After months and months of speculation, Microsoft has officially unveiled its newest Xbox console: the Xbox One. During the console’s reveal event at the Xbox Campus in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft positioned the Xbox One as an “all-in-one system” with various multimedia and entertainment features alongside a slate of new gaming ones.
All the general details on the new console can be found in TechnologyGuide’s initial report, but there was quite a bit to take away from Microsoft’s conference, so let’s run through all the details here.
Xbox One Design
First, the box itself is a big, black rectangular machine that comes with a new Kinect sensor and a redesigned wireless controller. It has an 8-core CPU courtesy of a modified AMD chip, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, 500 GB of HDD storage, a Blu-ray drive, USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI in/out port and three built-in 802.11n radios with Wi-Fi Direct.
The Kinect can now shoot in 1080p and hosts what appear to be vastly improved motion and “conversational” voice recognition capabilities. It can still recognize which players are standing in front of it, and is also said to be able to pick out a user’s voice from noisy environments. Microsoft even claims that it can read a user’s heart beat while they’re exercising.
The Xbox One’s controller is now wireless by default, has an integrated battery, and sports a slicker-seeming redesign. The d-pad has been overhauled, the trigger buttons now have rumble functionality, and the traditional Xbox button has been moved up higher on the pad. Past Xbox 360 controllers will not be supported.
Microsoft’s presentation put a heavy focus on just how integral the new Kinect is to the experience it is pushing with the Xbox One, as simply saying “Xbox On” will turn on the console. From there, the Kinect will recognize which user made the request and automatically bring him to a personalized home screen that features particular games, TV content and the like.
Update: The Kinect integration is more than just that, as Microsoft has since confirmed that the Xbox One will require the new Kinect sensor to be connected and plugged-in for the console to function. One side effect of this is that the Kinect will always be listening to its surrounding areas in case a user wants to power on the Xbox One and use it. That could raise some Google Glass-esque privacy concerns for some.
That home screen is part of the new Xbox dashboard UI, which visually isn’t too much of a departure from the current Xbox 360 interface. It does come with a new “Trending” tab, however, which showcases what content is currently popular amongst the Xbox Live populace. Games, TV & Movies, Music and Apps still have their own tabs, and a new one has been added for “pinned” content specifically picked out by the user.
How users navigate the UI and what they can do with it are the more striking changes. Voice commands are the focus here, as the Kinect appeared to be able to switch through tabs, games, movies, music and television almost seamlessly with the Xbox One’s ‘Instant Switching’ capability.
Television on Xbox One
And yes, television. Judging by Microsoft’s presentation, TV looks to be another core focus of the Xbox One. Users can hook up their set-top boxes to the Xbox One via the system’s HDMI in/out ports and IR blasters. They can then navigate shows using the Kinect and the new Xbox One Guide, which is the console’s own program guide. The console provides its own optional TV overlay too, which includes a ‘Trending’ section to show what’s popular amongst Xbox Live users as well as an on demand content section. Microsoft says that users can search for content by saying the channel, show title or time, so those who want to watch CBS could just say “put on CBS” (or something to that effect) and head on over.
Microsoft isn’t saying which cable or satellite providers will be on board from the get-go, but it does say that it is “committed to bringing live TV through various solutions to all the markets where Xbox One will be available.” To start, though, Microsoft says that only the U.S. will get “Live TV with Kinect navigation, Live TV with OneGuide, Trending, and NFL on Xbox” at the time of the Xbox One’s launch. It also notes that users will need to buy a separate “supported receiver device with HDMI output” to use the Live TV content if they don’t own one already.
Microsoft says that the Xbox One runs on three separate operating systems integrated together, which essentially lets the multimedia and gaming ‘personalities’ of the console talk to each other and work with one another. This helps the Xbox One utilize features like ‘Snap,’ which allows users to run two applications next to each other in real time. A user can play a multiplayer match of Call of Duty: Ghosts while talking to one or more friends over Skype (another feature Microsoft is touting for the console), for instance.
Used and Old Games
There were some lingering questions that Microsoft didn’t answer about the Xbox One hardware during its event, but has since detailed. How the Xbox One will treat used games was one point of debate, and it appears as if those who get their games secondhand may be in for some complications. A Wired hands-on report published today claims that every Xbox One game needs to be installed to the HDD, and that if any player on a second console wants to play the game, it will need to pay a fee in order to install it again from the disc. Second accounts on the same machine will not need to pay up. The amount of the fee is still unclear. What exactly this means for used games on the Xbox One in general is unclear, but for what it’s worth Microsoft says that it is “designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games.”
Update: Microsoft has since denied the Wired report’s used game fee claims via a tweet from the official Xbox Support Twitter account. Wired has since updated its story to reflect this. But just two minutes before that tweet was sent, Xbox’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb dismissed the matter either way in a company blog post.
While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail,” he wrote. “Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios.”
Hryb did take the time to clarify the fee rumor when it came to the possibility of having to pay when playing a game at another Xbox One user’s home. “Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile,” he wrote.
Microsoft was not immediately available for comment when TechnologyGuide inquired about the matter. One thing that has been confirmed, though, is that the Xbox One will be able to play used games. But exactly how it will do so isn’t clear.
The other big rumor was that the console would be always-on, but today Microsoft (mostly) debunked the longstanding claim. It said that system won’t require an internet connection to play games — though it’s clearly the preferred option –but it will give publishers the option to implement the feature if they want. “We are also designing it so you can play games and watch Blu-ray movies and live TV if you lose your connection,” the company wrote in an FAQ posted after the event.
