The new Xbox is scheduled to be revealed by Microsoft at its Redmond HQ on Tuesday this week.
Rumour has it that Microsoft delayed this event specifically so it could show final hardware, having noted the backlash directed at Sony after it didn’t do so at the PS4 reveal.
Whether that’s true or not, there’s no way Microsoft won’t have its new Xbox on show when it holds its event.
With E3 only just around the corner, this is the company’s opportunity to tout the features and appearance of its new console, before following up with the games lineup at E3 next month.
So what else can we expect to see on Tuesday?
1. The Xbox name
There’s no reason for Microsoft to hold this back any longer. What the name will be remains uncertain; 360 was famously chosen because it couldn’t go up against Playstation 3 with Xbox 2; expect something similarly nebulous and consumer-friendly this time.
Of the names that have been mooted, Xbox Infinity seems the most likely – while the “leaked” branding was a Reddit-powered fake, the name would fit with a platform that’s going to last a long time.
That said, Microsoft’s been looking to compete with Apple as much as Sony or Nintendo, which could portend a more regular iPad- or iPhone-esque upgrade cycle – and Xbox Infinity 2 just doesn’t scan. Our money is on just ‘Xbox’ mainly because we don’t like Xbox Infinity but also because that’s what people will call it anyway.
2. An entertainment focus
Expect game sites to erupt in flame as Microsoft talks up the new box’s entertainment credentials, instead of announcingShenmue 3. It doesn’t play well with the hardcore, but the figures don’t lie – entertainment use around apps like Netflix is huge on Xbox 360, and the company has been courting new entertainment partners worldwide. The internal push is to make Xbox “Input One” – the first HDMI port on your TV, because it delivers every entertainment stream you need. Which leads us to…
3. A game/TV hybrid
One of Microsoft’s most interesting internal studios is a brand new LA outfit, set up by Nancy Hellens – a former boss at US TV station CBS. She’s been brought on to spearhead new TV-esque entertainment experiences. Meanwhile in the UK, new studio Lift London is working on new gaming experiences, and its slightly older sibling Microsoft Soho Studios has already put out interactive TV-like games based on Sesame Street and Discovery Channel. Expect either or both to appear on stage to give the first glimpse of how Microsoft is planning to evolve TV.
4. Games, but not many
Microsoft has been clear that Tuesday’s reveal is more about the platform than the games. There’ll be some games to show off the new hardware’s gaming chops – the new Call of Duty has been confirmed to be at the show, as has FIFA 14, and we’re expecting it to be joined by a new Forza Motorsport title from Microsoft’s internal Turn 10 studio. Expect at least one more family-friendly title, too – while the big push for this Christmas will be the early-adopting hardcore, Microsoft will look to flag the console’s everyman appeal from the outset.
5. New Kinect as standard
Microsoft did very well from Kinect, shifting millions and buying another two years of life for the ageing Xbox 360. Its star may have fallen thanks to uneven performance and a weak software lineup, but two years ago – when Durango’s spec was being nailed down – it was a smash hit. Thus, expect it to be included as standard, and upgraded to the point where it might start to deliver on the promise of the early tech demos.
6. AMD x86 architecture and a Blu-ray drive
A robust set of hardware leaks has given a pretty solid idea of the new Xbox’s internals: an AMD x86 CPU, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB hard disc and a Blu-ray drive – which will apparently install games to the hard drive before playing. The new architecture will mean backwards compatibility is unlikely, although Microsoft may offer a software solution as it did with Xbox 360.
7. Ill-advised roleplay
From the horrifyingly unsettling, robotically inhuman “fist-bump!” kids who revealed Kinect Adventures to the unconvincing Windows Phone advocacy of Penelope Cruz, Microsoft has proved that it’s addicted to “real-life” usage stories that appear to be anything but. With entertainment such an important part of the new console’s DNA, there’s no way it’ll skip it here. Place your bets as to which B-list celeb will be wheeled out to profess how useful it is to have Skype in your living room…
TechRadar will be at the event in Washington so stay tuned to the site during the launch for minute-by-minute updates!
Here’s what the rumour mill has been saying up until now…
Xbox 720 release date
Many industry experts predicted that we’d finally get some hard Xbox 720 info at GDC this year but Microsoft confirmed to TechRadar that this is definitely not the case.
Instead, we can look forward to the launch event in May this year and then a full roster of launch excitement at E3 in June.
All indications are that the next Xbox will arrive in time for Christmas 2013.
Microsoft briefly stated that the new Xbox is imminent in an interview with the Verge before swiftly backtracking and issuing a moderately embarrassing denial.
This is further backed up by a Microsoft job advert which confirms a new Xbox launch is imminent.
Further rumours of an Xbox 720 release date of pre-Christmas 2013 was backed up at the end of November 2012 by a Bloomberg report which cites sources at Microsoft and says we are likely to see the Xbox 720 make its debut at E3 2013.
But then! In January, a report from Game Informersuggested that we’d actually see Microsoft bust out an all-singing all-dancing event to launch the Xbox 720 around Game Developers Conference in March.
