Kinect for Windows announced

It was bound to happen. Soon after Xbox launched the revolutionary Kinect sensor/controller for the Xbox 360 platform developers and hackers alike quickly found ways of getting it to work on the PC platform. Now a year after launch, Microsoft has announced a Kinect for Windows commercial program to be launched in early 2012.

I think the corporate boardroom could become a more interactive experience. Just think what product like Microsoft Lync and PowerPoint could do with a Kinect sensor.

The official press release follows:

Johannesburg, South Africa – 31 October 2011 – One year ago this week, Xbox 360 set out to change the way we interact with games and entertainment with the launch of Kinect for Xbox 360. Controller-free games and entertainment – once the stuff of science fiction – had become a reality through the magic of Kinect.  Sales immediately soared with more than 10 million Kinect sensors sold, setting the Guinness World Record as the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in 60 days along the way.

Kinect opened up Xbox to a broad set of new audiences bringing new categories of entertainment to the platform.  Leading brands such as Disney, Sesame Street and National Geographic were inspired by the simplicity and intuitiveness of Kinect’s gesture control technologies, developing immersive, fun experiences for everyone.   

People were inspired. Six months ago, a diverse group of hobbyists and academics from around the world embraced the possibilities of Kinect. In a wave of creativity, they downloaded the Microsoft Kinect for Windows SDK and began developing creative applications and innovative uses in healthcare, education, art and so much more.  Microsoft has recognized this phenomenon as “The Kinect Effect.”

Marking the 4th of November anniversary of Kinect, (South Africa launched Kinect on 10 November 2010), Xbox 360 today announced that the Kinect for Windows commercial program will be launched early next year. The commercial program will give businesses the tools to develop applications that not only could improve their own operations, but potentially revolutionize entire industries. To date, more than 200 businesses worldwide—including Toyota, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Razorfish— have joined a Kinect for Windows pilot program to begin exploring the possibilities of Kinect. While no one knows what the future holds, if the past year is any indication, it’s going to be inspiring.

New Xbox 360 hardware announced

Kinect controllerFirstly the much anticipated new motion controller previously known as Project Natal has been given the name Kinect. Its going to be available in North America in November 2010 and I’m expecting it will be available locally soon after – stock dependent. Oh and before you get all worried about upgrades, etc., it will work on your existing console. Yes, how is that for good planning and design.

The controller totally revolutionizes the way games are played and opens up complete new game genres at the same time. I can somehow see myself doing yoga in front of my TV and getting achievements for doing so. There goes that image of the fat kid on the couch.

New Xbox 360 SKUNext off we have a new console SKU announced available immediately in North America. Its basically a slimmer, sleeker and might I say sexy new Xbox 360 console featuring a 250GB hard drive, 802.11n WiFi built-in and its whisper quiet. And no, no Blu-Ray player from what we’ve been told yet.

Good news is the pricing is supposed to be the same in the US, no idea when it will be available in South Africa but I’ll keep you posted.

From the game demos during the live E3 coverage, Kinect is going to ship with 15 titles from day one built specifically for the new Kinect controller – I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Its game changing… excuse the pun.

Xbox LIVE launches in South Africa Summer 2010

Hot off the heels of the E3 game conference in the USA, Microsoft South Africa confirms that Xbox LIVE is heading to South Africa.

South Africa – 14 June, 2010 – Microsoft today announces its commitment to launching Xbox LIVE in nine new countries – Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Russia and South Africa – delivering the core gaming and entertainment features that have made Xbox LIVE the world’s premier online gaming destination.

“Xbox LIVE is about building communities and connecting people to each other and to great content. This expansion is another step toward our vision for LIVE – to deliver the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, wherever you are in the world,” said Marc Whitten, General Manager, Xbox LIVE.

The service will be available this summer and will focus first on delivering the core gaming and community features that have made Xbox LIVE the world’s premier online gaming destination, including matchmaking, friends list, Achievements, Gamerscore, a tailored Games Marketplace and more.

“This is an exciting step forward in the experience we can deliver to our loyal and committed Xbox communities,” states Yvette van Rooyen, Product and Marketing Manager, Xbox 360 South Africa. “Xbox fans in South Africa will now be able play the best games in the industry with the 23 million other Xbox LIVE users across the world who have made this their online gaming destination of choice. “

Naturally this is fabulous news for South African gaming, but we all knew it was coming, just didn’t know when exactly. It makes sense though with the rollout of Windows Phone 7 using Xbox LIVE features. Now all we need to get is a firm date of when and what will happen with Xbox LIVE accounts for early adopters – will we need to/be able to migrate across countries for billing purposes or will the restrictions be lifted entirely.

I told you all Xbox LIVE will be coming to South Africa.

Xbox 360 records a record 10 million consoles sold

Xbox 360 Elite console It seems that the Xbox 360 console is doing pretty well in EMEA with 10 million consoles sold, I would just love to know how much of the 10 million units sold can be attributed to South Africa.

The official press release follows:

Johannesburg- Xbox 360 announced that it had achieved console sales to 10 million consumers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in just four years. Reaching the landmark number has meant that Xbox 360 is the only console to achieve year-on-year growth across the region this year[1].

“Xbox 360 continues to pull ahead of the competition when it comes to delivering on a complete home entertainment experience,” said Martin Olausson, Director of Digital Media Research at Strategy Analytics. “By introducing innovative new services and content such as Natal, Xbox will likely attract a wider audience than its rivals and is in a great position to maximise sales in the next few years”.

2009 has been a pivotal year in Xbox’s journey from its gaming origins to now changing the way people consume and share entertainment content, interact with each other online and continue to play great games.

“Reinventing entertainment through play, watch, connect and share. This is the vision that we have for Xbox 360 and today that vision is the reality for 10 million Xbox owners. European consumers are very discerning and demand a connected entertainment experience. That’s why we focused on providing content that is right and relevant for them and entertainment beyond just gaming to movies, music and social networking. We have delivered on this promise and next week will bring real innovation into the living room through instant streaming high definition movies, connecting with friends on Facebook and Twitter and a personalised music channel. Together, this represents a real shift in the way people are entertained every day,” said Chris Lewis, vice president Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft Europe.

This reinvention of entertainment has already seen a shift in where the Xbox lives in the home, with the majority (60%) of Xbox’s now becoming integrated into the family living room. It has also caused a shift in Xbox’s customer base as now 35% of Xbox customers are women and 64% are over the age of 25[2]. The arrival of the much anticipated ‘Project Natal’ will create a new category of gaming and entertainment experiences through controller-free gaming that makes Xbox 360 more inclusive and relevant to an even wider audience.

[1] Xbox 360 remains the only console showing positive year-on-year growth in 2009 so far, both across EMEA as a whole and in each of the 5 main markets within the region (UK, FR, DE, ES, IT) – Microsoft estimates based on Gfk ChartTrack data

[2] April 2009 Microsoft Internal Research Study

Comztek is the new Xbox distributor for SA

Comztek logoIt was sad to see Mi Digital got through liquidation however its great that Comztek has been appointed the official distributor for South Africa. Comztek has been distributing most, if not all, Microsoft hardware for the last couple of years. Not sure if I like that they are exclusive as I believe competition in supply chains is the key to optimising the supply chain and service levels.

Here is the official press release:

15 September 2009, Johannesburg – Xbox South Africa has officially appointed Comztek as its exclusive distributor in South Africa. Having taken on the challenge of being an interim distributor following the news of Mi Digital’s liquidation, Comztek has exceeded expectations of managing the distribution for Xbox over the last three months.“We are encouraged with the service received so far, addressing our priority of ensuring continuity of supply into the local market. We are confident that Comztek will continue to effectively manage and indeed grow the business of Xbox console, first party software and accessory distribution in South Africa,” says Lance Thorp, country manager, Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft South Africa.

Powercare remains the service agency for Xbox 360 consoles and will continue to manage the Xbox Warranty process.  Contact number : 011 997 5000.

South African pricing for Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero and DJ Hero announced

Megarom, the South African distributor for the Guitar/Band and DJ Hero series of games has just announced the pricing. I’m keen to try my hand on DJ Hero especially with the special controller designed for the purpose.

My only complaint with all these music games is that you end up having to license the same track under multiple games. Already I’m seeing duplicates in my Rock Band and Guitar Hero set lists, now I’m gonna have even more duplicates.

Official press release follows:

FOURWAYS, SOUTH AFRICA – September 10th, 2009 – Megarom Interactive (Pty) Ltd., South Africa’s leading interactive video game importer and distributor, today announced the local pricing of Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero and DJ Hero.

Guitar Hero 5, the latest title in the Guitar Hero franchise, has been priced locally from R899.00 for the Guitar Bundle and from R399.00 for the Stand-Alone Software. The full pricing details are set out below. The game has also been dated for release on October 16th, 2009.

DJ Hero, one of the new IPs in the Hero franchise, allows gamers to experience the thrills of a DJ with a unique new controller and gameplay technique. This product is set to retail in South Africa from R899.00 which includes the peripheral and the software (full pricing details below). DJ Hero is slated for release in November.

Band Hero, another new IP in the Hero franchise, allows players to experience the band feeling with the best pop songs made up from all era’s. Band Hero has been priced locally from R2,299.00 for the Super Bundle and from R399.00 for the Stand-Alone Software (full pricing details below). Band Hero is also slated for release in November.

Full Pricing Details:

Guitar Hero 5 – Guitar Bundle (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) – R999.00
Guitar Hero 5 – Guitar Bundle (PS2) – R899.00
Guitar Hero 5 – Stand-Alone Software (Xbox 360, PS3) – R599.00
Guitar Hero 5 – Stand-Alone Software (Wii) – R499.00
Guitar Hero 5 – Stand-Alone Software (PS2) – R399.00

DJ Hero – Bundle (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) – R999.00
DJ Hero – Bundle (PS2) – R899.00

Band Hero – Super Bundle (Xbox 360, PS2, Wii) – R2,499.00
Band Hero – Super Bundle (PS2) – R2,299.00
Band Hero – Stand-Alone Software (Xbox 360, PS3) – R599.00
Band Hero – Stand-Alone Software (Wii) – R499.00
Band Hero – Stand-Alone Software (PS2) – R399.00

This Christmas you can truly party the way you want with the variety offered by Activision and Red Octane.

Xbox 360 Elite price drop in South Africa

Xbox 360 Elite consoleIn true Microsoft reactive form, Microsoft South Africa have announced a very significant price drop on the Xbox 360 Elite console featuring a 120GB hard drive. It has been reported in the US that Elite consoles no longer include the HDMI cable, I’m checking with Microsoft South Africa regarding this. What is important though is that the 60GB console is now being phased out simplifying the product line-up to the Arcade, Elite and themed consoles.

The official press release follows:

August 27, 2009 — Xbox 360 today invites you to experience more fun, more entertainment and more ways to connect with friends and family at an even better value. From August 28th 2009, the price of an Xbox 360 Elite console with 120GB hard drive will drop by R1 500 to R3 399 (ERP).

Xbox 360 puts all your entertainment in one place so you can play games and watch movies from your Xbox 360, and as announced earlier this year, the Xbox 360 bought today will work with code-named “Project Natal” and controller-free gaming in the future.

“With the Christmas season right around the corner, it’s already time to start looking for entertainment and gifts that everyone will enjoy,” said Chris Lewis, vice president Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft Europe. “We have a goal over the next 18 months to reinvent entertainment in the living room and we want to ensure that we have the right foundations in place for our consumers to make simple informed choices around their entertainment platform.  We know that price is a critical influencing factor in consumer choice, but we also know that consumers across Europe are looking for value, benefit and entertainment experiences, so we need to address all these points to continue to grow and be successful in Europe.”

Having an Xbox 360 at the centre of your living room provides entertainment for any occasion. Whether you’re a gamer playing single player or with your friends, you can enjoy hundreds of titles that fit your gaming style. Watch movies, interact with the friends and view photos in the comfort of your home.

Games for everyone. Families and friends can get together to build a famous foursome and relive the music of the Fab Four with “The Beatles: Rock Band.” For those who crave action, players can tear up the tracks of “Forza Motorsport 3”; jump back into the “Halo” universe as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper in “Halo 3: ODST”; or deploy for combat with this year’s highly anticipated title from Infinity Ward, “Modern Warfare® 2,” the sequel to the best-selling first-person action game in history, “Call of Duty® 4: Modern Warfare.”

With all of these experiences available and the future addition of “Project Natal,” which will work with every Xbox 360 sold today and tomorrow, the Xbox 360 system provides more fun for less.

The price reduction on an Xbox 360 Elite coincides with a re-alignment in the Xbox console strategy across Europe, ensuring that at all price points Xbox 360 represents the best value for money in next generation gaming in each marketplace.  With the premium console of Xbox 360 Elite at a new price point of R3 399 aligned with R2 499 for Xbox 360 Arcade, the pricing structure provides clear choice, differentiation and value at both an entry and premium levels of Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 Pro with a 60GB hard drive will be phased out across South Africa.

So you’re stuck with a 20GB or 60GB console, the good news is that the retail stores should be stocking the 120GB hard drive accessory at around R1600. Note you can only use an original Xbox 360 hard drive on your console due to rights management. Transfer kits are available to help you transfer your content from your 20GB or 60GB hard drive to your new 120GB hard drive.

Guitar Hero & Rock Band 2 – I’m addicted

Guitar Hero : World Tour Super Bundle (Xbox 360)When I bought Guitar Hero 2 a few years back I must say the game didn’t get much play time in my Xbox 360 console, I just figured that I was clueless and lacked the required coordination to succeed at playing a plastic guitar.

Then last year after seeing what Rock Band was like at the 2008 MVP Global Summit party, I decided to order Guitar Hero World Tour, the complete band pack. Why? I figured the drums would do it for me. As a result I found myself playing a whole lot more Guitar Hero. I put it down to the songs not the drum kit as now I’m playing guitar more often than drums.

