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Project Natal to launch as Wii HD spoiler - analyst

Pachter highlights social internet services as most significant announcement at E3 last week

Microsoft's motion control technology Project Natal is most likely to be introduced as a spoiler to dampen the launch of an expected high definition upgrade to Nintendo's Wii console.

That's according to Michael Pachter, analyst for Wedbush Morgan, who doesn't believe the new Microsoft tech is likely to launch until after 2010 and only with significant third-party support.

"We think that Project Natal is intended less as a game control scheme than it is as an easy-to-use dashboard control scheme, and we do not expect the device to be launched at retail until it has sufficient third party game support to justify a majority of the installed base to purchase it (we estimate 30 third party games would be sufficient)," wrote Pachter in a note following last week's E3 conference.

"We do not see Project Natal as a Wii killer; rather, we think that Microsoft intends to introduce it at the same time as the launch of the Wii HD, and hopes to hold off Nintendo’s plans to encroach on Xbox 360 turf after 2010."

Project Natal incorporates motion control, voice and camera recognition, and was shown at E3 not only with basic game prototypes, but also as a demo with users interacting with an AI character.

But Pachter pointed to more integration of online services with Xbox Live as the company's most significant unveiling last week, as it adds Netflix, Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm to the console's offerings.

"We were most impressed by the company’s clear enunciation of its strategy to turn the Xbox 360 into an internet and media hub for the living room, and we believe that the most momentous news of the press conference was the opening up of the Xbox Live dashboard to the internet.

"Among Microsoft’s many announcements, the company unveiled its intention to allow interaction with the Netflix website, to allow free streaming of FM radio through Last.fm, and to allow Xbox Live members to access Facebook and Twitter through the Xbox Live dashboard.

"These announcements demonstrate the power of Xbox Live as a web browser, and signal an intention to convert the 30 million plus installed Xbox 360 base before Apple TV can gain a foothold in the media hub market," he said.

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Latest comments (9)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.10 years ago
For the last time, Pachter, there will not be a Wii HD launching in 2010. It truly boggles my mind that a man in your profession is not only entertaining the notion but actually predicting it. Consider Nintendo's current corporate strategy, consider the fragmented market Wii HD would create, consider the blistering sales pace Wii has been on with no price cuts, etc....

An HD enabled Nintendo console will launch when it makes sense for Nintendo; when Shigeru Miyamoto tells Iwata that he can no longer push the current console; when a new innovative technology can be financially incorporated into a new console. Only then and certainly not at the direction of their competition. Why would Nintendo want to go the HD route when both of the HD consoles sell at half the rate as their SD based Wii console? Think Pachter, think.
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You may be right, but as far as I'm concerned the Wii is a total disgrace on a flat screen, and a Wii HD would be a minimal upgrade from a hardware point of view.
The reality is that there is a market that cares, and that after 4 years of serving the same model it'll be time to pump it up a bit. Let's keep in mind that Wii is doing well, but it's not going to last forever.

It's not an essential move, but I don't see any major risk in it either. It doesn't need to have nicer textures, it just needs to send a proper 1080p signal through HDMI, without all the aliasing and the shitty colours.
I can even imagine people who already have the console buying the HD model. I certainly would.

Personally, I'm sick of playing Mario Galaxy with such horrid graphics, and when the novelty of the Wiimote will wear off, I don't think Nintendo will be able to afford having games looking like that for so much longer.

And if we take your argument, I don't think there would have been much ground for the DSi. Nintendo have always been experts at doing small evolutions of their hardware, and I would definitely define Wii HD a more essential move than DS Lite to DSi.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.10 years ago
Wii looks bad on certain LCD's depending on their upscaling engine and your cable hook up. If you use component cables, the image is far better than the default composite cables. Also check your actual TV settings. If your TV just has a poor upscaler then do what you can with the better cables and settings.

Of course you'd get some gamers upgrading to the new model but the segmentation for developers and publishers (and retail) would have a far more dire impact than on the portable space which has historically shown it can absorb segmentation far better than the home console market. Would developers take the extra time, money and effort to make the game in HD resolution for a small userbase or keep to their current multi-year plans which involve the SD Wii? Would the extra development on resolution be any better than extra development on AA instead?

Nintendo have already stated their next home console will support high definitions so it would make little sense to spend the R&D, marketing and resources just to launch an HD Wii when their new HD console might not be but a few more years away anyway.

