First there was one, and now there are two. Following Sony’s announcement of the PlayStation 4 back in February, Microsoft have taken to the stage to announce their next generation of home entertainment – the Xbox One. Not to be confused with a reboot, Xbox One marks an extended directive of Microsoft vision as pushed by the Xbox and Xbox 360. For Microsoft, the Xbox One is all about enveloping the end-user TV experience, offering everything from movies and music, to basic television and social networking.
Microsoft’s event was a bit light on games, but they did make sure to cover a few select titles, along with the inner guts of the Xbox One, their vision for services, the various peripherals and controllers, and plenty more. You’re probably eager for a recap, so here it is!
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Unlike Sony, Microsoft actually revealed the Xbox One. It’s a black box, with a disk drive! And Kinect! And a control pad! Yep, the Xbox One is very much what you expected, with the appropriate steps forward in graphics rendering and peripheral technology. A complete list of specifications:
– 8-core AMD CPU
– DX11 based GPU @800MHz
– 8GB DRAM, 32MB ESRAM
– Blue-Ray disc drive
– 500GB internal harddrave
– 801.11n wireless
We’d go into detail about the controller, but it’s quite similar to the already excellent Xbox 360 pad. Microsoft did push two points though: firstly, the d-pad has been improved, and the standard triggers have been enhanced with what Microsoft is calling “impulse triggers”. This means each trigger has its own dedicated rumble/feedback system, which developers can tailor accordingly.
Kinect is another massive focus for the Xbox One. Taking the Xbox 360 Kinect concept further, Xbox One’s Kinect will come bundled with every single system, and act as an integral user interface tool for navigating the system’s menus. The Xbox One Kinect camera has been improved to capture 1080p images at a rate of 2GB per second data analysis, and the voice capture and processing has been greatly improved for accuracy. Microsoft provided no graphical tech demos.
Not to waste time with in-house studios, EA was the first to take the stage, announcing a collaboration with Microsoft to ensure Xbox One is the home platform for their major sports franchises. That includes FIFA, Madden, NBA Live, and UFC. Each of these will be powered by EA’s new Ignite Engine, one focused on detailed animations and reactive, dynamic AI and interaction with the sports field and fans. A sizzle trailer was shown off to sell the idea.
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Steering the talk towards Microsoft owned franchises, Xbox One will be home to a new generation of Forza, the latest entry simply titled Forza Motorsports 5. And yes, there was a trailer.
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Following up Microsoft’s partnership with Remedy Entertainment on the Xbox 360, which produced the wonderful Alan Wake, we got to see a glimpse of the Finnish developer’s newest IP: Quantum Break. Mixing a tease of in-engine footage and live action, you can see the trailer below.
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Finally, Activision used the Xbox One reveal as a platform to formally reveal the latest entry in that first person franchise you all know: Call of Duty. Titled Call of Duty: Ghosts, the latest game will push new gameplay features such as diving, leaning, and more dynamic, faster character motion, all within a new engine still aiming for 60fps and low controller latency. DLC content will be timed exclusive on Xbox One, as Microsoft wouldn’t have it any other way.
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As a side, Microsoft did note that they currently have fifteen Xbox One exclusive games in development, eight of which are new IPs, that all intend to release within the first year of the Xbox One’s launch. We’ll hear a lot more about them at E3 2013.
The Services and Partnerships
Services and partnerships were undeniably the focus of the Xbox One reveal. Lets start with the user interface. Xbox One is powered by three operating systems, one based on the familiar Xbox 360 interface, another on Windows, and a final that blends the two. Xbox One aims to integrate the experience of gaming, television, browser usage, music, movies, and more into a seamless, Kinect controlled experience. Users are able to rapidly switch between services and applications with voice commands and hand gestures, as services are directly streamed through the Xbox One unit itself. That means instead of changing your TV input to television, Xbox One will take control of your channels and allow you to navigate all of your television’s features without ever turning the system off. It’s like a souped up set top box. Did we mention Skype? Yep, your Xbox One has Skype.
That television experience will also expand to Microsoft’s Xbox related IPs. 343 Industries was proud to announce a collaboration with Steven Spielberg to provide a televised Halo series. Yep, Halo has grown from video games and web series to your very own television.
It’s not much concern to Australians, but Microsoft did confirm a partnership with the American NFL corporation, promising to offer exclusive sports content for Xbox One users. Given NFL is not streamed over here, and most Australians probably couldn’t give a damn about it, we’ll be surprised if the service ships with our systems.
As for extra bits and bobs, Microsoft did mention a data recording system not unlike the PlayStation 4, and the ability to upload recorded data to their Xbox Live cloud service. Xbox Live will function fairly similarly to as it always has, with paid registration and subscriptions.
Finally, word is coming in that the Xbox One will indeed have an anti-used game policy. When playing games for the first time, users will install some disk data to their drive, and register that title on their Xbox One account. In order for that game to be used on another account, new users will need to pay a small fee. The dreaded “always online” rumour is apparently a per-publisher basis, and not a standard for the system.
And that’s a wrap. Microsoft’s Xbox One event was, without a doubt, almost exclusively focused on the services and system itself. Gamers might be a little bit disappointed that their interactive toys took a back seat, but Microsoft did push the point that E3 2013 would be the time to talk about all kinds of software gamers can expect on Xbox One.
Microsoft did confirm that the Xbox One will be launching worldwide by the end of 2013, so if you’re one of those people eager for a new generation of Xbox, we suggest you start saving now. And be sure to stick with Rocket Chainsaw, as we’ll have full coverage of what the Xbox One is all about from the E3 2013 show floor.