Ever since Sony’s impressive announcement of the PS4, fans of all corners of the gaming spectrum have speculated on what Microsoft will bring to the table. The industry is rife with rumors, and Microsoft’s new Xbox is no exception. Gamers have responded with outrage against the always-online rumour, curiosity at the concept of a HDMI-in slot, and more outrage at the possibility of no used games or backwards compatibility. So it’s safe to say that Microsoft has received a ton of negative traffic over the last couple of months. But they’re just rumors, right?
Or are they?
Paul Thurrott, veteran Tech blogger from Windows IT Pro, embellished on some of the Xbox 720/Nextbox’s rumors that he’d previously discussed. Taking his comments into account, here’s what we know about Microsoft’s next-gen console:
This is probably the biggest of the rumors, so we’ll get it out of the way first. An always-online console is a very shaky concept to get away with in the current gaming market, and while the idea might sound good higher up the Microsoft food chain, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. While more people play on Xbox Live now than at its launch on the original Xbox, there are a lot of players who have an Xbox 360, but no Live. This is fine, and it allows them full access to the all aspects of their games (unless you count online passes, but let’s not get into that now). Personally, I am always connected to Xbox Live, but I play a lot of single player games, like Spec Ops: The Line, or Bioshock, and my connection to the internet, or lack thereof, has no effect on gameplay. People can make all the comparisons they want to an online connection required to buy games from Steam, but the fact is that many people living in rural areas, or people with unstable connections, simply won’t benefit from an always-online console. And speaking of pass codes…
Coming in at a close second in terms of ‘things gamers love that you do not mess with’, backwards compatibility has always been a huge issue, even from the PlayStation 1 to 2, or the Xbox to the 360, and now that Sony has announced backwards compatibility for their next console, Microsoft is under pressure to do the same. But will they? The rumor that the next Xbox won’t be backwards compatible didn’t go down too well in the community. Again, personally speaking, I do not play many of my original Xbox games on my 360, but I know plenty of people who do, and I was very disappointed when I tried to play Star Wars: Jedi Outcast and my Xbox crashed. Nostalgia denied? Thanks Microsoft.
According to Paul Thurrott, Microsoft will release “… a third-generation Xbox 360 console this year that will be significantly less expensive than the current models.” He goes on to state that he is unsure of whether this is to combat backwards compatibility by providing a system alternative, or because sales for the Xbox 360 are still very high. Regardless, my backwards compatibility will be my current 360, even after I buy the new Xbox. While I might not use it all that often, it’s still a guaranteed method of playing the current-gen games, and I’m not going to get rid of something I’ve invested so much time and money in that easily. The presence of backwards compatibility has not been officially confirmed or denied yet, but with these rumors floating around, it’s hard to remain optimistic about it.
Windows 8 and Blu-Ray capability
Thurrott confirmed that the new Xbox will run on Windows 8. I have not personally used the OS so I can’t pass any good or bad judgement, but a lot of comments on it are fairly negative, as was the feedback directed at Microsoft. He also confirmed that the console will support Blu-Ray. Take from this what you will: I’m happy because my Blue-Ray player doesn’t work anymore, but all I’m going to say is this now disproves the argument “Xbox 360 is better than PlayStation 3 because having Blu-Ray is pointless.” Yes, I have heard someone argue that before. No, I do not approve, much as I love the Xbox 360.
Kinect was Microsoft’s foray into the wonderful world of Wii (and the PlayStation Move, but that didn’t go as well with my alliteration), but it didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. Although it was full of bugs and glitches, and while some of those were faults of the games (see Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor), the Kinect sold surprisingly well as a separate component of the Xbox name, branding itself the casual side of the Xbox 360. And now they’re building it into the next Xbox. Early after its release, I was never too keen on the idea of buying the Kinect separately, but I started to warm towards the idea over the last year or so, and if it is built-in I guess I’ll feel obligated to buy a couple of games for it (let’s hope that isn’t Microsoft’s master plan). Coming with an update, better sensory detection and fixed glitches, rumor has it that the new Kinect will run better than ever, and I for one am excited to see the possibilities that it has to offer. Let’s hope that is the case, lest we see Steel Battalion 2: Light Sales.
The name of the new Xbox is one that is certainly up for speculation, as of course with many of the other rumours. Microsoft is currently referring to it as ‘Durango’, the internet calls it the 720, or the Nextbox, but they could really go any way they want with it, including (as Thurrott hypothesizes) simply ‘Xbox”.
No used games
It really seems as if there are no positive rumors for the next Xbox. The rumor itself states that games require players to install them to their console’s hard drive, rendering the disc practically useless afterwards. Linked to this install process is a code unique to each game, like the online passes for some multiplayer games, that constitute Microsoft’s attempt to combat piracy. While this is all well and good, the codes are apparently only usable once, which will completely destroy the used game market. Again speaking from personal experience, I love buying games a few years old at a discounted price because someone else has finished it and traded it for a store credit or discount. If this rumor turns out true, then the prices of games will remain higher for longer, seeing no more pre-owned games or discounts, and the market for those used games will vanish completely. While I can deal with the other ‘negative’ rumors, I certainly hope this one isn’t true.
The new Xbox will feature an impressive upgrade in hardware: a 64-bit, 8-core, 1.6 GHz processor, with 8GB of DDR3 RAM; a, 800mgz Direct X 11.x GPU; standard ethernet port (you know, for that always-online connection), optical disc drive, 500GB SATA 2 HDD, USB ports (3.0), and HDMI ports. Both out and in. The latter of the HDMI ports has the opportunity to overlay an Xbox format or display over the TV, similar to Google TV. While most certainly not a system seller, but definitely an interesting concept, I’m curious to see how it will play out upon release.
This is the one that we’re all concerned about (aside from games, which Microsoft will announce at E3). When they were first released, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 were both ridiculously expensive, a trait that drove many customers away until the prices dropped severely. This time around, Microsoft is opting for two pricing models: a standalone $499 console, and a $299 console that comes with a mandatory two-year Xbox Live Gold subscription, at $10 a month. It will ultimately be down to personal choice and budget as to who buys which deal, but the price is definitely an improvement on past console releases.
While there will be no word on what games are coming out on the next Xbox at release, expect to see big titles such as Halo 5 and Battlefield 4, as well as (hopefully) some new IPs with a new generation! For a list of which games Microsoft should revive for the next generation, head here: http://www.digibytes.me/2013/04/the-games-and-franchises-that-microsoft-should-revive-in-the-next-generation/
And that’s the good and the bad of the Xbox 720! Everything previously mentioned is a collection of quotes and rumors, largely for the collection of data and speculation, because speculation never hurt anybody. We don’t yet know what the next generation will bring, but no matter how bad the rumors get, I am very excited. Regardless of which console will outsell the other, there are some great titles coming out on all platforms over the course of the next year, and it’s a great time to be a gamer.
Stay tuned to Digibytes for the latest updates and news, and watch out for the official Xbox reveal on May 21st.