Unlike Sony, who famously revealed their upcoming PlayStation 4 without actually showing us the thing, Microsoft has kept quiet about their new console offering. Apart from rumours, including that little Twitter-based always online drama, we’ve known absolutely nothing about the new Xbox.
Well, that has all changed now.
At 5am this morning (NZ time) Microsoft finally spilled the beans on their new console: Xbox One.
During an hour-long presentation from their Redmond HQ, Microsoft introduced what they hope will change the way we view and interact with visual entertainment.
The new Xbox ships complete with a redesigned Kinetic camera/motion-sensor that captures full 1080 HD imagery at 30 frames-per-second and proprietary “time of flight” technology to improve motion-sensing accuracy. There’s also a new controller, of a similar design to the previous one, but with a more ergonomic integrated battery compartment.
Detailed specs on the actual Xbox One device were thin on the ground, but it does sport a Blu-Ray player, 8GB of RAM and a custom-designed 64-bit 8-Core CPU. The Xbox One runs via three operating Systems, the Xbox OS, a version of the Windows kernel for internet and apps, and a third custom OS to bring it all together.
But the presentation wasn’t about the technology; it was about what we are going to be able to do with it. The Xbox One moniker seems a strange choice for the third-generation Xbox. The name, no-doubt refers to Microsoft intension to make the console the all-in-one entertainment solution for the living room.
Using a dashboard similar to the Xbox 360, Microsoft senior vice-president Yusif Mehdi, demonstrated how the Xbox One can be used as an entertainment hub, controlling TV, movies, music, internet and games, instantly switching between them with voice commands. No more switching TV video inputs, Xbox One will take care of it all. Microsoft’s Smartglass technology can also be used to control and interact with the new console via a suitably capable mobile device.
With Xbox One Microsoft have finally incorporated Skype technology into the Xbox platform which, paired with the Kinect, brings HD video chat into the living room.
The emphasis of the presentation was very much about the integration of the device as a entertainment centre. Whilst Microsoft are obviously holding back for E3, they did offer some info on the new consoles gaming features.
There was much emphasis on the use of cloud technology, boasting that the new Live service for Xbox One will utilise 300,000 servers (with a computing power greater than that of the entire world in 1999). With this technology gamers with be able to record their games, edit them and share them on the cloud. Developers with be able to use cloud computing for calculations allowing for more players and persistent gaming worlds.
Andrew Wilson from Electronic Arts took to the stage to introduce the company’s EA Sports line-up and their new next-gen sports game engine, Ignite. EA’s top sports titles from the FIFA, Madden, NBA and UFC franchises are all coming to Xbox One.
Phil Spencer, the vice-president of Microsoft Studios announced that there would be fifteen exclusive games coming to Xbox One in the first year, with eight of them being entirely new franchises. One of these exclusives is from Remedy Entertainment, the creators of Max Payne and Alan Wake. Whilst there was little detail revealed, Quantum Break allegedly combines cinematic gameplay with scripted TV.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the presentation was from Nancy Tellem, the head of Xbox Entertainment Studios who, again, suggested Microsoft desire to dominate the living room entertainment experience with interactive television.
Citing Microsoft's success with the Halo web series, Forward Unto Dawn, Tellem announced their new Halo project, Halo: The Television Series. As if that wasn't enough, Mr Steven Spielberg, himself, appeared on the video screen to offer his endorsement of the Xbox One technology and his direct involvement in the new premium Halo TV show. Microsoft the global pay-per-view TV network?
Whilst Microsoft’s presentation featured its fair share of hyperbole and hollow glossiness, the Xbox One as an all-in-one living room entertainment solution is an interesting prospect. The most exciting thing of the whole presentation, however, was this simple sentence “Launching around the world later this year.”
Over to you, Sony.