If they want an HD enables Wii then a simple firmware could do the trick on Wii. My understanding is the Wii has the pixel pushing power to run in 720 resolution but the output is limited to 480p by Nintendo.
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Richard Gardner Environment Artist, Ubisoft Reflections10 years ago
Hmmm, I have to agree with you both, I can see why a Wii HD would fit into my world and other hardcore players, but can also see why many people wouldn't care. But on the other hand the DS to DSi upgrade is a very good example of them doing something similar.

Honestly I'm never sure what to think about the Wii, Nintendo don't seem to do anything. But yet they sell sell sell, its obvious they have made some smart moves as well as some stupid moves during the Wii's life span.

I think there will be a new Nintendo console in the coming years, they are making a profit from the Wii and don't need your typical Playstation 3 cycle as they are making profit from the start. There definatly in a lot better position to release a new console than anyone else, but we will have to wait and see when and what it is.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.10 years ago
I think with the new found prevalence of motion based controls that Nintendo is looking to do something ground breaking again with their next console lest they find themselves once again without a valid differential like last generation. A circumstance I'm certain they wish to avoid.

Because of this I am as well certain that simply cranking up the resolution is not enough to warrant the release of a new SKU or even new console. A Wii HD would be seen as a pressure move and not something intended by Nintendo from the beginning (as is the motion controls from the Sony and MS - be honest, if Nintendo were in 3rd place, we'd not have seen new motion controls from either of them). It simply wouldn't be enough on its own to merit the move. If it were combined with something else that gave Nintendo another edge, then it has merit and warrant but that in my opinion would simply be their next home console and its release schedule is simply a matter of when the tech is ready and when Shigeru Miyamoto says it is time to move on.
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Richard Gardner Environment Artist, Ubisoft Reflections10 years ago
I'm starting to understand where your coming from, putting Natal into the perspective though I think Microsoft have hit the nail on the head. They arn't trying to make something that will be used all the time, infact far from that. The Natal from my point of view is a way for them to make there own Guitar Hero, its just this type of product is based at the casual market and will leach the audience from Nintento if they don't respond. I'm actually happy Microsoft are going down that direction instead or trying to replace there existing controller.

The only way something like Natal would be used in most games is if it was packed in the box. The packed in the box effect is another reason I enjoy playing my 360 online more than my PS3, mainly because everyone has a dam headset and litrally no one does in the PS3. LittleBigPlanet would have been so much more fun and sucessful on the 360 simply because of added communication for everyone.

But hey, going off topic a little. Just my opinions on new hardware and boxing with the components.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.10 years ago
Bundling will certainly play a huge role in the success of all 3 new motion based peripherals. We already know Nintendo is bundling Wii Motion Plus with Wii Sports Resort (and likely with every Wii sometime later) but so too are partners from EA (Tiger Woods 2010 and Grand Slam Tennis) and Ubisoft (Red Steel 2).

If Sony can bundle the PS Eye and the new motion wand either with the PS3 or the some early software, it will go a long way to ensuring success. Same goes for MS. If either launches them stand alone and without any measure of bundling, they will assuredly fail to capture any measure of their intended market spaces.

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Jimmy, I'm slightly off topic there, but your assumptions on my abilities to connect a Wii properly hurt my home cinephile feelings!

Now on the topic, when you say "If they want an HD enables Wii then a simple firmware could do the trick on Wii", that's exactly what I'm talking about.

I think increasing the resolution standard on the Wii could be straightforward, not require much (if any) investment from any developer, and would be a nice marketing sticker to have on a box to generate additional sales/resell it to existing customers. Not what will make it future / Natal proof entirely, but it could definitely have an impact on sales without alienating anyone.

The problem is not to look better, it's to stop looking bad.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.10 years ago
My apologies, Shann. I meant no condescension. At times I post with the awareness that others are reading and may not be as informed as some of us so I tend to elaborate more than was warranted from my reply.

If Nintendo would unlock the output resolution in the current model SKU it might certainly appease a segment of the Wii market who regard the graphics as unappealing in 480p form. I find this a far better option that releasing a new SKU just for the same purpose. It would keep the market from segmenting as all Wii owners would have the new feature. This works much better for the consumer and dev/pub.

Unfortunately Nintendo seems to be taking the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" approach as they've recently spoke out against HD on Wii as being not necessary.
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