Microsoft still has not acknowledged the existence of the next Xbox, but given all the rumors and purported leaks that have surfaced about it, one could think that it’s already been out for years. There have been a lot of reports scattered across the interwebs claiming to know what the deal is with Microsoft’s next home console, but the talk has ratcheted up recently with murmurs of reveal dates, price points and always-online requirements. Let’s get caught up.
Some More Specs
Starting with the most recent reports, Bloomberg says that the next Xbox, codenamed “Durango,” will feature PC-esque specs not too dissimilar from those in the PlayStation 4. The report says that Durango will use x86 architecture and will be powered by an AMD “Jaguar”-based APU (APU meaning that it’s a processor combined with graphics chips). Because of its new x86 nature, the next Xbox would therefore be unable to play past Xbox 360 games. All of those details apply to the PS4 as well, so perhaps the two consoles will be on equal ground when it comes to sheer technical prowess.
Laying Eyes on Durango
Continuing with the newest news, both The Verge and veteran Microsoft reporter Paul Thurrott claim that Microsoft finally plans to provide the first confirmed details about the next Xbox at an event on May 21. Previous reports suggested that a reveal would come later this month, but it would appear that Microsoft wants to schedule things a little differently. Thurrott expects the console itself to launch in early November, presumably allowing it to compete with the PS4’s current “holiday 2013” launch frame.
A late May Xbox event could prove to be a wise move for Microsoft. Sony has held a solid amount of buzz in the wake of its PlayStation 4 reveal, but delaying a next-gen console reveal just a little bit longer could cool down the PS4 talk enough to give Microsoft the full spotlight.
Furthermore, although both Microsoft and Sony will almost assuredly be flaunting their new systems at E3 in early June, the Redmond clan has its own Build conference just a couple weeks later, where it has already promised to showcase more details about what’s next for Xbox. This could give Microsoft a sort of three-pronged media blitz, where, if done correctly, the company could keep a high level of attention on itself for about a month straight.
Tolls on the Wallet
Thurrott in particular has dished a few key details about the next Xbox from his sources at Microsoft, not least of which is the system’s possible price point. He says that the system will be “expensive,” and threw out the prices of $500 and “$300 with a subscription.”
The former of those two would be a full $100 more than the Xbox 360’s initial price when it launched in 2005, but it’d still be $100 less than the infamous launch price of the 60GB PlayStation 3 in 2006. Point being, a $500 price probably wouldn’t be all that popular, but it also wouldn’t be unprecedented.
It’s the latter of those two speculations that’s the most curious. It’s widely expected that the next Xbox will be based on Windows 8 and will continue Microsoft’s push to tie all of its services and products together. The company has already adopted a subscription-based approach with services like Office 365, so would it try applying that same model to its newest piece of hardware? And if so, would that include the expected Xbox Live Gold subscription or be a separate fee entirely? It’s still unclear, and Microsoft is remaining super tight-lipped on the matter for the time being.
Other details from Thurrott include Microsoft’s reported plans to release a $99 version of the Xbox 360 somewhere around the time that Durango launches. Codenamed \”Stingray,\” the machine would presumably allow Microsoft sidestep Durango’s purported lack of backwards compatibility with slightly less consumer dissatisfaction. It could also be positioned as an apps-focused multimedia box after developers transition their games from the old Xbox to the new one.
Online, All the Time
Finally, the big next Xbox rumor that’s lit the Internet on fire recently is its reported “always-on” requirement. These whispers have been going around the industry for months, but were rekindled once more by a Kotaku report last week. According to that piece, two sources said that Durango will need to be connected to the Internet in order to play games or use apps. Thurrott also reports having seen notes on the Durango that say “must be Internet connected to use,” but further said that he’s not quite sure what that would mean.
These flames were further fanned when Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth tweeted that always-on devices are just “part of the world we live in” and that players who don’t have online access should “get with the times and get the Internet.” Many players took this as a pseudo-affirmation of Microsoft’s rumored requirement, but the company later apologized for Orth’s remarks after negative fan reaction.
Given the recent and well-publicized connection troubles of always-online games like Diablo 3 and SimCity, this supposed requirement has gotten many gamers up in a fuss. The common complaint is that an always-on requirement is a form of Digital Rights Management tech (or, DRM), which is largely used to slow piracy but brings its own set of issues by relying on sometimes unreliable Internet connections. Such tech could theoretically allow the next Xbox to block or lessen the playing of used games too – something Sony has said it will not do with the PS4 but hasn’t described fully.
