Happy 10th Birthday Xbox!

When Sony announced the PS 2 In March, 1999, Microsoft had no presence in consoles, and only a small piece in the game business with niche titles for PCs like Microsoft Flight Simulator. The long standing vision of Bill Gates: a PC on every desk’ was near, but Microsoft had no presence in the living rooms. Sony had 47 percent of the game console market with PlayStation and had left erstwhile leaders, Sega and Nintendo, behind.


This was to change as announced on September 20, 2000. J. Allard, then general manager of Xbox, and John O’Rourke, director of Xbox marketing, unveiled the logo for the upcoming game console at a news conference in San Francisco.

November 14, 2001 was a special night. Bill Gates and his men were at the New York’s Times Square waiting for the midnight for the official launch. The excitement was mixed with fear. It wasn’t a software program this time. Shortly after midnight, Bill Gates handed over the first Xbox video game system ever to Edward Glucksman at the Toys “R” Us store.

Bill Gates with Xbox NYC 2001

Microsoft sold 1.5 million Xbox units in the US between the launch and the end of calendar year 2001, making Xbox the best-selling video game console launch. On March 14, 2002, several midnight events throughout Europe marked the launch of Xbox in 16 European countries and Australia. Microsoft’s second console, the Xbox 360, and the associated game business rake in more than $1 billion in profits every year now.


Xbox Live Poster 2002

Microsoft introduced Xbox LIVE in November 2002 and sold 150,000 Xbox LIVE Starter Kits in the service’s first week. Xbox LIVE currently has 35 million members worldwide who spend 2.1 billion hours a month on the service. It is one of the earliest successes in the social market, and also made online console gaming a reality.


June 14, 2010 marked the Microsoft’s next bet in the gaming and entertainment business. However, this time it wasn’t a business diversification, but a technological progression. Microsoft demonstrated a controller-free experience that allows players to jump, dodge and kick their way through exciting adventures, at E3 2010 in Los Angeles. It was called Project Natal.

Times Square

The night of November 3, 2010 was different than the one 9 years ago. Bill Gates wasn’t there at the Times Square. The square, however, was draped in purple and Microsoft hosted a dance party with thousands to celebrate the launch of Project Natal, now branded as Kinect for Xbox 360. The crowd lined up to be among the first to buy Kinect at midnight at the Toys “R” Us store in Times Square. Kinect for Xbox 360 set a Guinness World Record as the fastest-selling consumer electronic device, selling 8 million units in 60 days.

Kinect Fun Labs Launches Two New Experiences

Kinect Fun Labs lets you discover and play with the newest advances in Kinect technology. These innovative applications (called gadgets) showcase new advancements in the controller-free device’s technology. Kinect Fun Labs was launched at the E3 conference earlier this year, and has a growing catalog of controller-free experiences. This week, Kinect Fun Labs is launching two new experiences: Avatar Kinect and Kinect Sparkler.

Kinect Fun Labs

Kinect Fun Labs plans to release new gadgets on a regular basis. The gadgets are meant to showcase innovations in Kinect technology in an approachable way. These fun, creative experiences allow consumers to get a sneak preview of interesting capabilities of Kinect today instead of waiting until it’s in full-blown games.

Avatar Kinect

Avatar Kinect is available today and lets you interact with your friends via your personalized avatar. You can hang out with up to seven other friends in 24 virtual stages ranging from a late-night talk show set to outer space to a sports tailgate party. Kinect’s camera tracks gestures and facial expressions eyebrow raises, smiles, belly laughs and all.

Avatar Kinect makes cyber socializing more real. Apart from random conversations with friends, you can host virtual events or create your own animated shows. Avatar Kinect is free for Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers who have Kinect. It is also available to non-Gold subscribers for 45 days to try.

Kinect Sparkler

Kinect Sparkler, available later this week, lets players use their fingers to draw sparkling lines that whirl glowing, gold stars in front of, behind, and around 3-D photographs of themselves. Kinect Sparkler will cost 240 points on Xbox LIVE.

Users can share creations from both Avatar Kinect and Sparkler with the wave of a hand on the Kinect Fun Labs Live friends feed or uploading to KinectShare.com. KinectShare allows users to share their creations on Facebook or via email. It also allows users to download their creations to their computers.

Windows Everywhere Just Doesn’t Seem Right

Yes, I would  like Windows Everywhere too on my phone, PC, and TV. Developers too. So will Microsoft. Although, I have my share of doubts. I think there are three tenants of the integrated vision: Brand, Technology, and Ecosystem. Let’s explore these in detail.



Make a cut on any of the old guard folks at Redmond HQ, and he will bleed Windows. (Please do not try this literally. Culpable homicide is an offence.) I’m sure Nilay Patel at This is my next knows what he’s saying when he talks about the end of Windows brand. Even if it is on the table, I’m not very sure this would happen. Microsoft may pursue two brands Windows for the operating system and Xbox for services. The recent indication of Zune service to be rebranded Xbox Music suggests the same. Although as of now, no definite name has been announced for Windows 8, but a strong push for the Windows Phone branding would mean that  Microsoft would not dump Windows’ easily. Along with Apple, Coca Cola, and the like, it is one of the most recognizable brands in the world.


