New Xbox 720 release date, price, news & rumours
Will Microsoft reveal the Xbox 720, or follow in the footsteps of Sony and just talk?
Microsoft is reportedly set to unveil the next-generation Xbox (dubbed, the Xbox 720) at a special event tomorrow at its university campus-like Redmond HQ, finally putting to rest the chain of rumours and leaks surrounding the launch of its most anticipated gaming product.
So, what can we expect to see tomorrow? We round up all the latest Xbox 720 news and rumours to find out…
Microsoft IEB chief of staff, Aaron Greenberg, has revealed to Major Nelson during a podcast (via VideoGamer) that the next Xbox reveal will come in two parts, with the first due this week, May 21 and the following at E3.
This week we'll finally see the console and learn its name and specifications, along with some long sought answers about all things DRM and Internet connectivity-related, and at E3 we'll be treated to all manner of exclusive games for the platform.
"So we're going to start on the 21st, and really that's about revealing the next Xbox platform; our vision for the future of games, the future of entertainment.” Greenberg said.
"We're really going to tell one story across two events," he continued. "So we're going to start on the 21st, and really that's about revealing the next Xbox platform; our vision for the future of games, the future of entertainment.
"People are going to get a great inside look at the making of the new platform and the team that's brought it to life. To be honest, it's really about the team, the people here. That's why we're inviting people to campus; we're going to bring them behind the scenes a little bit. We've never done this before and so it's really exciting to be able to do that. It's a lot of laying the foundation, probably the best way to describe it. And then just a couple of weeks later we go to E3.
"At E3, I mean, if you're a gamer, it's going to be tonnes of exclusives, world premieres, and obviously even beyond that we have a lot to share between then and this holiday."
There's only a couple of days left to wait until the reveal, which will lead on to a very interesting E3, indeed.
According to Ars Technica, a leaked internal Microsoft email has confirmed that the next Xbox will not require an always online connection. The alleged email, which was distributed to all staff working on the next console, clearly states that the unit won't force punters to be constantly connected.
It read, "There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should 'just work' regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game."
So, aside from the obvious need for a connection when gaming with friends via Xbox Live, or watching other streaming content, you'll be able to play away happily if you have no active connection to the outside world, which is nice if it's true.
Although Microsoft's next console is often referred to by its development codename Durango, the actual name of the console is still unknown outside of Redmond. Such names as Xbox 720, Xbox Next, Xbox 8 and so on, have all been used.
However, a new report from Fusible has discovered that the new Xbox may be called Xbox Fusion. Microsoft has recently registered a gaggle of web domains all revolving around the Fusion name. These domains include XboxFusion.com, XboxFusion.info and XboxFusion.biz. It'd be a bit of a curve ball, as Fusion has little to do with what we know about the project. Then again, 360 wasn't exactly representative, and it could have simply been picked as a 'cool' name.
This news follows a recent an image was leaked on Reddit that supposedly confirmed that the new Xbox will be called Xbox Infinity, or Xbox Infinite. This follows on from earlier beliefs that the possible Xbox 8 name wasn't for the number 8 (as in Windows 8, which powers the console), but instead the numeral represented an infinity symbol.
The infinity tag would make much more sense, and although the leaked image is most likely a clever home-made ruse, it does have that Microsoft feel to it.
Xbox Fusion, on the other hand, could likely be some form of new service coming to the next Xbox, such as the backwards compatibility between the old and new unit, or some form of all-encompassing social and media app. There's only a couple of weeks left to wait until the official reveal, so we'll see soon enough.
Sources over at Polygon have dug up some more info on the next Xbox which relates to DRM, achievements and video recording.
According to these sources, achievements will be substantially revamped, and will be much more socially-focused. Firstly, new achievements will be able to be added to games without the need for DLC, presumably through a standard, automatic title update. Rewards can be tied to whole events, instead of singular actions, even spanning communal tasks, such as team-based efforts, or contributing to an overall score.
Achievements will also cross-title, meaning some could be earned by completing specific tasks in two more more games, with the Xbox able to track this, even if games are totally unrelated (but published by the same company). It's believed that Microsoft is also toying with cross-platform achievements, which may use websites as an intermediary of sorts. Of course, this will likely involve the PC, as we doubt Sony and MS would team up given the competition.
