At 6pm GMT tonight, Microsoft will be revealing the next-generation Xbox — you know this and I’m sure that you’ll be tuned in to watch it. But what is it that we can expect from the next Xbox, how will it keep its fanbase happy and what will it bring to the table that will help it compete against the PlayStation 4?
The Next Xbox
The Next Xbox’s title is integral to its brand, so getting it spot-on is incredibly important. For years now, the name ‘Xbox 720’ has been the default-name when discussing the future console, and more recently both ‘Xbox Fusion’ and ‘Xbox Infinity’ have been making their rounds around the internet as the rumoured title for the next console. Unless Microsoft can come up with something catchier, going with a name that people already relate to the upcoming console (such as simply Xbox 720) may be a wise option.
Of course, there’s also the very recent rumour that the next Xbox will simply be titled ‘Xbox’; although it could be confusing as it would hold the same title as the original Xbox, it would be a sensibly bold move that signifies a completely new era for the Xbox brand instead of just being the 360’s successor.
The next Xbox is largely expected to be multi-media, making it the go-to console for multiple entertainment functions. Though we can’t be sure that’s what’s happening, it’s certainly the route that fans, analysts and myself think Microsoft will take; giving easy access and a lot of focus to music, films and files as well as games will set it apart from the almost-strictly game focused PlayStation 4, meaning the decision of which to purchase between the two consoles will depend on what it is that you want from your console. Backwards compatibility will likely not be an option as emulation of current-gen consoles on next-gen systems is proving difficult.
With Microsoft seemingly wanting to run their own services nowadays, I’d fully expect both fully integrated Skype capabilities and dedicated movie/music streaming services — heck, there’s even a rumoured live TV streaming service. Anticipate a complete re-design of the current Dashboard UI. A strong indie game presence is also generally viewed as a necessity for next-generation consoles, so Microsoft would do wise to make sure that developing games will be simple for independent developers.
Controversial subjects such as always-online, blocking the ability to play second-hand games and DRM issues means that Microsoft would be foolish to include any form of these with the next Xbox. Including these features would a complete PR disaster, so despite the rumours you may hear, don’t expect these negative features to come with the next Xbox. Unless Microsoft really have lost touch with the gaming audience, then y’know, totally expect it.
Hardware and Look
Having observed the reaction to Sony’s PlayStation 4 conference, we can almost definitely expect to see the console itself revealed; whilst the look of the console is not the most important aspect, gamers were bitterly disappointed that Sony failed to show even a prototype of their gaming console. Design is becoming increasingly important, so a slick and sexy-looking console is vital to pull in the tech and design geeks.
The next Xbox needs to be able to compare to the PlayStation 4 hardware-wise, though it’s equally important that it retains its easy-to-develop-for, PC-like structure. Rumours suggest a Blu-Ray drive (almost a given that it will upgrade to this), an eight-core AMD CPU that runs at 1.6Ghz with an in-built hard drive and 8GB of DDR3 RAM.
Kinect and Controller
The controller for the Xbox 360 is generally considered to be spot-on, so don’t expect any monumental changes here unless there’s some unexpected new features on the console. At best, we’ll just see the battery pack taken away in exchange for exclusively charging with a lead.
We can be pretty certain that the console will feature a ‘Kinect 2’ either at the conference or at June’s E3; it would likely be bundled with each console with a much more accurate camera and more advanced movement tracking technology — rumour has it that it would be capable of recognising open and closed hand gestures and eye movements. The new Kinect would almost certainly be used for the console’s other uses (TV/movie streaming, etc.) and user interface.
Games and the Conference
Don’t expect a large focus on game reveals tomorrow as that’s simply not what the conference is about — this is about revealing the new Xbox. We’ll likely see the console, see some of its core features, perhaps the interface and not a whole lot else.
Games will not be the main focus of the reveal, but we do know that Call of Duty: Ghosts will officially make its debut there and a handful of AAA titles announced for the console; these will likely only be touched upon and expanded on later on at E3 among a larger number of game reveals. It also wouldn’t particularly shock me if Microsoft allowed Bungie to take this opportunity to properly show-off Destiny gameplay.