Could Natal be Microsoft’s 32x?

Engadget ran a post today quoting EA VP Patrick Soderlund as saying “…we’ve maxed out the 360…” Now obviously this is a statement open to all kinds of debate/interpretation, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume this is true and that developers have squeezed all they can out of the 360.

We know that Project Natal requires more CPU cycles than the Xbox 360 can muster (while still running games) so it needs a separate processor. At E3 this took the form (as I understand it) of a fairly typical PC stashed under the table. The final product will apparently come with the sensor and a box of some kind that’ll hold the hardware required to drive Natal.

So what happens when Natal is idling? That processor is sitting there doing nothing. But does it have to be that way? If the interface between Natal and the Xbox is fast enough to act as an input device, is there a way for the XBox to offload some of its slower processes to Natal? Could Natal act as an off-board brain for the 360, extending its life by a few years?

Sega tried this with the 32X years ago — an add-on to the Sega Genesis that never really caught on. But it didn’t have Milo pushing it into homes.

This is just pie-in-the-sky thinking on my part, and I don’t know if any of the processing going on inside the 360 is time-insensitive enough that you could offload it through a USB cable to an external device. But it’d be a nice ‘bonus’ to adopting Natal — getting a speed boost as well as motion controls.

7 thoughts on “Could Natal be Microsoft’s 32x?

  1. Unless Natal is hooked directly into the XBox bus in some way, I can’t see transferring game state in and out of the XBox at even really fast serial speeds would pay for the time spent managing it all.

  2. Nah, all you need to see is uber-cute girl gamer Felicia Day playing around with Natal to ease all your doubts. 😀

  3. Some elements of setting and gameplay don’t have to be as responsive as others, so the delay might not be problematic.

  4. I’ve seen articles talking about Natal having its own processor. And I guessed that it would have its own processor while they were showing it at E3. But I never read anywhere that there was a separate box/PC hidden away. I always assumed the processor was all in the camera device. Do you have a source?

    That said, I definitely agree with Tipa.

  5. One preview I read said there would be a separate box housing the processor; looking for the link now. But even if the CPU is in the sensor it could still be used when idle, depending on what its capabilities are.

    [UPDATE]
    Actually Sage, I may have misread. Engadget says (http://www.engadget.com/2009/06/03/project-natal-video-hands-on-impressions-and-further-details/) it consisted of a ‘small black box’ about the size of a Roku player, and I read that as a separate box in addition to the sensor bar, but it seems that box *is* the sensor bar.

    So I stand corrected.

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