Why no E3 reveal? Because Microsoft wanted to make a splash away from the noise of the mega-show. Unfortunately, the report indicated that Sony had the same idea for the PS4…
Xbox 720 specs
If the Xbox 720 is to be as popular and last as long as the Xbox 360 – without the frankly appalling hardware failures which blighted its early days – it’s going to need some reliable and powerful components.
From what we can tell, the Xbox 720 will come packing very similar specifications to the already-announced PS4. However, it is rumoured strongly that the Xbox 720 will come with reduced graphics potency.
The Xbox 720′s CPU will be an AMD Jaguar-based CPU clocked at 1.6GHz – possibly very similar to that of the PS4, possibly identical in every way. That would certainly be a boost for game developers as it would make cross-platform development much easier than it is currently.
Graphics-wise, rumours suggest that the console will contain a revision of AMD’s 7000 series graphics, which is based on its 28nm Graphics Core Next (GCN) Southern Islands tech.
The PS4 graphics are provided by a bespoke AMD chip from this family somewhere along the lines of a Radeon 7850 card with 18 GCN processing clusters, each with 64 cores.
It is thought that the Xbox 720 will have just 12 processing clusters which could well mean that Microsoft is using a version of the (rumoured/forthcoming) AMD Radeon 7790 chip. That means less power and cheaper bits, basically, but it’s not all doom and gloom.
The PS4 comes packing 8GB of unified GDDR5 memory which combines system and graphics memory for super-fast gaming. But the Xbox 720 is rumoured to contain 8GB of general system memory and separate graphics memory.
That means that the Xbox 720 might not be as potent a gaming rig as the PS4, but will be more efficient at other tasks, making the Xbox better and faster outside of gaming environments.
That certainly tallies with some gaming devs who say the Xbox 720 is a lot less about gaming than the PS4 is.
Xbox 720 controller?
Many rumours suggest that the second version of Kinect will sit at the heart of the Xbox 720 experience, and we reckon it’s a no brainer. A console built around motion detection has lots of promise and it seems highly likely that this is the direction Microsoft is taking, given the way it’s currently pushing Kinect hardware and software.
However, you can be sure that the trusty control pad will remain a core component for hardcore gaming. The 360 control pad is wildly popular amongst both console and PC gamers so we can’t see the design changing too radically, either.
Microsoft recently filed a patent relating to projecting augmented reality 3D images onto the walls of the room you’re gaming in, in an effort to more fully immerse you in the experience.
The codename for this project is ‘Fortaleza’ and has Kinect at its heart. It is all supposed to work with wi-fi enabled Fortaleza glasses much like Google’s Project Glass glasses. Who wouldn’t want a Star Trek style holodeck in their front room?
Xbox 720: to Blu-ray or not to Blu-ray?
Will the Xbox 720 come with a Blu-ray drive or not? We’ve seen dozens of rumours pointing both ways and we’re still no further to really finding out.
One rumour says that the Xbox 720 will not have a BD drive. Other rumours say it WILL arrive packing a Blu-ray drive.
Microsoft was, if you remember, a staunch member of the HD DVD Promotion Group and went so far as to launch an external HD DVD drive for the 360. So it represents a bit turn-around for Microsoft to embrace Blu-ray, but it also makes perfect sense.
Read speeds from DVDs are still faster than from Blu-ray discs, but BDs can hold vastly more data. A standard dual-layer BD can contain 50GB of data compared to the Xbox 360′s dual-layer DVDs which contain between 8 and 9GB.
Many current Xbox 360 titles come on two or three discs, and with the size of Xbox 720 games destined to dwarf current titles, that extra capacity is a fundamental requirement.
A document that leaked in June 2012 indicates that the Xbox 720 will come packing 1080p 3D support, Blu-ray player and DVR functionality. This would indicate that Microsoft is trying to position the Xbox 720 as the single does-it-all set-top box in your living room.
Xbox 720 games
Games are well on their way to being finished for the new Xbox. Check out OXM’s Xbox 720 games page to get all the latest.
Xbox 720 to be called Xbox?
Several leaks Microsoft documents have pointed to teh Xbox 720 being named simply Xbox.
Will Microsoft kill the second-hand games market?
There have been rumours cicrulating that the new Xbox console will feature a system aimed at preventing owners playing used games. That would mean no trading-in of old titles in order to fund the purchase of new ones – a move that would not be warmly received by gamers or highstreet store.
The rumours centre around the concept of the new Xbox demanding an always-on internet connection. That sounds like a horrifying idea to us – say it ain’t so!
Xbox 720 price
That leaked document we mentioned earlier mentions a $299 (£190) price point which sounds gloriously ambitious to us. Expect the Xbox 720 price to be a bit more than that but assuming the PS4 launches around the same time, expect some competitive pricing.
Strong rumours are building that Microsoft is planning a double assault on the console market. The new Xbox will allegedly be joined in the cabinet by an Xbox MIni – a small, Apple TV-like device based on Windows 8, with the ability to stream Xbox 360 games from the cloud.