X marks the spot for MicroSoft as the cybergiant jumps into the increasingly competitive console fray with its new platform X-Box. Set to launch in fall 2001, the system will go head-to-head with Nintendo’s 128-bit Dolphin console, launching in the first half of next year. X-Box’s drool-inducing features will include: a 600-megahertz processor, 64 megs of RAM, an advanced 3-D graphics chip, DVD capabilities and Internet access. The platform will also have a built-in eight-gig hard drive that will allow it to offer on-line games. Boasting three times the graphics capabilities of the latest consoles on the market, analysts expect X-Box to sport a price tag in the US$300 range.
MicroSoft will also have to contend with Sony’s newbie console PlayStation 2, which sold 980,000 units in its first three days on the Japanese market last month. The sales success of the launch has been eclipsed, however, by rumors that the system might have to be recalled in order to fix a memory card glitch that erases the program for running the DVD player. At press time, 340 console units (0.05% of all units shipped) had reportedly been affected, but Sony has announced that it has no intention of either recalling the console or halting production. Despite the problems in Japan, PSX2 is scheduled to launch State-side this fall, and vid-game conglom Electronic Arts is continuing its efforts to become the dominant software provider for the next-gen platform. The digital player has gobbled up DreamWorks Interactive, a joint venture between the film studio and MicroSoft since `95, in order to round out its action and movie-based portfolio. This latest acquisition gives EA ownership of adventure titles Medal of Honor and Lost World: Jurassic Park, as well as the rights to create games based on future DreamWorks movies.
After nearly a year of tinkering, comic book pop culture icon Stan Lee has finally launched his youth portal site (www.stanlee.net) and Web series The 7th Portal, a comic book-style adventure story featuring Lee’s first new characters in 25 years. Also featured on shockwave.com, the four- to five-minute segments center around six young Web surfers from around the world who become Earth’s last hope against evil invaders who hail from beyond traditional dimensions. Lee has also pegged summer 2000 for the debut of his next project-a set of Backstreet Boys Webisodes based on the comic book series he has created around the popular boy band.
In other comic news, New York-based cyberco UBUBU has inked a deal with Marvel Enterprises to develop specialized desktop and Web interfaces featuring superheros including X-Men, The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Hitting retail in May 2000, the UBUBU Universe allows users to build a personalized visual desktop using 3-D planet icons as links to Web sites, e-mail, PC applications and computer files. The Marvel relationship means users can add a variety of superhero-related objects-including Thor’s Hammer and The Incredible Hulk’s fist-to jazz up their on-screen universes.