbox is the video game system from Microsoft that brings people together for the most exhilarating game and entertainment experiences. Xbox delivers an expansive collection of breakthrough games, powerful hardware, and the unified Xbox Live online service. The tag line “It’s good to play together” captures the spirit of Xbox as the social hub of the new digital entertainment lifestyle. Xbox is now available in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia.

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