What’s in Microsoft’s Xbox 360 fall update?

12 11 2007
Family Timer, Video Marketplace, DivX support…?

Unlike Sony, Microsoft likes to make updates to its games consoles in big chunks. So while the Japanese company will trickle its PS3 updates out regularly, Microsoft issues two big Xbox 360 updates a year. The so-called ‘fall update’ is already late, and looks like hitting consoles at some point in early December.

But what’s going to be included in it? One of the new features that Microsoft has already confirmed is the so-called ‘Family Timer’. This is a tool that enables parents to track how much time their kids have spent playing games.

Xbox 360 ‘Family Timer’

It’ll also empower those parents to limit the amount of time the consoles can be used per day. Once those limits are hit, the password-protected console will shut down. It’s the feature all mothers across the world have been waiting for, and every child’s worst nightmare.

According to Bach, with more than 13 million Xbox 360 consoles sold worldwide, the company’s drive to empower parents is a core Microsoft responsibility.

“We’ve seen a tremendous response to the robust parental controls offered on Xbox 360 and Windows Vista, and the Xbox 360 Family Timer will continue to deliver on our promise to provide safer, balanced and fun entertainment for everyone,” he said.

Video Marketplace

Well, the Xbox Live Video Marketplace launched a year ago in the US and it’s widely expected that next month’s update will see it debut in the UK. It’s a service which allows you to download TV episodes and movies either on a rental or permanent basis.

So you can expect to be able to pay a nominal fee for episodes of shows like CSI and Star Trek, as well as movies such as Saw.

There are also whispers doing the rounds that the fall update will see DivX compatibility added to the Xbox 360. That’s something that would go down a storm with most 360 gamers.

DivX is the worlds’ most popular video format, but most devices need special codecs to read the files. If the Xbox 360 gets DivX compatibility, it would enable gamers to stream their DivX media from their PCs to their consoles and then onto their living room TVs.

DivX support?

It’s just speculation though at the moment, sparked by DivX CEO Kevin Hell letting slip that he was working with Microsoft for future collaborations. So it’s possible that DivX support could also be added to Microsoft 1st- and 2nd-gen Zune players. But it’s also possible that nothing will come of it.

Microsoft is being typically secretive with details regarding the Xbox 360 fall update. It only confirmed the Family Timer because it had already been leaked onto the internet. But the twice-yearly dashboard updates typically add a range of new functionality, from small usability tweaks to major functionality enhancements.

We could expect more announcements during the long weekend of Xtival 07 (23-26 November), which marks the two-year anniversary of Xbox Live and offers free online play for all Xbox 360 owners.

Unreal Tournament 3 – Xbox 360 Hands-On

5 11 2007

Once you enter Epic’s offices, you never want to leave. Giant leather sofas sprawl before a 60-inch widescreen TV, flanked by rock gig-sized surround sound speakers and a giant freezer packed with fast food. Outside sits a basketball court, inside a heavy-duty gym and around the corner a massive motion-capture enclosure. There’s even a room with a bed in it, just in case you really do decide to stay forever.
But we aren’t in Epic’s North Carolina offices to marvel at the decor, we’re here to look at something even more impressive: the latest code of Unreal Tournament III – a shooter that could well be Halo 3’s number one rival when the two square off later this year. And judging by what we see, there should be more sparks flying when these two start slugging it out than you’d get by dragging a cyborg’s head across concrete.
As well as honouring its PC predecessors’ focus on manic multiplayer action, UTIII promises to provide an extensive, deep and compelling single-player campaign. Casting you as a human mercenary, it’ll be your task to track down and vanquish the evil alien mastermind behind the massacre of your family and clan. Sounds like a good excuse for lashings of unadulterated violence if ever we’ve heard one.
As we sit in a darkened room waiting for the first level to fade into view, UTIII’s lead designer Steve Polge fills us in on some background info about the game’s sci-fi world. “You’re fighting for the Izanagi Corporation,” he explains. “In the Unreal universe, there are several great corporations that control space outside of Earth itself.”
The first of these is the Liandri Corporation, robot-manufacturing specialists and organisers of the Unreal Tournament. Next up are the Axon, a faction that spends much of its time researching cutting-edge military hardware. Last of all are your homeboys the Izanagi, forced to spend much of their time stealing military hardware from the Axon in order to fuel their war effort. The final faction in UTIII’s lineup is an alien warrior race called The Necris, a species intent on wiping out humanity and using its bones as percussion instruments and toothpicks for those hard-to-reach rear molars.
In a clear attempt to move away from the linear and highly formulaic FPS template adopted by many of its rivals, UTIII’s single-player campaign will feature a branching strategic overview of the warzone, allowing you to make choices that will determine the direction and outcome of the war. Read the rest of this entry »

Elite sold out in Japan?

