Xbox One rumors: confirmations and open questions

By Steve Watts, May 22, 2013 12:00pm PDT

Yesterday at a special presentation, Microsoft formally announced the Xbox One. Now that the company has finally produced a clearer impression of the console, we can look back at the rumors that had been following it for the last several months. Here's a list of what came true, what didn't, and what we still don't know.

Confirmed: Xbox 360 games incompatible with Xbox One

The Xbox One's switch to an x86 hardware architecture means that Xbox 360 games are being left out in the cold. Xbox Live corporate VP Marc Whitten confirmed it today, saying: "The system is based on a different core architecture, so back-compat doesn't really work from that perspective."

This backs up a Bloomberg report from April which stated the lack of BC in no uncertain terms, and seems to dispel a follow-up rumor from shortly after that claimed you could pay a little extra for the functionality.

Confirmed: Revised controller with improved ergonomics

As you may have expected, the hardware announcement included a revised controller. It is said to be more ergonomic, and includes an integrated battery, impulse triggers, wi-fi directed radio share, and a newly redesigned D-pad. Fighting game fans rejoice.

Confirmed: Xbox bets big on entertainment

We expected to see Microsoft expand its entertainment plans today, but the console manufacturer actually devoted a significant chunk of its one-hour stage time to the concept. Not only will the Xbox One act as a cable box, allowing for seamless switching between games and TV, the company put time into showcasing its ESPN partnership, and NFL functionality with Fantasy teams. To top it all off, the company announced a "premium" Halo series to be executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Despite all that, it won't act as a TV DVR, so you'll have to rely on your normal methods of recording TV shows.

Confirmed: Kinect is always watching you

A newly revised and more sensitive Kinect will be packed in with the system, and Microsoft confirmed that it will always be on and watching you -- even down to frightening detail like measuring your heartbeat. The Kinect is more integrated into the system's identity from the start this time, as Microsoft calls it the "binding power" that brings together the system, controller, and SmartGlass. It will also be coming to PC at some point, though Microsoft hasn't detailed when.

Unresolved: The free-to-play push

Today's presentation didn't go into detail about many games, but those Microsoft did address didn't appear to be free-to-play. EA Sports showed off its line-up, Remedy introduced a new game called Quantum Break, and the presentation devoted plenty of time to Call of Duty: Ghosts. Microsoft also mentioned that it plans 15 exclusive games in the first year, eight of which will be new franchises. But none of this tells us which, if any, will be free-to-play.

Unresolved: Always-on Internet not required, but...

In a short interview, Microsoft's Don Mattrick said that an always-on connection is not required, but that gamers will want to be connected for services like multiplayer and streaming. That said, a system Q&A draws a vague line of distinction between always-on and Internet-required. "No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet," it notes.

Just what this means is still a bit of a mystery. Microsoft's Phil Harrison told Kotaku that it would require a connection every 24 hours, but then a representative told Polygon that Harrison was describing "potential scenarios." Check out Andrew Yoon's editorial for some of our concerns about these implications.

Unresolved: Respawn's game is Xbox exclusive

Though Microsoft was sure to give Activision center stage for Ghosts, the presentation went by without a mention of Respawn's debut title. We're inclined to think this means it won't be an exclusive after all, since that's the sort of thing that Microsoft would probably want to make a point of during its big hardware reveal. But this presentation on the whole was light on games, and E3 is still ahead, so the verdict is still out -- even if the rumor is looking increasingly unlikely.

Dead Wrong: The console's name

Xbox Fusion? Xbox Infinity? All of those were way off. Microsoft introduced the console as the "Xbox One." The closest guess we heard was simply "Xbox," because we can't imagine people will get into the habit of nicknaming this console "the One."

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