E3 Expo 2009: Don Mattrick

Remarks by Don Mattrick, Senior Vice President, Interactive Entertainment Business, Entertainment and Devices Division, Microsoft Corp., about Microsoft’s ‘Natal Project’
Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009
Los Angeles, California
June 1, 2009

DON MATTRICK: Ten years ago, a group of visionaries at Microsoft sparked a videogame revolution. It started with our first console, Xbox, and an online network called Xbox Live. The experience evolved with Xbox 360, the first console to deliver high-definition graphics, online gaming, and a social/entertainment network all in one box. Now, here at E3, we get the opportunity to dream the next dream, to create new experiences that will drive the next wave of growth and creativity for Xbox and our industry.

People ask me, can you add a motion controller? I tell them, of course we can. Indeed, controllers will continue to evolve, as we’ve seen with guitars, wands, and nunchuks. But here’s the problem, for far too many people the controller is a barrier separating videogame players from everyone else. With this in mind, we asked ourselves a new set of questions, Can we go beyond the controller? Can we deliver games and entertainment that everyone can instantly enjoy? Can we make you the controller? We can.

(Video segment.)


Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re excited to share with you Project Natal. Natal is the current code name for a revolutionary new way to play, where the only experience you need is life experience. What you just saw is a small glimpse of our vision for the kinds of amazing experiences that Natal will enable. With the breakthrough sensor that tracks 3D movements, and recognizes voices, this is controller-free games and entertainment. (Applause.) When it launches Natal will work with every Xbox 360 we’ve sold, and every Xbox 360 we’ll sell in the future. (Applause.) We can leap into a new era of interactive entertainment without having to launch a new console.

Over the last few months we’ve been sharing Natal with our creative partners, and the response has been everything we hoped for. I’d like to welcome one of those creators to the stage. He and I have a long history discussing the future of interactive entertainment. While we’ve been evolving the industry with better graphics, blockbuster games, and connected experiences, he has been pushing us to go beyond. He’s a visionary director, a humanitarian, and yes, also a gamer. Please welcome Steven Spielberg.

Steven, I’m honored you’d join us today to lend your support for this exciting project.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Thank you. It’s my honor to be here. Don, from the day Don and I met a decade ago we’ve been asking a question which is how can interactive entertainment become as approachable as all other forms of entertainment. Everybody loves books and music, and everybody loves movies, but the vast majority of people are just too intimidated to pick up a game controller.

DON MATTRICK: That’s right, if you haven’t grown up playing games, comfortable with your thumbs, it’s a little daunting.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: That’s true. And despite the size of the industry, still 60 percent of households do not own a videogame console. And Don and I have always agreed that the only way to bring interactive entertainment to everybody is to make the technology invisible. And only then can we shine the spotlight where it belongs, which is on you and the fun you can have with a technology that recognizes not only your thumbs and your wrist, but your entire being.

So two months ago Don shared with me the Natal experience, and the gamer in me went out of my mind when I got to really be interactive with this. I think more dramatically I felt like I was present for an historic moment, a moment as significant as the transformation from the square shaped movie screen to Cinemascope, and then to IMAX. So as a creator I could suddenly envision a new way of personalizing game play, the game play experience, making it possible to even change the paradigm of storytelling and of social interaction. And I think what Microsoft is doing is not about reinventing the wheel, it’s about no wheel at all.

So, Don, congratulations for this landmark achievement. Good luck to you.

DON MATTRICK: Thanks very much, Steven. It’s great to have you here, and we’re excited to see what you and your teams create in the future.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: We’ll come up with some good stuff.

DON MATTRICK: I’m certain of that.


DON MATTRICK: Thank you, Steven.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Thanks, everybody.


DON MATTRICK: A revolutionary way to play, a new era of interactive entertainment, a new world of possibilities, you’re probably thinking these are bold words, but how much of this stuff is real. Well, here to show you more, please welcome the creative director of Project Natal, Kudo Tsunoda

KUDO TSUNODA: All right. Thanks, Don.

So – thank you. So Don challenged us to think beyond, and what did beyond really mean to our team? Well, we wanted to build experiences that no matter what your age or gaming ability you could instantly jump in and have fun, while providing core gamers a level of control they never dreamed possible. Experiences where you have total control over your in-game character just by moving your body or using your voice. You have control over your avatar in the most natural way imaginable.

