Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Microsoft Announces Next XBOX: One

Today in Gaming: Microsoft hosted a major event on their campus in Washington to announce their newest game console -- the XBOX One.

From the very start, Microsoft was pushing the new box as a totally connected device. "Truely intelligent TV" was a quote that came up on several occasions. "Devices working in harmony" was another. They asked the question: "Can we improve the living room?". It was clear they are looking to unite the devices in your living room into one hub of multimedia.

When the MC said the words "XBOX on", the console turned itself on -- ready and connected... two words, by the way, that have caused serious controversy on the Web over the past few weeks. Voice recognition makes the XBOX do lots of stuff, including connecting to TV.

The system was all about multitasking, with snap mode. This mode will allow you to interact with multiple programs all at the same time. Theoretically, you could watch TV while playing a game.

Microsoft pushed the Kinect -- which is connected to the box just like current Kinects, not in the box as it was rumored. The Kinect now will also be able to read the turning of wrists and it can register your heartbeat. However, they have not done away with the controller. In fact, they've upgraded it with many new features, including a special D-pad and new trigger controls.

The box runs native at 64-bits. This will allow for amazing new visuals and powerful games. Here's a list of some of the features this box has:

  • XBOX One comes with SKYPE -- allowing you to connect with others to do one-on-one or group video calls to people who are also connected to SKYPE.
  • ESPN has a connected feature with the unit that allows you to watch sporting events and then get fantasy sports details simultaneously. They mentioned live fantasy football on numerous occasions. In fact, they had a whole segment dedicated just to that.
  • XBOX One guide is a television guide that's customized for your local cable or satellite connection. You can then chose the show you want to watch using just your voice. It also has a favorites menu that allows you to pin your favorite shows to a bulletin boards so you can find them quickly.
  • XBOX One will come with a DVR to record game highlights.
  • They went on to talk about personalizing your television experience -- in which the community on XBOX Live can participate in the development of shows. Bonnie Ross came out to talk about a new television show based on the game Halo and included a video of producer Steven Spielberg -- who will head up the project.

It is clear that this new device is about more than games. But what will this mean for us gamers? After all, in focusing on interconnecting all of these other things together, will that diminish the gaming efforts of what this box was originally intended to do?

Microsoft plans to release 15 games in the first year after launch, including eight brand new IP.

To showcase the gaming capabilities of this box, Microsoft showed off the following games:

  • EA Sports got their own segment to hock their gear. EA Sports Ignite is a gaming environment -- a living world -- and just when they were about to tell us what exactly that means... they spent eight minutes bringing in famous people to hock their brand. Then, when they finally got back, they explained that Ignite will allow players to increase their field of view and use the advanced processing power of the One to play better games. So really, it wasn't an actual announcement as a commercial break. They did show off Madden, NBA, FIFA, and UFC.
  • Phil Spencer took the stage to talk about exclusive content to the XBOX. He showed off FORZA Motorsport 5 (available at launch) and Quantum Break from Remedy Studios -- which was all about showing off particle physics when a freighter on a river slams into a bridge.
  • They ended the conference by showing off Call of Duty: Ghosts -- a game designed to clear out all the design limitations that a sequel would require by starting a brand new version FPS. In fact, the game will run on a brand new engine that takes advantage of the new console's processing power. They brought in the writer from the movie "Traffic" for the single-player campaign. They've also added a "lean" feature, interactive smoke, and interactive terrain and objects. Multiplayer will feature dynamic maps -- meaning that the players can change the maps and the maps can change themselves. Finally, your multiplayer characters will be fully customizable -- you can swap heads, bodies, etc. It will run at 60FPS. They then had a side-by-side comparison of MW3 and the new game. The differences were stark and a great way to show off the graphics capabilities of the new console.

XBOX Live is currently run on 15,000 servers; however they are planning to upgrade to 300,000 servers with the launch of the new box. Another big part that they stressed was the ability to create persistent worlds where limits on number of users connected are increased dramatically.

Launch date: "around the world, later this year". Stay tuned for E3.

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