It’s been almost eight years since Microsoft’s Xbox 360 made its debut, and as excitement builds up ahead of the release of its successor, the Xbox 720, the rumour floodgates have poured open with speculation as to what new features the device may entail.
|Microsoft Xbox 720 rumoured to need next-gen Kinect to play|
Kinect to Connect
One of the most recent developments concerns the apparent leak of two Xbox 720 development kits, together with new documents detailing the specifications of Microsoft’s next-generation console, which has been codenamed Durango. Speaking to the Kotaku.com website, the source of the leak also provided details of the console’s new Kinect motion control feature, revealing that the Durango will feature this technology as standard, and will require it to be plugged in and calibrated for the device to work.
This news is likely to be welcomed by developers, who have suffered headaches from designing Xbox 360 games and having to decide whether or not to implement Kinect, given that millions of console owners don’t have access to the technology. With Kinect now being mandatory, developers will be able to focus on designing games with Kinect in full knowledge that everyone can play them.
Elsewhere, some of the most exciting developments concern console’s sensor technology. The latest version of Kinect is reported to be able to track up to six users in the room simultaneously, while the peripheral camera will be able to read facial expressions to gauge player’s emotions, and track player’s thumbs independently, allowing it to identify whether or not their hand is open or closed. It’ll be up to the developers themselves to integrate these new features with their games, but the possibilities for immersive gaming with this kind of sensor technology are little short of amazing, if the rumours are true.
Forced Game Installs
According to the leak, another new mandatory feature on the Xbox 720 is that all games must be installed on the machine for them to work. With the older Xbox 360, gamers could choose whether or not to install a game onto their hard drive – but it looks as if Durango will no longer give users this choice. Obviously this is going to take up a fair amount of space on the new machine, which is precisely why Microsoft if preparing to pack a 500GD HDD inside the Durango.
One of the benefits of having all games installed on the hard drive will be the ability to run multiple games simultaneously. This is common on PCs and smartphones, but for a console this would represent a first. According to the leaked documents, gamers will be able to pause one game by putting it in ‘suspend’ or ‘constrained’ mode, switch to a second game, and then return to the first game later on without needing to save their progress.
The documents also gave away the Durango’s specifications, giving us a clear idea of the power that these new consoles are likely to pack. Kotaku.com reports that the Xbox 720 will run on custom hardware featuring an 8-core, 64 bit CPU, 1.6GHz processor. In addition, the system also packs 800mhz Direct X 11.x GPU, comes with a 50GB optical disc drive and 8GB of DDR3 memory, in addition to its 500GB HDD. Durango will come with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, an Ethernet connection, stereo for 3D content, with both HDMI and optical audio connections that can support up to 7.1 channels.
Anti-Piracy Measures Unlikely
There were a few things that the leaked documents did not touch upon, including the rather worrisome reports from last week that suggested the Xbox 720 will incorporate technology that makes it impossible to play second-hand games. Neither was there any mention of the requirement for a constant internet connection in order to be able to play games. In our view, neither of these developments are likely to be true, simply because the majority of gamers would be unwilling to purchase a platform that prevents them from swapping/selling older games, or restricts their enjoyment in any other way.
Kotaku.com points out that its source is a bit of an unusual one, but he has been proved right on several occasions in the past. Given that he has made no outlandish claims in his latest disclosure, there’s no reason to doubt the veracity of them, although nothing can be confirmed or discounted.
However, we may not have to wait much longer to find out anyway, with Microsoft rumoured to be planning an Apple-style media briefing sometime next month, possibly during the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference. Such an announcement seems even more likely in light of Sony’s announcement that it plans to reveal the PlayStation 4 at a special event scheduled for the 20th of February.