This is primary reason that most believe in the vision of Windows Everywhere. Microsoft has demoed and announced that Windows 8 would run on system-on-a-chip (SoC) architectures. This isn’t possible yet, and hence Windows Embedded was the platform for devices like PoS and set-top boxes, and formed the core for Windows Phone. Xbox 360 is a different deal altogether. In technical theory, all devices can then run Windows with a layer of customization on the top. Let’s see if that happens, and if the long-standing investment in Windows Embedded space and the legacy systems in place are pushed aside.

However, there is a technically fallacy to this vision as well. Even if the platform across devices would be same, application development can’t be unified. Code once, run everywhere does not work in practice. Each device has its strengths and weaknesses. An app which consumes too much data is okay on my work PC connected to DSL, but would not work for my phone with a metered data plan. Network traffic, screen estate, battery constraints, and other factors define app preference on diverse devices apart from the usage scenarios. Consider this: the iTunes app store serves both iPad and iPhone, but several publishers offer different editions of their apps for the two. Ask a Silverlight developer if developing for Windows Phone 7 devices and a Web experience is similar. Even with the HTML5 enthusiasm around, a Web service would prefer to develop a mobile Web site separately.


While Windows 8 is expected to have an application marketplace, it may well be integrated with the Windows Phone Marketplace and the Xbox Live Marketplace.   A unified application marketplace makes all sense for ISVs and consumers.

For hardware manufacturers and OEM partners, an integrated platform streamlines innovation. Working on a single platform for phones, tablet computers, and PCs, makes it easy in research and product development.

Microsoft Brings In-App Purchases With Microsoft Points To WP7

Xbox LIVE introduced Microsoft’s micro-transaction platform to make purchases against Microsoft Points that can be purchased. Xbox has had Microsoft Points for a while allowing users to purchase game addons and other multimedia content. Microsoft Points is like a virtual currency for the Xbox world. As Microsoft explains it, they introduced Points to replace credit cards that had a minimum of $5 restriction.

Windows Phone 7 game Beards & Beaks is the first to introduce Microsoft Points integration. The game has been developed by Microsoft Game Studio. (Looks like they called dibs on the feature.) Kev J from Electronic Theatre discovered the feature  and has explained the Microsoft Points integration. According to Kev, a user can use Microsoft Points to refill Mushrooms that can be used for special abilities in the game.

Points can be bought from Microsoft or other marketplaces like Amazon etc. Prices are:

  • 400 Microsoft Points – $4.99
  • 800 Microsoft Points – $9.99
  • 1600 Microsoft Points – $19.99
  • 4000 Microsoft Points – $49.99
  • 6000 Microsoft Points – $74.99

Microsoft Points integration could be how Microsoft will offer game upgrades like more levels for Angry Birds. I’m done with the current levels, I can haz moar pigs, plis! Magazine and news paper subscriptions could also be offered against Microsoft Points.

Games for Windows Marketplace is now Xbox.com


Microsoft has announced that Games for Windows Marketplace will be fully transitioning to Xbox.com. The announcement was done on the Games for Windows Marketplace website and via the Games for Windows newsletter.

Games for Windows Marketplace is moving to Xbox.com

Games for Windows Marketplace is coming to Xbox.com!

Games for Windows Marketplace will fully transition over to Xbox.com. Now you can get all of your gaming needs in one place. It’s convenient, it’s concentrated, and it’s a whole lot of great games.

Games for Windows Marketplace gave access to the free online gaming service: Games for Windows LIVE, that let users connect and play with friends and millions of Xbox LIVE members. You could shop for your favorite games and also receive automatic game updates and patch downloads for the installed games. However, Games for Windows LIVE brand isn’t as popular as Xbox brand for gaming and consumer entertainment. Microsoft even did a huge overhaul of the Games for Windows website to make it more accessible and attractive for the PC gamers.

Eurogamer has confirmation from a Microsoft spokesperson that the merge will happen on 11th July.

All of the same content from GamesForWindows.com will be available on Xbox.com so members of communities across Xbox 360 and Games for Windows can purchase and get details on their favorite games, all in one place.

All account information will remain the same and community members can still take advantage of their Xbox Live profile in their Windows games and stay connected to friends who are playing on the PC.

This move would be the first step to bring Xbox LIVE on the third screen, PC, after TV and phone. There have been clear indications that Xbox LIVE would be integrated in Windows 8 to provide entertainment and gaming features. Also, Xbox LIVE is already integrated into Windows Phone 7. During previews of the upcoming release of Windows Phone, codenamed Mango, Microsoft announced that the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace for apps and games would also be available on the web. Xbox.com could well be that consolidated gaming and entertainment portal.

