Xbox 360 comes to campus

It takes a special occurrence to fill Wean 7500 auditorium beyond seating capacity and into the range of a fire hazard.
But when Microsoft came to campus on Tuesday night, it brought in crowds that could barely fit in the auditorium. Some came for the free pizza and soda; others came to flaunt their resumes in hopes of being hired by one of the most prominent tech companies in the world. Most, though, came for a sneak peak of Microsoft?s upcoming next-generation game console, the Xbox 360.
The first part of the event was a standard Microsoft recruitment seminar. Everyone was silent, waiting patiently for the meat of the show: the Xbox 360, going on sale November 22 and aimed directly at Sony?s upcoming PlayStation 3.
The eyes of half the auditorium were fixated on the off-white object perched on a projector cart behind the recruiter. The Xbox 360 is designed to stand vertically in addition to the standard horizontal orientation. Two of its sides are actually concave, making the system look much smaller and sleeker than its predecessor. The front face of the system is adorned with a set of green LEDs that Microsoft calls ?the ring of light,? which has an integrated message notification system.
The Xbox 360 represents quite a design departure from the original Xbox system, a monstrosity of black plastic, larger and heavier than most VCRs, emblazoned with a giant neon-green logo. It was designed from the ground up in eighteen months, and in the four years it has been on store shelves it has sold at least 22 million units. The Xbox 360 has been in development longer, and as Carnegie Mellon alumnus Paolo Malabuyo showed the audience, the time has not been spent idly.
Malabuyo is the lead design program manager for the Xbox 360 team. He graduated from CMU in 1995 with a degree in art, and has been working in the games industry ever since. At the presentation, he spent an hour discussing the design process Microsoft went through to reach the final product he had on display. The audience was continually wowed by every functionality demonstrated ? picture slide shows, interactive music visualizers, online features, and the ?Dashboard,? a user interface hard-coded into the system. But the real topper, as Malabuyo demonstrated, was the Xbox 360?s ability to connect directly to an iPod and stream music in the game or the Dashboard ? seamlessly. ?It just works,? Malabuyo beamed, echoing an Apple mantra.
Alex Billington, a sophomore business major and president of Carnegie Mellon?s Online Gaming Society, organized publicity for the event ? but he had no idea it would be so popular.
?All of a sudden, [at] 6:15, there?s lines down the wall and every seat?s taken,? he said. The draw of the ?next big thing? should never be underestimated; expect equally huge crowds when Microsoft shows off the Xbox 360 with an HDTV at the Technical Opportunities Conference this week.