So, we’ve got some early prototypes that we want to show you that really illustrate our vision. So, the first demo I’m going to show you is a demo of the dashboard. With Natal, even navigating the menus becomes a magical experience. So, one of the coolest things about the dashboard now is that the Xbox instantly recognizes who I am, and signs me in automatically. So this type of facial recognition has never been seen in any consumer electronics product.

Next, check out our full-body motion capture, so as you can see when I start making movements to my avatar, it instantly mimics me on screen. Do you ever wonder what the bottom of an avatar’s shoe looks like, bam, there it is. All right, so let’s get in and navigate the dashboard. So, I can now choose between different categories in the dash with just a simple swipe of my hand, or I can also choose between different menu options by moving my hand left or right. I can now go anywhere in the menus, no controller required.

Let’s launch one of our other technology demos and see what Natal can really do. This tech demo is a full-body athletic and competitive activity that we call Ricochet. So, let’s jump in. All right, so the great thing about Ricochet is how fast anybody can jump in and start having fun. There’s no controls to learn. You already know how to play the game just by knowing how to move your body. The simple point of this game is to destroy the bricks at the end of the hall. It’s like a 3D breakout where your body controls the ball.

So, Abigail, why don’t you take it away.

So you can see right away the things that can only be done with Natal. Abby has full control of her avatar just by moving her body, no controller required. (Applause.) But, hey, this demo, it’s not just about waving your arms. You can also move around freely in 3D space. So, we don’t have to set any of the movements for you in the games. She’s free to move wherever she wants. She can move in and out to hit the balls harder. She can move left and right to keep the balls in play. And, when you combine this kind of full avatar control, and the ability to move around freely in your living room, you’re going to get true physical play. Nice kick serve, Abbey.

So, besides being super fun to play, Ricochet also keeps you in great shape. You can see by the nature of the game, she’s constantly moving around. With all the multi-balls, she has to keep extremely active to keep the game going. This isn’t a game where you end up on the sofa just using some kind of pre-set waggle commands. (Groans, cheers and applause.)

All right. Nice job, Abby. Now, with the power of the 360, developers get the full body tracking, and the precision to build deep layers of game play. So, we’re using real world physics to calculate how each ball reacts to her body. So, she can aim to hit those multi-ball power-ups you see down at the end of the hall, or you can just add more power by hitting the ball harder to generate all those fireballs you see on screen. Awesome job, Abby. Let’s give her a hand. (Cheers and applause.)

So, Ricochet is currently single player, but our technology will also allow us to track multiple people, so we can make all games in multiplayer as well.

So, this next tech demo we’re going to show you highlights you the purely creative and collaborative types of experiences you can build with Project Natal. We call this demo Paint Party. Paint Party is a 3D art demo where you can use your full body motion and voice recognition to express your inner creativity. So, to show off Paint Party, let’s welcome Darren Bennett, a Creative Director at Microsoft Games Studio.

DARREN BENNETT: Hey, everybody. Thanks, Kudo.

So, up on our canvas here we have our inspiration image. It’s an African elephant on the plains of Kenya. So, I’m feeling inspired. Let’s splat. So, you see, there’s my big canvas. That’s where we’re going to paint our background light blue. I’m going to slop around some paint with my bucket throw here, that’s my sky. Then I think I’ll put a great big cloud up in the sky. White. So, I’ll throw another bucket up there, there’s my cloud.

Now, I’m going to go to some one-handed gestures, and paint some mountains in the background. Blue. OK. All right. There’s my mountains. Now, let’s put some earth down. Dark brown. There we go. So, painting my ground. Then I’m going to want some brown, and then I’m going to just lay down a little extra texture on there. And then I’ll get some light brown. All right. A little more texture and color in there. And then I think I want a tree line in the background. Could I get some green? All right. There’s my tree line.

So, I think that’s a pretty awesome background, but I’m not quite satisfied yet. I want to put a tree up in the foreground. So, could I get brown. I’ll make my trunk. Sweet. All right. Now, I’m going to put some palm leaves on it. Green. So, there we go, little finer strokes from my hand, put some palm leaves on there. I’m not even sure there are palm trees in Kenya, but there we go.

