Most companies that produce gaming consoles tend to show off their hardware at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), which usually takes place in June, but Microsoft has jumped the gun and revealed their new console, the Xbox One, at an event at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Most companies that make gaming consoles tend to release a new console on average of every five to six years. The Xbox 360 was released in 2005, almost eight years ago, so it is a little behind the curve.
At first glance, the Xbox One looks large and boxy, which bucks the current trend of constantly making our gadgets smaller and thinner. According to people I’ve talked to regarding the Xbox One, it looked like “a VHS player” and “a piece of AV equipment” and drew comparisons to the gadgets of yesteryear, which many of our older readers (or those who collect old gadgets) will remember. Of course, as I mentioned before on this blog, many gaming consoles have “fat” and “thin” versions, with the “fat” version generally coming first, so a thin version might come in the future as technology advances.
Since the tech world pits business vs. business just like any other industry out there, there is always some sort of battle going on in the tech world. In the 1980s, it was VHS vs. Betamax. In the 1990s, it was Sony vs. Nintendo. In the 2000s, it was Sony vs. Microsoft. However, one battle that has always been happening (at least in the minds of gamers) is the console vs. the PC. Specs-wise, PCs have been trumping their console counterparts for almost two decades, namely because PCs receive upgrades more quickly. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the games are better, however, and consoles have been racing quickly to keep pace with their PC counterparts.
The Xbox One, however, has caught up to their PC competitors, at least specs-wise: we’re looking at an octo-core (that’s eight cores) AMD CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and 500 GB of HDD space. There is also a 40mm system on a chip (SoC) that will combine the CPU and GPU onto a single chip. For connectivity options, there are two USB 3.0 ports (which can also be used to expand storage), HDMI in/out, an Ethernet port, and Wi-Fi Direct. Microsoft has also promised a new OS for the Xbox One, fusing together elements of Xbox and Windows. According to Microsoft, the Xbox One will have a fusion Xbox, a kernel of Windows (possibly something like Windows RT), and a multitasking interface so that you can switch from task to task.
NVIDIA has also announced support for the console with its PhysX and APEX software development kits. PhysX and APEX software are responsible for creating game environments and game physics. “We are excited to extend our PhysX and APEX technologies to Microsoft’s Xbox One console,” said Mike Skolones, product manager for the PhysX SDK at NVIDIA. “We look forward to the Xbox developer community taking advantage of PhysX and APEX along with Xbox One’s processing power, programmability and next-generation features to design cutting-edge games that deliver an unparalleled and ultra-realistic experience.”
As their predecessor has done, the Xbox One will also link TV, games and entertainment in one. However, you will also be able to do it through voice commands—for example, you can turn on the Xbox One just by saying “Xbox, on.” Microsoft stated during the event, “You’re going to have a relationship with your TV.” But how will this relationship work out? Chances are that it will use gesture controls, which are already included in other gadgets in a limited capacity. It was mentioned that there will also be partnerships with ISPs and even cable companies. You can also use voice commands to order movie tickets, talk to your friends and family on Skype, or, for the sports fans out there, even manage your fantasy sports teams. According to CNET, it’s Siri meets Google, which, if implemented properly, could be one of the most revolutionary things to happen on a home console system since the Nintendo Wii’s motion control.
A new Kinect will also come with the Xbox One. It will have a 1080p camera, Skype connectivity, and Microsoft even claims that it can read your heartbeat. You can even connect controllers to the new Kinect, which would have functionality similar to that of PlayStation Move.
The controller has even gotten a redesign, with the Home button being moved up to the top of the controller, and you can even program the trigger buttons, much like you program the hotkeys on PC games. In addition, the SmartGlass experience will center on Xbox One, and will work with a variety of phones and tablets, implying that you can use your smartphone or tablet as a controller or even a screen. The Wi-Fi Direct on the Xbox One will allow Bluetooth-like direct communication between external devices, which could come in handy for other future peripherals as well. Like the Wii U, second screens will be a major method of interacting with the Xbox One, but not many details were given at the reveal of the Xbox One, so we might have to wait until E3 (or later) to find out how this will work on the console.
According to Microsoft, “Xbox is going to be the next water cooler.” That means that it could blend social elements into the TV. To that end, Microsoft is developing TV shows and original programming for the Xbox One. This could mean that Microsoft is making a greater leap into original programming, mirroring Netflix. Film director Steven Spielberg also announced that a TV series based on Halo is in the works. The National Football League (NFL) also demonstrated some level of interaction with fantasy stats and Skyping with NFL broadcasts.
One of the major things that will be missing from the Xbox One is that it will not be backwards compatible with the Xbox 360. Although pitched as an “all-in-one” device due to its many features, many consoles have also gotten the “all-in-one” tag, so we’ll have to see how the Xbox One distinguishes itself from their competition.
Xbox Live will also be upgraded—according to Microsoft, there will be over 300,000 servers running Xbox Live, which could imply the days of lagging out in Call of Duty or all those disconnects could be over. This could also mean that you could do other tasks such as web browsing or watching a movie while you’re waiting for your team to form in games. Microsoft has also discussed the usage of cloud services, such as user-based cloud game saves, uploaded game recording, and cloud-processing-enhanced games, although it is not clear how those will play out yet.
Are you up to your ears in prequels, sequels, threequels, reboots, and so on? There’s a lot of them in the gaming world today, but Microsoft has planned at least eight new franchises for the Xbox One. The games that were previewed on the Xbox One included some sports games (EA Sports’ FIFA 14 and NBA Live 14) and a brand new game, Quantum Break, which could signal that with the birth of the Xbox One would also include the birth of new and original games.
Microsoft said that the console will definitely come out in 2013, but there is no price point or specific date yet, which might be revealed at E3. We will update you on this as more information becomes available.