Microsoft plans to deliver its controller-less game interface — dubbed ‘Project Natal’ — this time next year, according to a UK games site. Not only that, but Microsoft plans to have five million of the Xbox add-ons ready for a global rollout, the report said when it launches, the site said.
Further, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) doesn’t plan to bleed enthusiasts dry but will instead charge — at least in U.K. funds — less than $100.
The report came from games industry news site MCV.
“MCV can this week reveal first details regarding the launch of Microsoft’s Project Natal,” said a story on the site Wednesday. “Our sources say the innovative controller-free 360 camera will be released worldwide in November 2010.”
Instead of a controller like the Wii, Microsoft researchers and developers, created a camera-driven interface device that can be used to control Xbox games and other programs with a wave of a hand or a kicking motion — in a tennis game, a hand could become the racket, for instance.
Microsoft has been quietly working to build up support for its upcoming natural interface controller for the Xbox 360 game console in recent months and this week, some of the company’s plans leaked out.
The leaks, MCV’s article said, “emerged following a behind-closed-doors Microsoft tour of UK publishers and studios.”
Microsoft first demonstrated Natal at the E3 games conference in Los Angeles in early June, where it was a hit among attendees. At that time, officials highlighted the idea that using an add-on controller like Natal enables Microsoft to update the Xbox without requiring the user to buy a whole new games console.
The Natal’s rumored price is less than 50 British pounds (US$83) at launch, according to MCV. Some rumors put the sales price even lower.
A dozen leading game makers committed to write games to take advantage of Natal at the Tokyo Game Show in late September. Those companies include Activision Blizzard, Bethesda Softworks, CAPCOM, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Konami, MTV Games, Namco Bandai, Sega, Square Enix, THQ and Ubisoft.
Microsoft has larger plans for Natal than just as a game controller, however.
“Project Natal is sort of a combination of technology innovation and experience innovation. I happen to think it will lead to a bigger and better business as well. But it is certainly an opportunity for us to build something new,” Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division told an audience in late July at the company’s annual financial analysts meeting.
A Microsoft spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment by press time.