Microsoft Will Relaunch Games for Windows Marketplace in November

When it comes to distributing content through online stores, Microsoft’s track record has been less than impressive, to put things politely. They fumbled with the Windows Marketplace and ultimately shut it down. Games for Windows has been a similar sorry tale. While others like Steam, Direct2Drive and Impulse Valve signed on hundreds of developers, Microsoft restricted itself to just a few dozen titles. Microsoft’s only saving grace has been the Zune Store and the Xbox Live Marketplace.


Now, Microsoft has announced that it will relaunch the Games for Windows Marketplace on November 15. The revamped online store will sport a redesigned interface and feature 100 high quality titles at launch. Customers will be able to purchase games using either credit/debit cards or their Microsoft points (from existing Xbox Live accounts). Purchased titles can be downloaded using the web browser, 3rd party download managers or Microsoft’s download manager. Thankfully, Microsoft has decided against forcing customers to go through cumbersome mechanisms involving the Windows Live desktop client.

With Games for Windows Marketplace, we set out to create a digital store built for PC gamers end-to-end,said Kevin Unangst, senior global director, PC and Mobile Gaming, at Microsoft. And by integrating with our existing Xbox LIVE and Windows Live services, we’ve made it easier than ever for millions of gamers to see for themselves how easy buying PC games can be.

Titles that will be available at launch include Fable: The Lost Chapters, Grand Theft Auto III, Dead Rising 2, Lost Planet 2, Flight Simulator, Gears of War and Halo. Microsoft has also promised to launch new titles every week. One of the biggest draws of the Xbox store, ‘Deal of the Week’ that offers high quality titles at a deep discount, will also be available.

Xbox Live Arcade to Serve a Game Feast

Can’t justify the $10 hike per year for the Xbox Live service? How about a quick-ish release of Super Meat Boy, platformer fans?

Gaming blog Joystiq unveiled a big poster from Microsoft, with October 20th as being the date when the Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) will feature (among other great small games) Super Meat Boy !


With Super Meat Boy munching through this burger than usual gaming fete, we can only wait until details are revealed (read: leaked) for the event. Until then, keep those watering mouths dry, somehow.

Xbox Live Sees a Price Hike

Console gaming just hit a high! Price-wise, at least. Pardon the paltry pun, but after about eight years of service, the Xbox Live service is increasing its prices from $50 a year to $59.99 a year in North America.


According to Major Nelson,

Starting on November 1, a year Gold subscription to Xbox Live will run $59.99, versus the current price of $49.99. One month subscriptions will jump from $7.99 to $9.99, while three month subs will rise from $19.99 to $24.99.

The ~$10 hike will come into effect from the 1st of November, this year so you’d better renew your subscription within September if you wish to save a few bucks!

Microsoft Announces Kinect Prices And Xbox 360 4Gb Console

Today, in a press release Microsoft announced the new Xbox 360 4 GB console and the pricing scheme for the Kinect. The new 4 GB variant of the Xbox 360 console will feature inbuilt Wi-Fi N support, touch-sensitive buttons,Xbox 360 and 4 GB of internal flash storage. The Xbox 360 4 GB variant will begin shipping on August 3, with a price tag of $199.99.

“Kinect for Xbox 360 offers tremendous entertainment value for the whole family,” said Dennis Durkin, Xbox 360 chief operating officer. “With full body, voice and the ability to play games with your friends right out of the box, Kinect is the most unique, complete and affordable way for everyone to enjoy controller-free fun and entertainment.”

Along with this, Microsoft also announced the price point of the Kinect. Existing Xbox 360 owners can purchase a Kinect add-on pack with Kinect Adventuresfor $149.99. A bundle of the Xbox 360 4 GB console, Kinect Sensor and the Kinect Adventurewill be sold for $299.99 to the general public.

The Kinect Adventure pack will let users play  20 adventuresby navigating, ducking, jumping, and dodging obstacles without the need of a controller, or a balance board.

The Kinect Adventure

Here is the link to the full press release.

Microsoft To Cease Xbox Live Support For Original Xbox Tonight

Microsoft will be killing the Xbox live service for the original Xbox tonight. Microsoft had launched the original Xbox live service, along with the original Xbox gaming console way back in 2002. Xbox live was the first major successful online gaming service. Obviously, the Xbox 360 will still be supported. Though the games which were supported at the launch of the service in 2002, won’t be supported from now.  This move is definitely a step forward. After the Xbox live service on the original Xbox will be phased out, the 100 friends cap will be removed from the service.


Support for classic multi-player games like Battlefront 2, Crimson Skies, and the highly popular Halo 2 will be ceased as well. Owners of the original Xbox gaming console can still play games in the offline (single player) mode. Though, they will definitely be missing the fun of playing multi-player games online like Halo 2 etcetera. This move will allow Microsoft to add new features in the Xbox live, which the older Xbox could not support.