CES 2010: Xbox Game Room is pretty frickin’ cool

If you’re like me, you have a sh*t ton of various game compilations on your shelves. I love old games. The classics, if you will. But there’s too many discs and carts, and it’s a big hassle to dig them all out. This one for this system, that one for that other system, some on your portable, and so on. They’re all mismatched, and you’ll probably never play all of the games on them, anyway. And who’s going to play them with you?

Microsoft killed several birds with one stone with Xbox Game Room. Now you’ll have your own arcade that you can fill with the games you like, leaving the duds out. You’ll get games that come straight from the ROM, with all the original options (or dipswitches) available to you. And instead of going at your old favorites alone, you can invite friends over to your arcade and play with them. You can also visit their arcades and try out their games. Best of all, you can have all your games in one place. Sell those old compilations.

Hit the jump for our impressions of Game Room.

 

It turns out that they’ve been working on this for awhile. We were told that they almost showed off Game Room at last year’s Tokyo Game Show. At the last minute they decided to hold back and fill it out a bit more. Besides, they could pimp it at the 2010 CES keynote. They did, as you’ve probably heard.

It’s nearly ready for launch now. We got our hands on the near-final version, trying out some of the classics and checking out what the arcade looks like.

Little green flag-like markers hover over your cabinets in your arcade if you have the high score on a game. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to keep them green. Your friends can do their best to knock you down the list, changing the flag color and giving you something to obsess over. Of course, they’ll have to own the game to take your score down. Friends can visit your arcade at any time they wish, even if you’re not online, invited or not. They’ll be able to try out your games once for free, but will have to pay for them if they’d like to play any more. There’s a trial $0.50 option to play once more, but with these games costing $3, you’d probably be better off buying them.

Your arcade can be customized fully with art and decorations. We’re not clear on how this works yet, but we saw some neat themed areas. One looked like Pitfall. Another looked like a Western movie, complete with cactus decorations. We’re told that even your arcade cabinets can be customized, though no details were available yet on how.

It appears that each game company has its own sort of separate room in your arcade. For example, your Konami purchases will be in a Konami room, Atari in an Atari room. It seems that there will be multiple floors to give space for all the partners Microsoft is working with for Game Room. There are 30 games lined up now, but they say they have 1,000 planned, and are in talks with several more unannounced makers of classic games. Namco Bandai is not confirmed as a partner yet, but Microsoft said that they’re in talks with “just about everyone.” You can’t have a classic arcade without Dig Dug, folks.

Games are displayed in windows so that you can see your arcade in the background. If you’re playing a two-player game, you’ll see the avatars of the two playing off to the side. This kind of helps convey the feeling of being in an arcade.

Microsoft says that seven new games will be coming every week. That sounds promising and potentially expensive. I asked if there would be enough room for that one guy who’s going to buy all of the titles. “There would have to be,” I was told. We’ll see.

I’ll see you in my arcade this Spring.

Dale North