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July 10, 2007

E3: Microsoft introduces big red button

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 8:58 PM

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- In a bid to expand the appeal of the Xbox 360, Jeff Bell, Microsoft corporate vice president, announced a new controller for the console. It's designed to be easy to use and features fewer buttons than the standard Xbox 360 controller, including a big red one.

Four of these wireless controllers will come packaged with "Scene It?" a movie trivia game based on the DVD board game from Seattle's Screenlife, which we profiled in 2002. The bundled game and controllers will sell for the same price as a regular Xbox 360 game.

This was the biggest news I've detected out of Microsoft's E3 press conference so far. Peter Moore spent a lot of time recounting statistics about the Xbox 360. One number he didn't share is the failure rate of the console, which was described last week as "unacceptable" in announcing an extended warranty program and non-specific engineering fixes that should eliminate the "general hardware failure"/ "red ring of death" that has upset a substantial number of customers.

So is the Big Button a direct rival to the Wii Remote from Nintendo? Not exactly. The "Big Button" pad isn't motion sensitive. But Microsoft is clearly experimenting with a controller designed to be less off-putting to non-gamers. It's a strategy that Nintendo has shown to be very successful, as the scarcity of Wii consoles on store shelves illustrates.

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