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Tech Fiction with an expiration date: Ultra-short stories about technology news-of-the-day

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Moving Pictures ('05)


A band of Garage CGI Spielbergs, a Machinima movie and Hollywood's establishment

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Trojan Horses ('03)


P2P networks, portable digital media, the MPAA, Brooklyn Technical High School, the US government and terrorism

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The Art of the Possible. Commentary. Writing. Miscellany.
- - - - - - - - - - - -=[ Tuesday, November 29, 2005 ]=- - - - - - - - - - - -
 
7 Days of Xbox 360: Impressions, predictions, and why Gotham TV may be the most important thing we've seen

It's not a revolution: We're not talking about Pong, Pac-Man, Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, Half Life type breakthroughs relative to what came before it. When we look back ten years from now, no-one will think of PGR3, Madden '06, NBA 2K6, PDZ or even the upcoming Elder Scrolls, Gears of War, Ghost Recon or even Halo 3 as re-defining the experience or industry the way those games did. We're not convinced that given the amount of talent and money in the business now compared to then that life-altering breakthroughs are still in the cards. As long as that's the case, the only real question is whether it's worth the $400 + n * $60. The answer: Yes.

But, it is a new level of immersion: Aside from the fact that playing in High Definition is exciting, there are absolutely moments when you're racing at night in a Koenigsegg across the bridge in New York that the lighting, the motion blur, the smoothness of it all feels at the lowest sensory level better than anything you've played yet; when the draw distance, the sheer number of trees, and the real-time shadowing of TPC Sawgrass' leaves on the greens and the brim of Tiger's hat on his face make trying to win Q-school closer to what it must really be like than you had imagined; when the depth-of-field camera effect and cloth physics of the NBA 2K6 replay is plenty good enough to make you realize you enjoy watching the game, not just playing the game.

It will get better: You can see glimpses of it right and left. The fact that we're getting good-looking games like PGR3 at a time when the coders can't possibly have figured out how to make the most of a triple-core 3.2GHz CPU, when the per-pixel depth-of-field, motion blurs and blooming are all there, but still underutilized to calm down my inner disbelief flag, and when everyone--everyone--insists on going full frontal assault on the most dangerous part of the Uncanny Valley by striving to get yet another iota closer to real football players, real basketball players, real neighborhoods, real cars and real warriors. With so much talk that these boxes can now give you Toy Story in real time, it's staggering that no game has tried to put all these cycles in the service of giving us the stylized esthetic of Toy Story instead and hitting it out of the park.

But, Halo 3 may not be the most interesting thing we'll see: Yes, it's is a 3D monster. Yes, it's a movie/TV-on-demand machine. Yes, it's a Long Tail consumption machine as Wired's Chris Anderson pointed out (assuming Microsoft lets the Long Tail into their Walled Garden Xbox Live Marketplace). But, what if the future is really more about what we see in PGR3's Gotham TV, the ability to "watch" a race by receiving telemetry over Xbox Live and having your box render the race (whether from the overhead virtual helicopter on car #3 or the cockpit of car #1) locally. What if you had the world of Shrek on your machine, and you merely downloaded the telemetry for a Shrek short film from Xbox Live Marketplace...?

Microsoft will win ... next time: It's not about being a fanboy, it's about the business strategy of the battle between Microsoft and Sony. Microsoft will never let someone run away with a software-related business--the way Sony was with Playstation--if money can solve the problem (this is also the reason that MS has had--and will continue to have--trouble beating Google ... the competition there is based more on speed and talent, which Google is monopolizing because of their smaller size, and greater desirability for the world's best). With $50B+ in the bank, and enough core competence to compete, Microsoft set out to defeat Sony, and we have no doubt that they are ready to lose not just the $4B they have so far, but twice that and more to achieve their strategic imperative. The original Xbox, by Microsoft's own admission, was practise. But, in late to the first party, and now early to the 2nd, Microsoft is already using money to accelerate the console cycle beyond levels the substantially less financially healthy Sony may be able to sustain for too long. With Xbox 360, Microsoft has shown that they can build a well-integrated game/online/media experience that gives up nothing to the best in the world. Now it's a matter of time, titles and dollars. They'll get within spitting distance of market segment share leadership this time around against Playstation 3 (PS loyalty and trouble in Japan will keep Microsoft from winning), but as with Operating Systems and Internet Browsers, they will take over the lead with version 3.0.



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