Microsoft rips the veil off X-Box

Bill Gates and a bevy of third-party developers talk about Microsoft's long-rumoured entry into the game console market, slated for release in autumn 2001

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates officially announced the existence of the long-rumoured X-Box gaming console in a televised newsfeed released on Thursday afternoon.

Scheduled for release in autumn 2001, the console will be supported by a number of video and computer game developers, and boast performance greater than any previous game system.

"We're taking the time today to announce the breakthrough game console known as X-Box," said Gates during the feed. "The X-Box provides performance better than twice that of any previous platform."

The feed was meant for news agencies to extract audio and video excerpts from, and as such, it didn't reveal any concrete details behind the system, its capabilities or its line-up.

Gates is expected to unveil the X-Box's complete specifications and give more details behind the console's developer support at the Game Developers Conference on Friday morning in San Jose.

Microsoft did manage to line up a number of console and PC game developers to praise the machine's abilities, however. "X-Box is a global product, so we'll be selling it worldwide," Gates said. "We're very anxious to have software developers throughout the world contributing to the platform."

Microsoft stressed the importance of getting X-Box development kits into the hands of developers now in order to give them a year to create what Gates hopes will be "unbelievable games".

Executives from Take Two Interactive, Rockstar Games, Infogrames, Midway, Acclaim, Konami, Sierra Studios and other game developers extolled the virtues of the X-Box, citing its universal hardware standard and powerful graphics as some of its outstanding features.

Activision's executive vice president, Mitch Lasky, revealed that an X-Box port of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is currently in the works.

Unlike the previous PlayStation, Nintendo64 and Dreamcast versions of the game, Pro Skater on the X-Box will benefit from the console's additional hardware muscle and boast effects such as motion blur and true anti-aliasing. "We're going to obviously bring many of our familiar hits to the X-Box, and deliver an experience to the consumer with much more fluid animation and lots more polygons in the characters," Lasky said. "But what's particularly exciting are the kinds of things that we can't even imagine are going to be capable with this device."

The X-Box is rumoured to ship with 64MB of system and video RAM. It will have an 8GB hard drive and will be powered by a 600MHz Intel processor. Contrary to previous reports, however, the X-Box won't be using a GeForce 256 as its primary graphics processor. Instead, Microsoft has supposedly opted to use a future chip from nVidia -- most likely the NV11 or NV15.

"With the level of semiconductor technology we can deploy, and the understanding of the 3D research that we can bring to bear, we can provide all kinds of terrific value in the consumer electronics industry," said nVidia president and chief executive, Jen-Hsun Huang.

"It's important to know that the X-Box complements the PC, and we see the X-Box in the living room," said Gates. "The PC will continue to grow in the other parts of the house, and we're going to make sure that developers can target both of these products very easily."

Bill Gates is like a pushy salesman. If he can get one foot in the door, he'll barge on through. Go to AnchorDesk UK with Jesse Berst for the news comment.

Find more X-Box news on GameSpot.

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