The next Xbox is called Xbox One. It'll be out later this year. It won't be always-online, but it will restrict used games. Oh, and the next Call of Duty has a dog.
That's just a smidgeon of the news we got at Microsoft's big event in Redmond on Tuesday, which touted the new Xbox and all of its features and capabilities. We didn't get to see a lot of games during the live reveal, but we did hear about how Microsoft hopes to take over our living rooms, and how the next Xbox will let you have a "relationship" with your television.
And in the hours after the big reveal, as reporters pressed Microsoft for answers, we got some clear (and some not-so-clear) details about how Xbox One will function. Let's break everything down.
Xbox One looks like this:
The controller looks like this:
The new Kinect looks like this:
For a closer look, check out our video coverage from Redmond.
The new Kinect is more powerful, more functional, and totally mandatory, so get used to it. Microsoft says the system will not work without a Kinect plugged in. It's also going to stay on constantly. Watching you. Silently judging when you spend your Friday nights crying into a tub of Häagen-Dazs.
Because the Kinect is always watching, you can shout "Xbox, on" to boot up the machine anytime. Kinect can do some other neat things, too: for one, Microsoft says Kinect 2.0 will work in smaller rooms. It can recognize your skeletal movements, your facial features, and even your heartbeat. And it'll finally work in smaller rooms, so fellow NYC residents (hopefully) won't have to worry about the new Kinect malfunctioning in their apartments.
As we reported back in February, the new Xbox will have a 500GB harddrive, 8GB RAM, and a Blu-ray drive for both games and Blu-ray movies. Full specs below.
Microsoft sees Xbox One not just as a video game console but as a bona fide entertainment system, and Snap Mode is one of the reasons: the new feature allows you to connect the Xbox to your television and use voice controls to interact with both interfaces. You can use Skype, for example, to chat with friends while watching TV, or you can say "Xbox, show fantasy" to see your fantasy basketball stats while watching LeBron James score.
There's also a feature called "Xbox Trending" that shows what television is currently popular on Xbox Live. "This is the beginning of truly intelligent TV," Microsoft says.
And, yes, the Xbox One is all about TV. Yesterday, Microsoft announced a big partnership with the NFL that will let Americans watch football on their console:
Fans will get new television viewing innovations, including the ability to watch games, Skype video chat with other fans, view statistics, access highlights in real time and gather fantasy information about players and teams — all on a single screen. For those who prefer multiple screens, fans can get an even deeper experience on mobile devices and tablets with SmartGlass technology.
Microsoft also announced a new Halo TV series that will be produced by Steven Spielberg.
One thing Microsoft hasn't been clear about: used games. We know that every game will come with an activation code, and that you'll have to install a game to your system's harddrive before using it. You'll also have to register it online and connect it to your Xbox Live account. Your whole family will be able to play the same game on your Xbox One, but if you want to, say, bring a game to a friend's house and play on his machine, you'll have to use your account. If you give a game to a friend, and he wants to play it on his own account, he'll have to buy it.
Sounds like the concept of "used games" as we know it might be going away. But... Microsoft says there will be *some* way to trade Xbox One games online. They're being sketchy on the details, though.
Microsoft is also being sketchy about whether or not the platform will be always-online, something that has been rumored for quite some time now. According to their press site: "No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet."
Uh, what? We asked Phil Harrison for clarification, and he said that the console will need to connect to the Internet at least once a day. But Microsoft has walked that back, describing it as just a "potential scenario" for how Xbox One will function. In other words, they haven't decided what they're doing yet.
You will, however, need an Internet connection to play games that use Microsoft's Azure cloud capabilities, which they haven't detailed much yet. Developers could theoretically use cloud servers to offload some of the hardware work and make games look bigger and brighter. Those games would probably not be playable offline.
First and foremost, Microsoft is bumping up the Xbox Live friend cap to 1,000. There's also a brand new Reputation system that Microsoft hopes will facilitate a friendlier Xbox Live, with far less teabagging and racial slurs. No word yet on how much the new services will cost, or whether multiplayer will be free, or what sort of tiers will be available. (Right now, you have to pay for an Xbox Live gold membership in order to use most of the network's features.)
This one is simple: Xbox One is not backwards compatible. Don't throw out your Xbox 360. "If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards," Microsoft's Don Mattrick told the Wall Street Journal for some reason.
The Big Games
Pickings were rather slim for software at Microsoft's event. We saw some EA sports games—FIFA, Madden, NBA Live—and we saw an interesting-looking new horror game from Remedy (the folks behind Alan Wake), called Quantum Break.
Ubisoft, Bungie, and Square Enix have all jumped out to confirm that Assassin's Creed IV, Watch Dogs, Destiny, and Thief are all coming to Xbox One, although we didn't see any of those games at today's event. Battlefield 4 is an Xbox One game too. We'll likely see Respawn's new Xbox game at E3, along with a ton of other big next-gen games.
And Microsoft has promised 15 exclusives. Whatever that means.
Xbox One does not seem very indie-friendly. Indies can't self-publish on the system. And prominent independent developers have not had great things to say:
one thing MSFT doesn't seem to understand is that indie developers are the regular developers of tomorrow.— PHIL FISH (@PHIL_FISH) May 22, 2013
Compared to Sony and Nintendo, who seem to both be embracing the indie community, Microsoft has shown very little interest in independent developers, at least for now.
We asked Microsoft if Xbox One is region-locked. No comment.
For Xbox One, your gamerscore will carry over from Xbox 360, and there's a whole new achievement system "powered by the cloud" that will let you rack up points in new ways.
The details are vague so far, but it sounds interesting:
Nothing Is Finalized
Lots of decisions—especially the ones involving used games and always-online—are still up in the air. And we don't know how much it'll cost, or what games will be available at launch. Expect to hear much more about Xbox One in the coming weeks and months, starting with Microsoft's E3 press conference on June 10.