What really makes Guitar Hero World Tour so great though is that more than two people can play at the same time which is really awesome as it brings in people that would typically not be interested in gaming. Yes its a social experience and it rocks!

Rock Band 2 (Xbox360)Rock Band Song Pack 2 (Xbox360)In March I visited Seattle again for the 2009 MVP Global Summit and once again got to see and this time even played some Rock Band 2. Unfortunately its not officially available in South Africa yet and there is no news from Electronic Arts when it will be. However our good friends at Evolution Games have been importing PAL copies in for the local gamers. The awesome thing is that all of the Guitar Hero controllers work with Rock Band 2. Stock is very limited right now so get your orders in quickly for Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360) for R699 and the Rock Band Song Pack 2 (Xbox 360) for R409.

You can easily order for Guitar Hero World Tour Standalone (Xbox 360) for R596 or the Guitar Hero World Tour Super Bundle Pack (Xbox 360) including wireless drums, a wired microphone and a wireless guitar for R2869.

New Xbox 360 bundle with Burnout Paradise and Trivial Pursuit

Xbox 360 bundle with Burnout Paradise City and Trivial PursuitMicrosoft South Africa has just announced a new Xbox 360 console bundle that ships with the popular racing title Burnout Paradise as well as a well-known board game Trivial Pursuit.

The official press release follows:

Johannesburg – 25th March, 2009 – Microsoft today announces a limited edition Xbox 360 bundle, featuring an Xbox 360 60GB Pro with two games from EA – Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box and Hasbro-inspired TRIVIAL  PURSUIT.  Available in stores across South Africa from 1st April 2009, the bundle represents great value at an Estimated Retail Price (ERP) of R3, 799.00 a value add well in excess of approx. R800, 00.

Welcome to Paradise!

Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box, the latest offering from the Burnout series thrusts the player into Paradise City, the ultimate driving playground set in a vast open-world that will push your driving and riding skills to the limit.  The Ultimate Box features all the additional game add-on content and updates released following the games launch, all on one disc.

Nothing Trivial About It

Since its official launch in 1982, Hasbro’s TRIVIAL PURSUIT game has tested the wits of families and friends across the globe.  The bundled Xbox 360 version now brings the party to the living room TV with dynamic visuals, new questions and question types.  Players can connect with friends in classic TRIVIAL PURSUIT mode, hone their knowledge with the single player mode, and gather their friends and bet on their brains with the high stakes mode where every answer counts.

“This bundle offers families a great opportunity to bring the exciting multimedia entertainment capabilities of the Xbox 360 into their homes,” said John Press, Product Marketing Manager – Entertainment and Devices, Microsoft South Africa. “At fantastic value for families looking to save money by staying in, this offers high quality home entertainment right out of the box.”

Halo 3, Mass Effect and PGR4 on the cheap

They say all good things come to those that wait. Well if you’ve been waiting for Halo 3, Mass Effect and Project Gotham Racing 4 to drop in price then you should head to your nearest games store and pickup a copy as they’ve all been added to the Classics collection for Xbox 360.

The official press release follows:

JOHANNESBURG – 17 March, 2009 – Microsoft today announces the expansion of its Classics collection in EMEA to include three blockbuster titles, as it continues its strategy of offering high quality experiences at outstanding value. On 20 March, Halo 3, Mass Effect and Project Gotham Racing 4 will join the elite selection of Xbox 360 Classics, with each game available at an Estimated Retail Price (ERP) of just R299.00

The Ultimate Blockbuster

Halo 3 made entertainment history when it launched in 2007, setting sales records that smashed those set by all previous video games and blockbuster movies.  The award winning action series has sold more than 25 million units worldwide and its third instalment sees Master Chief, the last known survivor of a secret military project, fight to save humanity and uncover a secret so incredible, it will change the galaxy forever.

Lose Yourself in a Living Galaxy

Mass Effect, developed by BioWare, is an immersive, story-driven experience coupled with awe-inspiring visuals, exclusive to Xbox 360.  As one of the first human beings to step onto the galactic stage, players must face a grave threat that may destroy all of civilization.  Travel across an expansive universe, exploring the uncharted corners of the galaxy, searching for pieces of the truth in order to discover how to defeat the coming destruction.

Racing to the Fore

Project Gotham Racing 4 is the latest instalment of the legendary street racing series.  This time motorbikes join the action and the weather elements push you to the limits as you tear up the stunning tracks in the best of racing machines.

“We are delighted to add three of our finest titles to the Classics range, adding to the exceptional entertainment offering available on the Xbox 360 at outstanding prices,” said David Gosen Vice President of Marketing, Xbox Europe.  “As we see more and more families looking to save money by staying in, Xbox 360 continues to offer high-quality home entertainment at fantastic value and consumers are clearly recognising this as we sail past 8 million console sales in EMEA.”