OK, so I’m stoked on my background, and now I want to make the elephant. And so, I’m going to say, pose. That brings in my stencil paper, and you can see I can use my whole body, make any kind of crazy pose I want. And if you have any friends or family in the living room, you can invite them on in, and they can help you make some art as well. And since, I’m making a four-legged animal, I need some help. So, Abby, would you like to come back up and help me make my elephant.

OK, so here we go. (Laughter.) All right. So there’s our elephant. (Cheers and applause.) All right. It’s good to have a little snack, right? Check it out, have a little grass, tastes good. OK, and so, now we’re going to take our stencil. So, ready, cheese. All right. So, there’s our – thanks, Abby. (Cheers and applause.)

OK. So, now we’re going to paint him in. Elephants are gray. Throw a couple of more buckets up there. Now, I’m going to sandwich my stencil with my background when I say, reveal. (Cheers and applause.) And there’s our gorgeous masterpiece.

KUDO TSUNODA: All right. Great job, Darren and Abby. Let’s hear for them one more time. (Cheers and applause.)

So, as you can see, with Natal, we can deliver experiences that can’t be done in any other medium, or on any other console. We’ve got full body control of your avatar, being able to move freely around in 3D space, using your voice naturally as a part of the experience, and all without a controller. Project Natal will work with all Xbox 360s, and development kits are arriving at our partners today.

And with that, I’ll turn it back over to you, Don.

DON MATTRICK: Great job, Kudo. (Cheers and applause.)

We’re excited to see all the different ways artists can use Natal to build experiences never thought of before.

Now let’s take a look at what happens when you put Natal in the hands of a master. Please welcome the creator of Fable II, and president of our Lionhead Studios, Peter Molyneux.

PETER MOLYNEUX: Well, I’m sure you agree that it’s pretty revolutionary, and I want to just say one thing to you and that’s the word interactive. Surely we’ve been making interactive games for 20 years, haven’t we, or 30 years. Well, no, I don’t think we have, because that thing in our hands, that thing that’s evolved in our hands, and gotten more and more complex, got more and more buttons actually has been the biggest barrier to what we want to creative, because what we want to create is a connection to our worlds. And that’s what I believe Natal does. And if you leave with anything today then leave with this thought, what designers, and what this industry does with Natal will change the landscape of games that we play.

Anyway, we’ve been playing around with it at Lionhead for a few months now. And a week ago a film crew came out and filmed this video. Why don’t we take a look at it now.

(Video segment.)


So, what we’ve chosen to do with that technology has been a dream of mine for 20 years. We have chosen to create an experience where you can meet what I believe is a real character that understands you, that understands your voices, your emotions, that’s fascinated about your life. Now, you may look at that video and wonder whether it’s true or real, but here’s the fact, we’re showing this behind closed doors at E3 to a selected audience, and that selected audience will be able to meet Milo themselves, and will be able to talk to Milo, and interact with his world.

Thank you very much. I hope you agree this is a landmark in computer entertainment. Thank you everybody. (Cheers and applause.)

DON MATTRICK: That was amazing. Thank you, Peter, and the team at Lionshead.

Well, we hope you agree that it’s been an incredible morning. We promise to bring you the best games, exclusive entertainment experiences, and new ways to share all of this with your friends. And, we promise to make some history. I think you’ll agree that this is a watershed year, not only for Xbox 360, but for everyone who loves games and entertainment. The break with the past is clear.

Before you were offered a handful of core hits, now Xbox 360 is home to all hit genres and every hit franchise. Before, you had to buy a disk, a disk player to get the best quality video. Now you can enjoy instant on 1080p HD, no disk, no download, no delay. Before you played games with everyone on Xbox Live, now on Xbox Live games, movies, and music can be shared with your friends no matter where they are. Before, there was a barrier separating videogame players from everyone else. Now, with Natal, everyone can join in using the best controller ever invented, you.

The future of games, and entertainment is happening now, only on Xbox 360. Thank you and have a wonderful E3. (Cheers and applause.)