Natal launch details leak from secret Microsoft tour

MCV can this week reveal first details regarding the launch of Microsoft’s Project Natal.

Our sources say the innovative controller-free 360 camera will be released worldwide in November 2010.

This and other details have emerged following a behind-closed-doors Microsoft tour of UK publishers and studios – the format-holder has been demoing the tech and detailing its 2010 plans in order to spur more development support.

Microsoft is planning to manufacture 5m units for day one release, with a mix of console and camera plus solus SKUs expected.

The device should cost under 50 when sold solo. One publishing source says Microsoft is trying to get as close as possible to ‘impulse buy’”. Another even says the camera could even retail for just 30.

14 games are being readied for launch.

Natal was unveiled earlier this year at E3 in Los Angeles. The device uses an array of cameras and microphones to track player movements.

Activision, Bethesda, Capcom, Disney, EA, Konami, MTV, Namco Bandai, Sega, Square Enix, THQ and Ubisoft all committed to make games for the device in an announcement made at last month’s Tokyo Game Show.

It’s expected a large chunk of launch games will be first-party offerings from studios such as Rare with third-party games to follow. It is not known if Lionhead’s widely-discussed Milo, which uses advanced AI to create realistic characters, will be in the mix.

Natal will arrive almost five years to the day after the Xbox 360 and is perceived by many, Microsoft included, as a way to lengthen the lifespan of the hardware without resorting to a new console launch. The first Xbox was sold in the UK for only three years before 360 hit.

This summer Xbox studios boss Phil Spencer told MCV the 360 still ‘hasn’t peaked’.

When Natal arrives it will feel like a new generation has come,” he said. I see it like the launch of 360 in November ‘05. Consumers don’t want another $400 box right now.”

Sony has said it will launch PS3’s motion-sensing wand peripheral – movement of which is tracked by the already-available PlayStation Eye camera – before Microsoft’s kit in spring 2010. However, so far the Japanese firm has kept details of the launch closely under wraps.

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