Almost a decade on since the launch of Xbox 360, Microsoft has confirmed today that it is bringing some serious, long awaited firepower and innovation to the next-gen party with the announcement of the new Xbox One console at its big shiney #XboxReveal event in Redmond, Washington.
Considering that Microsoft (and many others) openly mocked Sony for revealing very little about its next gen hardware at the PS4 announcement event in February, the company was unsurprisingly and quite pleasingly detailed when it came to discussing the Xbox One’s hardware as well as it’s approach to entertainment.
The console itself will feature an 8 core custom AMD chip, 8GB of RAM, 500GB of onboard storage (plus additional cloud storage), Blu-Ray drive, USB 3.0, Live TV integration, deep social integration, support for up to 4K resolution and a brand new Kinect Sensor that marries the user with the content and hardware to create a more “personalised experience”.
The new Kinect sensor (which comes bundled with Xbox One) is arguably the most crucial and innovative piece of new hardware announced today, because it will be fundamental to the way that people will experience content through the Xbox One and interact with the console and other users.
The new sensor tracks and recognizes individual users as well as their movement, speech and even their heart rate during exercise. Simply saying “Xbox on” to the new Kinect will power up the Xbox One, even when the console is off. Sony has discussed similar funtionality to this, but Kinect’s integration seems to go much deeper. The sensor’s speech to action capabilities will also allow you to quickly switch applications, for example saying “Go to TV” will take you to the TV application, and you can even snap two running applications to the screen simultaneously – which will be great for when you want to tweet while watching a TV show or playing a game.
The new Kinect also adds a 1080p camera to Xbox One that can be used for Skype video chat, but will also greatly enhance the consoles ability to track movement when combined with the sensor’s 250,000 pixel infrared depth sensor. These features help better analyze the scene in front of the Xbox and can be used for better gesture control, as well as people and movement recognition.
When the Xbox One launches it will be supported by an arsenal of new games including Forza Motorsport 5 and Activision’s Call of Duty: Ghosts, which was demoed running on the Xbox One’s engine at today’s Microsoft event. The company talked about However, Microsoft only discussed upcoming software briefly and has said on the Major Nelson podcast that it will be discussing launch titles more at next month’s E3 conference in Los Angeles.
The console will use a more efficient 64-bit x86 architecture simultaneously running a combination of Xbox OS, Windows and a special multitasking OS. This means it won’t support Xbox 360 games, but users will find it to be like an updated Xbox 360 Dashboard with lots of new features (discussed further below).
Next Gen comparison
With all 3 of the console gaming industry’s big players, we now have a pretty clear outlook on what the next 5 – 10 years of console gaming will look like from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. When we compare what has been announced so far by each company, this is what it looks like so far:
|Console||Xbox One||PS4||Wii U|
|Price||TBC / Pre-Order = AU$899||TBC / Pre-Order = AU$899||US$350 / AU$428 for Premium Model|
|Launch Timeframe||TBC 2013||Holiday 2013||Available now|
|CPU||Custom 8-core AMD processor||Custom 8-core AMD processor (TBC)||1.24 Ghz IBM PowerPC 750-based tri-core processor “Espresso“|
|GPU||TBC||AMD Radeon HD based graphics, with 8GB GDDR memory||AMD Radeon HD processor codenamed “Latte“|
|RAM||8GB DDR3||8GB GDDR5||2GB DDR3|
|Onboard storage||500GB||Built in, capacity unknown||8 or 32 GB|
|Expandable storage?||Cloud connected||TBC||Yes, Via SD card or USB External Hard Drive (up to 2TB)|
|Connectivity||4x USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, 3x 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1||USB 3.0, auxiliary, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1||4x USB 2.0, 802.11b/g/n WiFi|
|Best Resolution||up to 4K||up to 4K||1080p, 16:9 widescreen|
|Video Output||HDMI 1.4 and passthrough||HDMI||HDMI 1.4|
|Controller specs||Xbox One Controller:
||DualShock 4 controller:
||Wii U Gamepad:
|Misc/other||Next Gen Kinect sensor, with
||PlayStation 4 Eye camera
||Tons of peripherals e.g. Wii zapper, Wii Wheel, Wii balance board|
What does it all mean?
So is the new Xbox One small step, or One giant leap? It REALLY depends how you look at it. Compared to current generation of consoles (including Wii U), the Xbox One is certainly the latter – 8GB of RAM is a gint leap that all developers are going to be ecstatic about. When you compare it to what we know about its major competitor, the PS4, and it’s hardware though (like I have done above), it looks like a much more of a small step. If you compare games, the step is even smaller still with both consoles offering a limited range of exclusive titles, each with their own merit. So with this in mind, I think the comparison is best looked at conceptually – and in that scenario Microsoft has taken several giant leaps of the competition.
Microsoft is making a big bet on how people are going to interact with their content and other users in their living rooms. Xbox is now looking beyond its core gaming audience (something it’s been doing in small steps for sometime with the likes of the original Kinect and Foxtel on Xbox) and is able to pitch its new console to everyone much more as a media console and a social console, rather than just a gaming one. Sony (and even Nintendo to a certain extent) are adopting a similar approach, but based on what has been demonstrated by all 3 companies Microsoft seems to have the strongest hand because of the features and services it’s got up its sleeve.
The “media console” or “social console” is going to be dominated by integration with many other services and providers. The fact that Microsoft owns Skype is going to put a much more direct and powerful connection between users than the PS4 or Wii U currently look to offer, and one that already has a strong existing global user base that isn’t tied to gamers alone. The fact that Microsoft also has content agreements in place with companies like Foxtel, and major music and entertainment labels for services including Xbox Music and movies, means that its on-demand content offering will be strong from Day one. The fact that Windows is one of the 3 operating systems that the Xbox One is built on also means that third party application integration (think Facebook, Twitter and all the mobile games you love) should be a much more logical, smooth and appealing process for users and developers. The combination of these facts with the hardware and software details above make the Xbox One the most compelling next gen console right now.
I don’t dislike the PS4 or PlayStation, because it certainly does have capabilities (and games) that Xbox is yet to offer, such as integration with UStream and the ability to spectate friends games and even take control. But the media and social integration doesn’t seem as good at the moment as what Microsoft and Xbox have put on the table with the Xbox One. Playstation is the only major vendor that hasn’t played all its cards yet though, and maybe we’ll see a curveball at its E3 press conference on June 10 which we’ll change that. We’ll have to wait and find out, but for the moment my vote is with Xbox One.
So what do you think? Is Microsoft’s approach to the loungeroom more appealing, or is there something that’s drawing you more to the PS4. Tell me in the comments!