5 11 2007

Credits: Gamer.tm

The 360 is undergoing something of a resurgence in Japan, according to sources in the Japanese retail sector, with the 360 Elite selling out.

Last week, Microsoft reduced the price of the Core console in Japan to 27,800 Yen (around £120) while introducing a new Value Pack console consisting of a Premium machine, Forza Motorsport 2 and Viva Pinata for 34,00 Yen (£150-ish) in the territory.

This also coincided with the release of Namco’s Ace Combat 6, along with the addition of popular Japanese orientated titles such as Blue Dragon and The Idolmaster to the console’s Platinum budget range.

And so far, the signs are that this may have worked. According to Gamefront.de, retail chain Asobit has seen a significant rise in demand for the 360 and its related products. According to the report, Ace Combat 6 is selling particularly well, while the Elite model of the 360 actually sold out.

Although no precise numbers are available, this is certainly promising news. In recent months, the hardware market has been undergoing something of a change, with demand for the Wii starting to stabilise and the PS3 starting to cut Nintendo’s advantage in the hardware sales charts.

While it’s highly unlikely that the 360 will be able to make up sufficient ground to catch either format, nevertheless, we’re sure the American company will be pleased with this news – particularly as it’s still got Mistwalker’s Lost Odyssey – arguably its biggest hope for success in Japan this year – still to come.

Microsoft to launch ‘Green X’ Campaign

5 11 2007

Microsoft has reportedly teamed up with 15 partners to launch an online scavenger hunt called “X Marks the Spot.” Microsoft will be giving ten clues daily from November 5, 2007 to December 10, 2007. If you find all of the devices you will be entered into a drawing to win over $100,000 in prizes. But don’t believe my word, check it out to see the exact prizes.

 Check it out yourself!

Problems: Lack of memory on Sony PS3 and storage on Xbox 360

4 11 2007

Devs Problems

We have heard many gamers comparing the different games on the Sony PS3 and Xbox 360 but today we had a long comment from someone calling themselves “IsThis4Real” and they make an interesting case for both the PS3 and 360.

Also they outline some of the problems both games consoles face and explain a little about the CELL CPU. Have a read a let us know if you agree.

Here is IsThis4Real’s comment:
I honestly wish people would get over the whole “CELL” thing. Its totally, as it stands now, overated – and the concept is still in its infancy. Its not the be all end all of CPUs. Its simply a single IBM Power PC core with 7 SPEs. I think people still make the mistake in claiming and thinking that they are essentially seperate CPUs. They are not.Its “simply” designed for very fast on the fly encoding/decoding (gross missunderstatement, I know – but I think for some it has to be put VERY simply if you know what I mean) – its specialty will lie in the integration of the home based setup.

This is something Sony mooted nearly 10 or more so years ago, the ability to have every single (Sony based) product in one house hold to be able to communicate with eachother. This is when they forst started announcing that they were working on a single SUPER cpu.Watch that space over the next few years. They might actually get there, but I tell you, it aint going to be this incarnation of CELL, thats for sure. Read the rest of this entry »

PS3 beating the Xbox 360, can it pull off a shock in 2008?

2 11 2007

The Sony PS3 could be about to pull off one of the biggest turn-arounds the games market has ever seen. After a slow start, where Sony’s console was hampered by its high pricing and lack of quality games, the PlayStation 3 now looks like it’s on a roll.

Now that the PS3 and Xbox 360 price-changes and various new models have settled into the market place, sales figures for both consoles are looking dramatically different. Read the rest of this entry »

New Entertainment Xbox – Microsoft unites with Toshiba

31 10 2007

Microsoft, according to insiders at Toshiba owner of the HD DVD patents, claim that Microsoft is working on a brand new Xbox that will incorporate not only a new HD DVD drive but a large hard drive and new entertainment software that is a spin off from its struggling media centre offering.

The device is being developed in response to the PS3 driving sales of games software and Blu-ray content in several countries. A recent Sony Brand Wave study conducted in five countries including the UK, Australia, France Germany and Spain revealed that a key reason that consumers are buying a PS3 is because it includes a Blu-ray player.

Recent GFK research reveals that the recently launched Xbox 360 HD DVD attach player is not selling well. Another factor that impacted early sales of the Xbox 360 was that Microsoft failed to include a HDMI port – omitted because Microsoft wanted to cut down the costs of the console in an effort to compete up against the PS3.

The new Xbox device, while allowing for extensive gaming capability, will be positioned as an entertainment hub that includes gaming and extensive wireless networking capability as well as 1080p playback. There is also talk of it including a dual HD TV tuner and EPG capability and a docking port for an MP3 player. For Toshiba, the device is critical if it is to be successful in beating Sony and the Blu-ray promoters.

Also being discussed is the development of an open standard docking port similar to the 17 pin iPod port. This would allow all manufacturers to use the same port for docking.  Read the rest of this entry »