Project Natal coming this October - Microsoft

The greatly anticipated Project Natal for the Xbox 360 will be released in October of this year.

The announcement came from Syed Bilal Tariq, Marketing Manager of Entertainment and Devices at Microsoft Saudi on Saudi TV, where he revealed that Microsoft “will be in a position to confirm the date after E3, which is in June. But definitely, it is going to be October 2010.”

The release date is a month or two earlier than expected. Previous predictions had it set for Christmas 2010, which would have been late November or early December, in line with prior major releases. Indeed the word “Natal” is actually Portuguese for Christmas. What is for certain, however, is that this will be one of the most requested presents for the holiday period.

Microsoft's answer to the Wii is a motion capture system for the Xbox 360, promising full body capture instead of simply knowing where your arm is swinging while holding a controller. All that is required is a standard Xbox 360 console and the new Project Natal motion capture device, which is like a little camera you put at the bottom of your TV.

The camera even does a full body scan and can recognise the user when they move in front of it, which sounds amazing but may be a questionable direction for those who are concerned about privacy and technology being able to identify people. Science-fiction stuff, really, but the games industry is really pushing things to make these impossible sounding things more possible.

The whole project seems almost a little too good to be true, with even Steven Spielberg supporting it, saying: "This is a pivotal moment that will carry with it a wave of change, the ripples of which will reach far beyond video games."

In order for Microsoft to really pull this off it needs to ensure that the motion capture system  is relatively exact. From early reports it's still not 100 percent, but it's supposedly better than what the Wii is offering, which must count for something.

Probably the best thing about Project Natal is that it's not a new console. It was becoming a bit of a trend that when a console finally became affordable to a larger audience it would be replaced by a new one. It seems that the Wii opened the games industry's eyes to the fact that simply upping the graphics doesn't qualify the need for a new console. The Xbox 360's graphics are already top of the range, and since Project Natal has been expected to be around for at least a five year period, it seems the Microsoft console will be here for some time to come.

Nintendo can always claim that it did it first, but with the graphics and games of the Xbox 360 behind it Project Natal is most likely to topple Nintendo's reign. Then again, we'll have to see how the PS3 effort fares, too.