Update: This issue appears to be much foggier than initially thought as well. Microsoft says the Xbox One will not always require an internet connection, but according to comments made by Microsoft’s Phil Harrison to Kotaku, it will need to connect to the internet at least once a day in order to work. The idea is that the Xbox One needs to make constant connection checks in order to provide instant software updates, content storage in the cloud, games that are playable while they install, and other such cloud-enabled features. That might not be an issue for most, but for those without internet access entirely, it could render the system unplayable.
Making this even more complicated is Microsoft’s apparent backpedaling on the issue. A company representative reiterated to Polygon later in the day that these were just “potential scenarios” that haven’t been confirmed as of yet. “While Phil [Harrison] discussed many potential scenarios around games on Xbox One, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail,” the statement read.
So will the Xbox One be always-on? Maybe. Microsoft certainly seems to want players to be always connected, but for now it isn’t fully detailing how the system will work with the internet. Microsoft was not immediately available for comment when TechnologyGuide asked about the matter.
As for backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games, the Xbox One’s new internal architecture will make that unavailable. Xbox Live Arcade games bought on the 360 won’t be transferable either. Microsoft didn’t make any specific announcements about the future of its last console today, but it said that it has further announcements to make on the 360 at E3.
Xbox Live on Xbox One
Going back to the future, the Xbox One will also sport a revamped Xbox Live service. Past memberships, gamertags. gamerscores and achievements are all returning, but Microsoft is making the service more heavily integrated with the cloud.
Update: Microsoft has since confirmed that Xbox Live users will be able to have up to 1000 friends on their friends list, ten times the 100-friend limit on the Xbox 360.
Similar to the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One will have a ‘Game DVR’ feature that lets users record and edit clips of their gameplay from the cloud, and then share it with others.
A new ‘Smart Match’ ability is said to reduce waiting time in multiplayer lobbies by finding other players with similar reputations as a given user, and then matching them together. Players can use the Xbox One’s Snap feature to watch other content while Smart Match does its thing too.
Achievements for the Xbox One are becoming more malleable, as the heavily online nature of the system will let developers add more achievements over the course of a game’s life. Microsoft also says that the system will capture video of gameplay to go alongside a user’s virtual accomplishments.
Xbox SmartGlass has been reworked for the Xbox One too. Microsoft says that the tablet and smartphone companion app is now “natively part” of the new platform, features generally improved performance and allows for multiple app users to connect to the system at once.
Users’ games, movies, music and the like will all be stored in the cloud, and to handle that enormous amount of data Microsoft says that 300,000 servers to maintain the Xbox One’s network. By comparison, the Xbox 360’s online abilities are held together by 15,000 servers.
New Game Titles
It’s a testament to how focused Microsoft was on multimedia today that we’re now 1,200 words into this article and still haven’t talked about games yet. Yes, Microsoft is saving the bulk of its Xbox One game announcements for E3 next month, but it did showcase a handful of titles today.
The primary title coming out of the conference was the recently-announced Call of Duty: Ghosts. Developer Infinity Ward showed off the upcoming shooter’s improved visuals and new in-game engine on the new hardware, while publisher Activision revealed that, like on the Xbox 360, all future Call of Duty DLC will be timed exclusives for the Xbox One. A new trailer was also released, detailing the game’s purportedly larger focus on narrative.
The next entry in the Forza Motorsport racing sim series, Forza Motorsport 5, was also briefly revealed. It’ll be exclusive to the Xbox One, not surprisingly, and will arrive on the console’s launch day. It’ll serve as Microsoft’s counter to PS4 exclusive DriveClub and PS3 exclusive Gran Turismo 6.
The most intriguing tease came from Alan Wake developer Remedy Entertainment, who revealed an odd teaser for a new IP called Quantum Break. It appears to intertwine live-action TV content with usual action gameplay, though specifics on how it plays are virtually nil at this point. Expect more news at E3.
EA Sports’ titles have always been popular moneymakers for Microsoft, and today the sports game maker revealed that FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, NBA Live 14 and EA Sports UFC will all be coming to the Xbox One too. They’ll all run on EA Sports’ new ‘Ignite’ game engine for improved AI, physics and the like. The developer also said that they’ll feature content exclusive to the Xbox One, but wouldn’t delve into specifics for now.
After the event, Ubisoft revealed that Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs are coming to the Xbox One, while Activision confirmed that Destiny will too. No surprises there.
Finally, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer said that Microsoft itself will publish 15 games exclusive to the Xbox One within the console’s first year, with 8 of those coming in the form of new IPs.
Not all of the content announced today was about games, however. Microsoft announced various entertainment deals too, including a live-action TV series based on the ever-popular ‘Halo’ series of first-person shooters. Famed director Steven Spielberg will serve as an executive producer, while current Halo developer 343 Industries and the newly-formed Xbox Entertainment Studios will help create the new series as well.
And last but not least, Microsoft has entered into a multiyear agreement with the NFL that will use the Xbox One’s features to integrate fantasy football games, live scoring updates, and other such exclusive content.
Microsoft closed its presentation by revealing that the Xbox One will be available by the end of this year, though it didn’t get any more specific than that. No pricing details were revealed, but again, expect most remaining questions to be answered sometime between now and E3.