Xbox 720, Xbox Loop, Durango.. what’s it all about?
A document detailing next generation console plans from Microsoft leaked earlier this month and, at first, was taken with a quite large pinch of salt; which is completely unlike everything we’ve come to expect from the internet. Microsoft however have come out and admitted that the document does in fact belong to them [no official statement has been made, only one by the actions of their legal hounds who are chasing it off every website hosting it - ed.] and currently their lawyers are trying to have any form of the document eradicated from sites hosting it. This could only mean one thing: the information contained within the document is a true roadmap for the next Xbox.
First off is the question that so many have been asking: “Do we really need a new Xbox?” – In my opinion, yes, but not right now. Developers have only recently found their feet with the current generation of consoles. The games being released today are pushing the consoles to their breaking point and delivering high quality entertainment on fairly old machines, something that by all rights has never been possible with PC gaming. Try running Skyrim on a 7 year old gaming PC and you’ll be worse off than if you played it on the Xbox 360 or PS3.
The date of release mentioned in the leaked documents hints that Microsoft is aiming for a Christmas 2013 release, giving developers more than enough time to churn out respectable launch titles for the new console. I can only imagine core titles from the major developers have been in development now for a good year, if not longer. Being privy to this information has raised expectations high for the consoles debut.
Now as we’ve all seen, the Xbox 360 has become more than just a gaming machine over the years, expanding upon the small offering of streaming videos initially offered by adding the likes of Netflix and Lovefilm streaming, among many others. The leaked document also addresses the evolution of the Xbox as a Home Media Center by stating that it’s likely to have DVR capabilities much like TiVo and such. DVR basically means you’ll be able to record TV shows to your hard drive, but it usually adds much more to the TV watching experience. Social apps, recording full TV series, never miss an episode, etc. to name a few.
“Awesome” you might say, “but don’t I already have DVR capabilities with my TV provider?” Yes, probably, if you’re with Sky, Virgin Media, BT or even if you have a Freeview HD box. But Microsoft are trying to make those set top boxes obsolete if you already own one of their new consoles, which is great if it works as planned. Most people will probably still opt for a TV provider’s DVR, such as Virgin Media’s new box which offers the most popular DVR, TiVo, but being given the option to use something already in your household rather than forking out more monthly fees seems like a great option as well.
Adding more to the idea of the next-gen Xbox being a home media center, Microsoft also detailed that the new console with launch with a Blu-ray player. Finally! As you probably already know, when the PS3 and Xbox 360 were launched, Sony opted to support the new blu-ray format and Microsoft decided to back HD DVD instead. We all knew how this was going to end because it’s Sony, and new formats are something they do incredibly well. Microsoft was bound to concede this time around and Blu-ray brings with it increased storage capacity; 50GB of storage compared to the now 9GB. What that means for games is less disc switching and the possibility of much higher resolution textures, meaning true 1080p would be a real thing.
All this goodness comes along with hints that “Kinect 2” will be built-in to the new console experience. These rumours aren’t entirely surprising if you judge them by the fervor with which Microsoft has been pushing Kinect since release. In fact, if Kinect didn’t come pre-packaged or built-in to the new console I’d have been very surprised. The rumours fill me with hope though, because I’ve always wanted to try Kinect but wasn’t willing to fork out the extra cash for something that never amounted to more than a gimmick for the games I like to play.
And unless Microsoft is willing to put up with a massive backlash, you can bet your bottom dollar that Kinect won’t be the only way to interact with the console. Surely the gamepad will see some minor changes, but if the move from the original Xbox to the 360 is anything to go by they won’t be major changes. The Xbox 360 gamepad is still seen as the best currently in the industry with very few people having severe issues with it. Personally I use my Xbox controller for gaming on the PC as well, so the idea of a hands-free console experience both frightens and confuses me. Like most gamers who grew up on Atari and later Nintendo and Sega, a gamepad is key.
So in short, Xbox Loop codenamed Durango, is set to be released before the Christmas period of 2013. Microsoft is hoping to sell the console for $299 (£190 or €235) which, if it’s true, would be most welcome. With hardware being cheaper than it was in 2005, I’m quite hopeful.
What do you think of the information leaked (released) by Microsoft? Do you want a new Xbox in just over a year, or would you rather hang on to your old console a bit longer? Does this sway your decision one way or the other on the Wii U? Let us know in the comments!