Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, kicked off the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show by officially unveiling the company's next-generation Xbox console. Gates explained that the final Xbox design was a product of months of developer and consumer input, saying that, "The final design was driven by spending time with gamers. We're also getting to know the gaming community and we're really pleased with the support that they are providing."
Microsoft and Gates' vision with the Xbox is to shape future trends in the gaming industry and to become a leading contributor to those innovations and advances. Specifically, Gates discussed several unique new console features being implemented into the Xbox, such as the 8GB hard drive, HDTV support for games and video, and high-speed Ethernet support.
"This is a totally digital device," Gates said. "We support HDTV, and the resolution is unbelievable. We also have an Ethernet connector on the back, which allows video, or any other type of information, to come in and out of the Xbox. The graphics power is three times what has been available before, and the ability for developers to achieve high-level theoretical performance is very simple. We achieved that by leveraging some PC architecture." As reported, both Intel and Nvidia are partnering with Microsoft on the Xbox development, and the two companies will provide the 733MHz CPU and 250MHz GPU respectively.
Following Bill Gates' official unveiling of the Xbox hardware, he invited Seamus Blackley, director of advanced technology at Microsoft, to discuss and demonstrate two of the third party games in development for the console. Blackley played through real-time demos of Oddworld: Munch's Odyssey and the Argonaut-developed, Malice. Both games were very impressive, which you can read about in our impressions in our dedicated news stories for both Munch's Odyssey and Malice. Following the game demos, several key Xbox developers chimed in on their projects and the console itself. Aside from the previously mentioned games, Dave Stohl of Neversoft revealed that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2x is in development for the Xbox and Mike Rubinelli of THQ confirmed WWF Raw Is War for the console.
"Activision is very excited about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2x for the Xbox," said Stohl. "We can do more environments and more objects to interact with in the game. Tony Hawk fans will be blown away with the Xbox version."
"The exciting thing about us bringing WWF to the Xbox is the amount of detail that we'll be able to put into the game," said THQ's Mike Rubinelli. "You'll be able to see muscles on the wrestlers, sweat, and possibly even veins popping."
The biggest surprise of Gates' keynote speech came when he proclaimed that Microsoft would show WWF running at 100 percent of the Xbox's power. But instead of a game demo, WWF superstar The Rock strolled onto the stage to rousing cheers. Following some spirited banter with Bill Gates, The Rock proclaimed that, "The Xbox is everything The Rock is, and it will be the most electrifying thing coming out this year."