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Microsoft's Shane Kim

The Xbox boss talks in detail about Project Natal and how it can revolutionise the games industry

Microsoft was the first platform holder to show off its wares at E3 last week, embracing the glamour of the old E3 by rolling out celebrities and rock stars to promote its new games, before revealing further internet integration with Xbox Live and finally ending on the big reveal – motion control and voice recognition technology in Project Natal.

GamesIndustry.biz caught up with Microsoft's corporate vice president for Xbox, Shane Kim after the event to get further details on Project Natal; how the company hopes it can further evolve videogaming, how the technology is being rolled out across game studios, and why Microsoft isn't worried about rival motion control from Nintendo and Sony.

GamesIndustry.biz What's been the early reaction to your E3 showing?
Shane Kim

People keep asking me what's the score, who were the winners and losers, but that's for you guys to decide. The reaction has been overwhelming and that very gratifying and humbling. We're super-excited by it. We thought we had some special magic this time and it's one of those things where we had a ton of content, and the show ran over, but nobody cared.

GamesIndustry.biz The big reveal was Project Natal – how long has that been in development and how many people have been working on that?
Shane Kim

It's been in development for quite some time, we're not talking about it specifically, but it's been in the works for some time which is why we're able to ship development kits to developers this week. The technology and everything you saw is real. We're at the point where we can absolutely give it to developers and let them start working on it. I'm confident that we haven't even begun to see all the experiences that other people can imagine.

The other aspect that's very important is that being part of Microsoft we get to take advantage of research work that goes on in other parts of the company, in particular the areas of user interface. So we're taking advantage of voice recognition work that's been in development for many, many years, and that's why it's a big part of Natal. Although people want to focus on full body gesture and skeletal tracking, which is very important, the idea that you can also use voice commands and facial recognition – all of those things we get to take advantage of and integrate into the Xbox 360 experience but we don't have to invent it ourselves.

GamesIndustry.biz So what's been the early reaction from your publishing partners and independent developers?
Shane Kim

Great excitement because they see the potential of the technology, but they are also excited from a business standpoint because it's going to be compatible with every Xbox 360 we're ever sold. We already have a 30 million installed base today, by the time it launches it will be much bigger than that and it's a great thing because it's an addressable installed base immediately.

It's not like launching a brand new console, where partners make business decisions of when do they decide the installed base is big enough. This is something where we're going to have a lot of customers pretty quickly and we're focused on magical launch experiences to get this ball rolling right from the get-go.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you have a window for release that you're targeting?
Shane Kim

Yes – not 2009. That's the only thing we're saying.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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