Social networking will be even more of a focus this generation. With the 360 making inroads with its various apps, the next Xbox will take this further. Microsoft wants Xbox Live to function much more like Twitter or Facebook in the way it handles friends. Rather than the one-on-one friend network now in place, people would be able to follow other gamers. The friend cap will also be removed.
With Sony announcing the video recording and sharing capabilities of the PS4 recently in the DualShock 4 reveal, Microsoft is, according to these rumours, also keen to offer the same functionality. The new Xbox will have DVR-like functions and be able to record gameplay footage, which can then be edited and uploaded to sites like YouTube. As well as this manual editing, it'll also be possible for the Xbox to record specific moments, such as grabbing achievements, or particularly impressive in-game actions.
The much-debated always on requirement will be present, but will not be as much of a problem as many fear. It'll mostly come into play for apps, such as video streaming and music tiles. However, it could also be employed as a form of DRM should a publisher choose to use it, rather than a requirement for each and every game. Whether this DRM will be a one-time check or a constant requirement isn't known at this time.
According to blogger, Paul thurrott and, apparently, to be announced officially on May 21, the main SKU will be the new, complete Xbox package, costing $499, or around £320 in the UK. The other pack will be the cut-down version for $299 (around £190). This will, however, require an additional sign-up fee for a two year Xbox Live Gold subscription, which is expected to cost around $10 per month, which converts to around £6 currently, but we'd expect it to be more like £10 per month.
The new console will run on an OS based on the core version of Windows 8, and will include a Blu-ray drive. The online connectivity issue is still a little murky, but Thurrott's blog states that the system, whilst it requires an online connection, won't be as 'Draconian' as many seem to fear.
Microsoft has been sending out updates for an event on May 21st, for the reveal of "a new generation". The invites come on Xbox headed paper. That's safe to assume the date when the next Xbox will be announced then.
Some new information about Microsoft's upcoming Xbox (Durango) and Xbox Mini has surfaced online via VGLeaks, and it states that the next gen Xbox will not require an always on Internet connection, as previously feared. It'll also not prevent users from playing second-hand games.
The roadmap report provides more details about Durango and the recently revealed slimline Xbox 360, now called the Xbox Mini. Specifically, it seems as though rumours about always on and backwards compatibility haven't been wrong, per se, just confused.
The Durango console will be the new, flagship console, and this will be similar to the current Xbox 360, and will feature online capabilities, but users can still play local and disc-based content offline.
The always on connection will be required for the new Xbox Mini, which will be a set top box device designed to compete with Apple TV. This unit, which will essentially be an Xbox 360, will not feature an optical disc drive, and all games will be installed onto the hard disk.
The backwards compatibility for Durango will also come from the Xbox Mini. When combined, Voltron-style, the Mini will bestow Durango with backwards compatibility for 360 games. Microsoft claims that this is similar to Sony's cloud-based Gaikai backwards compatibility, but is better as it's a local solution. Of course, it also means you'll need to buy both the next gen Xbox and the Mini. Ka-ching!
Should a user attempt to put a 360 disc into the Durango console, they'll be prompted to to use the Xbox Mini device.
The report also mentions Kinect 2.0 which is being focused on far less, taking a back seat to other functionality. Surely a good sign for Kinect-haters.
Always On Internet Connection?
Rumours about both the PS4 and next Xbox requiring always on Internet connections have been rife, with Sony eventually putting a stop to the PS4's rumour by stating that it isn't the case.
Sadly, Xbox owners may not be as lucky, as the latest rumour for the Xbox's online requirements state that an active Internet connection is needed to launch anything, be it a game or an app. What's more, according to these same rumours, if there's no connection for three minutes (such as a network outage), a pop-up will appear to run the Xbox's network troubleshooter.
Now, as with all rumours, pinches of salt usually abound, and that's certainly still the case, but things weren't helped by a recent Tweet from a Microsoft employee.
A tweet from Microsoft's Creative Director, Adam Orth, seemingly shows that Microsoft (or at last Mr Otrh) doesn't really care about punters with Internet connection issues.
