Microsoft will announce their next Xbox console tomorrow and Shacknews will have live updates. All day today, we'll take a look back at the Xbox 360 and discuss what the future holds.
Like any console on the verge of announcement, the Next Xbox has been rife with rumors for months. Some are more persistent than others, but as time has passed without official word from Microsoft, the console has gained a very distinct image in the collective minds of the Internet. This isn't necessarily what the console will be, but it's what the Internet thinks it will be. Starting tomorrow, we get to discover just how close the rumors were to the reality.
Xbox 360 games on the Next Xbox
In April, a Bloomberg report stated matter-of-factly that Xbox 360 games won't be compatible with the new console. This was hardly surprising, since the Xbox 360 used an emulation method to offer limited compatibility with original Xbox games. The console enjoyed healthy sales through its lifespan, which could have indicated to Microsoft that players didn't value BC as much as we might expect.
Shortly after, though, another rumor claimed that the backwards compatibility would be separated by model types. Users who wanted a console that could play their old games would reportedly have to shell out an extra $150 -- almost as much as simply buying a new Xbox 360 itself.
The Xbox 360 controller hasn't received many complaints, but documentation purportedly from Microsoft appears to boast improved ergonomics and lower latency in the next version of the controller. No word on a new D-pad, so fingers crossed everybody.
The Kinect was Microsoft's jump into motion-based gaming, but it was an add-on that granted some functionality and exclusive games. The next console may make it a vital part of the experience. According to a report the Next Xbox will come equipped with a Kinect, and it must be plugged in and calibrated to even function. That will allow developers to count on it and create games with both devices in mind from the very beginning. For its part, the device sounds much more capable, sporting the ability to detect up to six people, and instantly identify users. The darker side of that is the ability to block content to unregistered users, as Microsoft patented last year.
It should come as no surprise that console manufacturers are eager to catch up with the PC's bustling free-to-play market. Epic Games VP Mark Rein recently claimed that both Microsoft and Sony are actively courting developers with promises of F2P functionality and built-in business models to allow for in-app purchases.
The Always-Online Fiasco
Rumors had lingered for months that one or both of the next-generation consoles would require an always-on Internet connection, with one particularly detailed rumor claiming the next Xbox would have a 3-minute grace period. As the rumor went, the console would give three minutes of a lapsed connection before cutting off access to your game, as a way to account for connections that occasionally lapse. Adding fuel to the fire was a Microsoft director, Adam Orth, who took to Twitter to express his confusion over the fuss. "Every device now is 'always on,'" he said. "That's the world we live in." Microsoft hastily issued an apology for his comments, distanced his opinions from those of the company, and he subsequently left.
More recently, a rumored internal e-mail claimed the console would "just work" offline when engaging in activities that one would reasonably expect: watching a Blu-Ray disc, watching live TV, or playing a single-player game. The conflicting reports mean that one of them is in error, or Microsoft changed its mind.
Xbox expands to Entertainment
The reported memo regarding the Xbox's always-online status (or lack thereof) also gave an indication of its long-rumored entertainment plans. The mention of live TV tied into what we had heard for months, that Microsoft plans to shift the Xbox to a represent a general entertainment brand. This was backed up by LinkedIn profiles from Microsoft engineers, which stated they aim to "radically change the way we watch TV" and "reposition Xbox to serve an audience beyond traditional gamers." The company is even looking into expanding its original programming to complement its variety of TV apps.
What's in a name?
Guesses at the name of the next Xbox have ranged from the "Xbox Infinity" to the elegantly reductive "Xbox." A series of domain registrations seem to imply significance to the name "Xbox Fusion." The name implies disparate causes being brought together, which could tie into the other persistent rumor about Microsoft's entertainment plans.
Microsoft surely wants to make a splash with the next generation, and has had a good relationship with Activision to offer timed exclusives for Call of Duty content. It could have another big deal in the works, as a recent rumor states that the next Xbox will get the first game from Respawn Entertainment as an exclusive. The "Titan" project is rumored to be a large-scale mech game, which ties into previous reports regarding a sci-fi focus for the new developer. We may see the first footage or an announcement at tomorrow's event.
If so, the new studio from Jason West and Vince Zampella would be sharing a stage with their former employers, Activision. We already know that the presentation will include a first look at the upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts.