Today Microsoft held a massive media event to announce the long-awaited Xbox One. The Xbox One is Microsoft’s next-generation gaming console, and follows 2005′s highly successful Xbox 360. With the Wii U revealed early last year and released in November 2012, and Sony’s hotly anticipated Playstation 4 full reveal coming on June 10th, 2013 during E3, the pressure was on Microsoft to deliver.
And deliver they did. A whole bevvy of information about the hardware, software, and applications for the Xbox One were announced, and a few exciting games announced, as well.
The system will have 5 billion total transistors and 8GB of RAM. While this isn’t revolutionary or insane, it is standard with industry-level specs for today. The system will utilize an 8 core CPU. No word yet on what sort of graphics solution is being utilized, but if the demos were any indication, it will be some top of the line AMD technology, as used in the previous Xbox 360 and as will be used in the upcoming PS4. It will feature a built-in bluray player, as was entirely expected, and enough internal storage to store your game library with a 500 GB internal drive. Microsoft is plugging the One as delivering 8 times the graphical performance of the 360, and it looks like that could well just be true. Unfortunately the Xbox One is not going to be backwards compatible, so if you have some near-and-dear favorites, make sure you don’t ditch that 360 just yet. This is due to the new CPU architecture, being that x64 is not compatible with the x86 architecture of the 360. Small price to pay for what looks to be quite a leap.
Outwardly, the Xbox One is ugly as hell. It’s big, ungainly, and boxy. Far more reminiscent of the original Xbox than the sleek and slim 360 that it’s replacing. Still, it has a sort of sleekness to it all the same, and it’s not about the outward looks, but the performance of the system, that counts.
The new controller will feature a redesigned directional-pad (thankfully, as the 360 d-pad has been roundly criticized), some solid looking buttons. The controller is slimmer, more refined, and does away the bulky and awkward battery pack that the 360 uses.
It also sports feedback-sensitive triggers, a major improvement, and a big step forward for games that can now rely on trigger sensitivity to mirror the feedback of real things, like the gas pedal in a car. On that note, they took the opportunity to announce and trailer the upcoming Forza Motorsport 5:
Looking intensely realistic. As Wired notes, “early demos of racing game Forza Motorsport 5 for the Xbox One try to skirt [the uncanny valley] by modeling imperfection itself: scuffs on wheels, orange-peel pattern on paint, tire marks where Armor-All has worn away.” The game manages to look at least twice as polished as anything to come before it, and the little touches, the details of wear and damage and use are as important to this as the massively increased polygon count and HD textures.
The biggest hardware reveal, however, was the Kinect. While the original Xbox 360 Kinect was met with a lukewarm response and viewed as a sort of gimmicky reaction to the Playstation Eye and the Wii’s motion controller, this new Kinect is anything but. Promising absolutely absurd camera specs, the Kinect can not only use gestures to navigate, but instantly responds to voice commands, can broadcast in 1080P on skype (which allows for free group calling on the 360, by the way!) and is now so ridiculously sensitive it can measure your pulse by tracking changes in your facial pigmentation. Yeah. This might be the beginning of Skynet.
So there’s some pretty impressive hardware to work with. More impressive is how they use it. The new Xbox One is designed to be a living-room entertainment system. They want to replace your blu-ray player, your HBO Go subscription, and your phone apps with one unified device that can do it all. The Xbox One branches out into entertainment in powerful ways, offering to transform your television feed with multi-tasking, internet capabilities, smartphone/tablet integration via Smartglass, and of course the commands and gestures of the Kinect to put you in control. All of this is done through an HDMI in port in the back of the unit that allows the Xbox One to take the feed from your cable or satellite box. The Xbox One also offers an interactive guide that tells you what’s ‘trending’ in the TV world, shows your personalized favorites, and allows you to find shows and networks in seconds with voice commands.
There’s plenty more to be revealed on the gaming front, but Microsoft is saving that until E3, coming up in just 19 days. There we expect to see some true demonstrations of what the console is capable of, and a more detailed lineup of the IPs the company will be leveraging to compete against the likes of Sony and Nintendo. Microsoft did promise 15 new exclusive titles this year, over half of which are going to be brand new properties, so provided that they don’t suck, they could really be onto something here. In a world where companies like Electronic Arts and Activision can pump out the same game every year with tiny additions and charge out the ass for DLC and still rake in millions in profit, deciding to emphasize original content is a bold direction to go in. I only hope it works.
What are your thoughts on the new Xbox One? Will you be choosing Sony or Nintendo? Or does Microsoft offer up something you just can’t miss?
Image src: Xbox.com