As the Rumor Mill Churns…
But even with all these new reports, players and the press alike find themselves at the same destination as before: the rumor mill. Again, absolutely zero details about the next Xbox have been officially confirmed by Microsoft, so take everything above with an appropriate grain of salt. Anything can change.
That being said, Durango appears to be drawing near. More than a few people close to Microsoft appear to be unwilling to stay quiet about the new machine, which leads TechnologyGuide to believe that at least some of the information above will hold true in the end. TG will be sure to update if anything new breaks.
Update (4/10/13): And here is the first of said updates. The Verge is reporting that the next Xbox will be able to control a user\’s TV and set-top box with its own overlay and features. The Google TV-esque ability would require the previously-rumored always-on Internet connection in order to access various TV channels and support the streaming of shows.
The report also says that the next-gen Kinect motion sensor will work with these TV features by detecting multiple users simultaneously, and by being able to pause programming whenever it senses that players are looking away from the console. That latter ability sounds very similar to the Smart Pause function found in the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4.
These latest rumors don\’t sound too outlandish at first blush; Microsoft has explicitly said that it will focus its TV efforts with the Xbox going forward, and requiring an always-on connection for TV streaming would likely go over much better with consumers than requiring one for games. Plus, Nintendo has already implemented a somewhat similar-sounding feature in the Wii U with Nintendo TVii. It\’s still unclear whether or not the rumored always-on requirement would this apply to gaming in the wake of this news, but again TG will update once there\’s more to share.
Update (4/26/13): Now that Microsoft has finally acknowledged — or at least, strongly suggested that it has acknowledged — the new Xbox, the freshest batch of next-gen rumors are starting to roll in. As always, take these with a grain of salt, but today Polygon is reporting that the next Xbox will feature sport new social features, changes to achievements and, as has been said before, an always-online acquirement.
That last point is what has gotten the Internet up in arms, so let\’s start there. Polygon\’s unnamed sources corroborate the earlier whispers and say that the new Xbox will have some sort of always-on component that will support entertainment apps, DRM and anti-piracy software. The report does note, though, that Microsoft\’s current policy for the new console is to let individual publishers decide whether or not they want their games to require an Internet connection and whether or not they want that requirement to be constant or a one-time deal.
The report further notes that the new Xbox will be able to record and share a user\’s gameplay clips in a manner similar to Sony\’s new features in the PlayStation 4. There\’s no mention of a \”Share\” button, but the machine will reportedly have an option to record gameplay, let users go back and find their favorite moments, then share them on YouTube, Facebook and the like.
Finally, the report\’s sources had some notes on the new Xbox\’s achievements and friends system. The console could let developers add more achievements to a game without the need for dedicated DLC. Cross-title and cross-platform achievements between the Xbox 360 and the new Xbox are also said to be in play. And as for friends, the report says that the next Xbox won\’t limit the number of Xbox buddies a user can have, and that players will be able to \”follow\” other users in a Twitter-like system.
Update (5/6/13): While most of the rumors above point to the next Xbox requiring an Internet connection to function, a new report published over at Ars Technica says that the reality will be to the contrary. The site claims to have obtained an internal email sent by Microsoft to employees working on the new Xbox that says, \”Durango is designed to deliver the future of entertainment while engineered to be tolerant of today\’s Internet.\” Durango, as previously noted, is the reported internal code name for the next Xbox.
\”There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should \’just work\’ regardless of their current connection status,\” the email reportedly reads. \”Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game.\”
As Ars notes, that \”watching live TV\” bit seems to hint that new Xbox will be compatible with some cable boxes. Another rumor above previously stated that the future console will provide its own overlay and features for TV viewing, but also claimed that such a feature would need the Internet to work. The memo, if true, would also confirm that the next Xbox will support Blu-ray discs, as expected.
The news would likely provide great comfort to potential Xbox users who have become distressed over the possibility of an always-on machine, but again, there are a lot of fuzzy details here that are far from confirmed. When asked about the validity of this most recent report, a Microsoft spokesperson told TG: “We’re excited to share more about the new generation of games, TV and entertainment on May 21, but have nothing further to share at this time.”