The tweet simply read “Sorry, I don't get the drama about having an “always on” console. Every device now is “always on”. That's the world we live in. #dealwithit”
This was then responded to by BioWare designer, Manveer Heir, who cited recent issues with Diablo III and SimCity, not to mention the common sense fact that, surprise, surprise, Internet connections can drop unexpectedly. More comments followed until Orth protected his Twitter account.
Microsoft followed the incident with an official apology, saying "We apologize for the inappropriate comments made by an employee on Twitter yesterday
"This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views do not reflect the customer centric approach we take to our products or how we would communicate directly with our loyal consumers. We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter."
So, although Orth's comments (obviously) don't officially represent MS, there's still no confirmation on whether or not the new Xbox will require an always on Internet connection. Of course, we'll let you know when more news surfaces.
Xbox 720 release date
Speculation about where and when the Xbox 720’s unveiling will take place has been rife, but a string of rumours have narrowed it down to two possibilities. A Bloomberg report last November cited Microsoft sources who claim the console will be unveiled at the annual games expo, E3, in Berlin in June 2013 – where Sony is also expected to whip the covers off the PS4.
However, other reports indicate Microsoft is planning to unveil the next Xbox at an event outside of the hustle and bustle of E3 – something akin to the PS4 launch in February – although there is no concrete evidence as to when this event is likely to take place. Chances are it could be soon as Microsoft wouldn’t want Sony hogging the limelight with the new PlayStation.
Xbox 720 price
A leaked Microsoft document discovered last year mentioned a price point of £190 ($299) for the Xbox 720, which sounds pretty low to us.
A similar price point was also rumoured for the PS4, but we’re guessing both firms will be selling their machines for a much higher sum – although if both consoles hit shelves at the same time, expect some pretty competitive pricing – just not as low as what’s being speculated.
Xbox 720 specs
As with the PS4, the Xbox 720 could use AMD graphics hardware – a rumour that has resurfaced time and time again. Games site VG247 reports that the console will use two GPUs in tandem – a complex system architecture that’s most common in gaming PCs.
However, we’re not convinced that Microsoft will opt for such a system in a console. A simple, single GPU architecture will always be popular with developers, as it would allow them to code games quicker and more efficiently.
In January, VGLeaks published what it claims is the Xbox 720's full specifications list, below. Although Microsoft hasn't confirmed its validity, many gaming sites and sources claim it's the real deal. Highlights include Blu-Ray and Wi-Fi support, 8GB of RAM and an 8 core CPU.
- x64 Architecture
8 CPU cores running at 1.6 gigahertz (GHz)
- Each CPU thread has its own 32 KB L1 instruction cache and 32 KB L1 data cache
- Each module of four CPU cores has a 2 MB L2 cache resulting in a total of 4 MB of L2 cache
- Each core has one fully independent hardware thread with no shared execution resources
- Each hardware thread can issue two instructions per clock
Storage and Memory:
- 8 gigabyte (GB) of RAM DDR3 (68 GB/s)
- 32 MB of fast embedded SRAM (ESRAM) (102 GB/s)
- from the GPU’s perspective the bandwidths of system memory and ESRAM are parallel providing combined peak bandwidth of 170 GB/sec
- Hard drive is always present
- 50 GB 6x Blu-ray Disc drive
- Gigabit Ethernet
- Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct
- Move engines
- Image, video, and audio codecs
- Kinect multichannel echo cancellation (MEC) hardware
- Cryptography engines for encryption and decryption, and hashing
Microsoft bought VoIP provider Skype in 2011 so it’s no wonder many believe the firm will use this technology in its upcoming console. In fact, games site CVG claims the Skype will come pre-installed in the Xbox 720 as a default communications programme, replacing Xbox Live and Messenger service.
This brings us to our next rumour – voice recognition. According to a report in tech website The Verge, Kinect for the Xbox 720 will come equipped with revamped voice recognition technology which can do uber-awesome things such as identifying the number of people in a room based on the number of different voices it picks up. The new Kinect will also purportedly recommend games based on the number of potential players it recognises from voice control.
It's also now being reported that the controller for the Xbox 720 will be pretty identical to that of the Xbox 360. According to Kotaku, the new controller is the same, save for being just slightly smaller than the one we're used to.
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