With Microsoft ready to unveil the next generation of their Xbox platform on May 21st, speculation and rumour will soon be cast aside, to be replaced with cold, hard facts. However, I thought it would be fun to have one last guesstimation as to what will be shown at this long-awaited event. What are we likely to find out? Will IllumiRoom be making an appearance? Was Adam Orth a prophet all along?
Despite recent murmurings that the next Xbox would be delayed due to blu-ray licensing issues, many still predict that we will see Redmond’s latest before the end of the year. If details of the release are given next week, I expect it to be a window, rather than a specific date. With Sony having already promised to release the PlayStation 4 in at least one region by ‘Holiday 2013’, Microsoft will not want to give the Japanese tech giant too much time alone on the market (no offence Nintendo… OK, a small bit of offence then).
Xbox Infinity? Xbox Fusion? Xbox 720? Or simply Xbox? The name of the device will probably be the first thing revealed to the public on May 21st. I am not expecting a whole pile of imagination here. While the suggestion lately appears to be that ‘Xbox Infinity’ will be the new monikor, my preference would simply be for ‘Xbox’.
For months now, the new Xbox’s tech specs have been the subject of some of the most persistent rumours circulating the web. Apparently, it will use an AMD Jaguar-based CPU with 8GB of RAM – similar to that of the PlayStation 4. However, speculation suggests that Microsoft have opted to go a more traditional route in terms of the type of RAM they will use – foregoing the unified GDDR5 memory of Sony’s next platform, instead utilising 8GB of general system memory and separate graphics memory. While this may suggest that the ‘Durango’ will not be as potent a gaming rig as the PlayStation 4, it should be more efficient at other tasks, tallying with the suspicion that Microsoft have chosen to create an ‘entertainment center’ rather than a purely game-focused machine. Presumably, we will receive a similar overview of the tech specs next week.
One of the current Xbox’s biggest selling points is its controller. The game pad is one of the most ergonomic available and is a favourite for many gamers. This is one area I think Microsoft will play it safe – I can see them keeping the majority of the controller the same with only minor changes (removing the battery pack, fixing the directional pad, flattening the face buttons). The major changes will more than likely come in the Kinect 2.0 and its accuracy, perhaps similar to the Wii Motion Plus in this regard. Expect it to be integrated with the new console, allowing for more advanced voice control and more precise commands. IllumiRoom will not feature, in my opinion. It just seems to be more of a concept right now, like Sony’s backwards compatibility plans.
Finally, we get to the gargantuan pink elephant in the auditorium – ‘always-online’. When Adam Orth logged into Twitter a few months ago and decided to speak his mind, the feces hit the rotating air displacer for Microsoft. After the loud backlash, articles have been popping up online implying that the Xbox division may have changed tack, by removing the ‘always-online’ requirement.
Next Tuesday, the facts will be revealed and (most of) the speculation will be over. We will find out exactly what Microsoft believes the future of gaming will entail and we, the consumers, will deliberate, compare and ultimately choose which of these new consoles deserve our patronage. Until the upcoming generation of consoles comes to a close, I suppose we will be stuck speculating whether Tim will ever get his Ouya.