Exciting Times

posted on May 16th, 2005 by Anthony

Cooooo, it looks very interesting doesn’t it?

Front of the XBOX 360

XBOX 360 controller

All this is expected to go for a price of somewhere in the region of £200-£300. It’s due out for around November time, and we’ll get it just 1 week after the US get their smug mitts on it.

I’m definitely going to be slapping up a pre order.

One of the most interesting messages to come from the massive marketing exercise of the last few months is the fact the box is designed to be modded.

XBOX 360 example faceplates

Officially the face plates are the only bit MS want you to change (of the hardware anyway). This is quite a neat idea, and some of the examples above give a lot of ideas – the faux wood panelling especially bringing back Atari memories – but if you watch the video provided from the OurColony ‘game’, you can see an Asian guy putting the box together, by hand, in lots of easy to fit pieces. Unofficially the whole of the thing is looking highly customisable.

People keep saying that MS are ripping off Apple with the white colour, but I disagree. White is the easiest colour to cover up – the console seems to have been designed to be a blank canvas – the fact that white happens to be currently very cool is a handy by-product.

I quite like the design as it is – it’s a very pleasing shape to look at – but there are elements that are dodgy. Especially the XBOX360 etched font of the DVD tray. When images of the box were leaked a month ago I wrote them off as fakes simply down to the crapness of that font (though believe it or not that is an improved version in the pic above).

However I can already see a huge community springing up around the modding of this white box. I can see windows being cut, LEDs being swapped (blue would be sooo much nicer than the green one), there will be ‘tattoos’, skins, lights, swappable fans, completely new cases, and lots more creative ideas than I can come up with.

This time the XBOX sports proper fully fledged USB 2 ports, so there will also be a chance for some interesting peripherals to add extra spice too.

And all that’s before I even think about what the thing could do if the hardware and software is hacked like the last one!

Another interesting idea that has come out is that the system is supposed to connect to ANY MP3 player. Yes apparently ANY player – which must include the iPod. I’m not going to get too excited about this proposed feature though. Mainly because I get the feeling it will probably be some sort of lame ‘streaming’ capability – more akin to plugging your Pod into the line in socket of your HiFi. But it is an interesting prospect.

The 360 is also going to work as an extender unit for Windows Multimedia Centre Edition (MCE). With your 360 hooked into your home network, and an MCE equipped Media Centre PC you’ll be able to stream your videos, music and pics to your TV. Though unfortunately the box isn’t planned to have a tuner, so no dreams of Sky+ style shenanigans,

Speaking of networks, the 360 is ‘WiFi’ ready. What this actually means is that it is network ready, with full ethernet capabilities, but you can buy a wireless adapter to keep your room wire free.

Once you’ve got your 360 hooked into your network XBOX Live! is going to be a fully integrated into the very core of the XBOX expereience. It’s going to have messaging, mail, downloads, content and God knows what else. A cut down version will be open to everybody for free out of the box (broadband connection withstanding), with a premium version available at extra subscription based cost.

What else can it do… Oh yeah and you can play games on it!

Though, to be honest, Microsoft haven’t mentioned an awful lot about them yet. They’ve been saving them for this week at E3, which is kicking off just about now. The Electronic Entertainment Expo is the traditional time for companies to drop their new bombs on the public, with the announcements made their tending to shape what is going to happen in the gaming world for the next 18 months.

MS bucked the trend by trumping everyone by a week with their super bad (bad meaning bad in this case) MTV extremeathon. Fortunately they also gave out proper information and specs to all the right gaming bloggers, journos and Peeps in the Know.

There should be tons and tons of examples of the kinds of polygons and pixels this unit can push around the screen, but on top of 360 news, both Nintendo and Sony are planning to slap down their own boxes of silicon on to the Next Gen table.

So I’ve go to admit I’m very excited about what’s going on, not only at E3, but for the next few years of gaming. Especially as this will be the first generation of consoles I will actually have the money to spend on when they are first released! (Well that’s the plan, our new flat might have something to say about that…)

Before I go I would like to point out that I am not an XBOX fan boy. I don’t even have one. I’ve got a PS2, which I have had for nearly 4 years now. Plus I actually worked for Sony for a short time as a games tester!

Until recently I didn’t even like the XBOX, but I’ve been hugely impressed by what they’ve built up over the past 18 months, especially their Live! implementation, which has simply blown Sony’s botched effort out of the water.

They seem to be learning from their mistakes, they seem to have listened to their customers, and because of that I think Sony (and, to a lesser extent, Nintendo) should be worried.

But we’ll see what they have to say for themselves in a few days time.