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The New Xbox: Rumours and Opinions

xbox-720 console

With the Wii U on the shelves and everything but the box revealed about the PlayStation 4, only one console company is left to show their hand: Microsoft. And the date they have set for this auspicious announcement is May 21st, just under a month away. So I thought we would all wait patiently for what they are going to reveal, instead of maddening ourselves by examining wild rumours – half of which are likely already debunked and the other half blown out of proportion.

Or… we could just go through it all again for the heck of it. Yeah let’s do that.

Rumour: The release date is sometime before the end of the year, likely before Christmas.

Opinion: This is just common sense. When launching a new console, you want to get all your eggs in that Christmas basket, and with the arms race between Sony and Microsoft reaching killing spree levels of competitiveness – you can bet that neither side is going to let that window slip by. Other than that I can’t really say, it could be anywhere from October to December 24th (earlier than that seems unlikely to me, what with E3 launching info in June that would only leave a handful of months to promote the concepts displayed).

Rumour: There will be two versions. An entertainment model, with all of the functions of the Xbox without the traditional gaming component (see: a very dumbed down computer) and a traditional all features included model.

Opinion: While early rumours hinted at this, frankly it’s a stupid idea and the latest word on the web says Microsoft abandoned it months ago. While I may look at the occasional video on my Xbox or click on a competition or news story from time to time, personally I am decades away from using it as a my go-to source for all media. If you are then that’s great, but this is never really taking over the PC in terms of accessibility – and that’s something Microsoft needs to learn sooner rather than later.

Rumour: It will be cheaper than the last generation, around $300-500 as opposed to the original $700 or so for the 360.

Opinion: This would almost have to be a fact. After the Wii crippled the last generation in sales (at the beginning anyway) people realised that there was no need to pay $1000 just for the latest gaming machine on the market (I’m looking at you PS3). Development costs have also gone down, especially when it comes to hardware, so it’s easier for them to build cheaper and yet more powerful consoles and then pass those savings onto the consumer. This is practically a given at this point.

Rumour: It won’t be backwards compatible.

Opinion: This would be a stupid move, but unfortunately it’s consistent with what gaming companies including Microsoft have done in the past. The fact remains that the majority of their consumers already own the previous generation, and so investing capital into backwards compatibility that could be redirected elsewhere is a touchy move at the best of times. As much as I would love for this to be a given so I could stop lugging a million consoles around every time I move house, I’d say the odds are 50/50 at best.

Rumour: It will be only be named “Xbox” and will be referred to as “the New Xbox” in marketing material.

Opinion: Once again this is just stupid enough to be true. There seems to be a growing opinion in every developer except Sony (you ride that numerical pony you magnificent bastards) that new or edgy names are what captures people attention. Personally I think it makes your console confuse people, which is why people are still asking me if the Wii U is an expansion pack for the Wii 6 months after release. I’d prefer it to be called “Xbox 720” or “NeXtbox” or “Xbox 8” or “Xbox Loop” or any one of the other names which have cropped up over the last couple years (not “Durango” please) but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we don’t get a cop out.

Rumour: It will be “Always Online”.

Opinion: This is looking like even more bad news. When you hear the same words from a myriad of mouths it’s hard to honestly believe they are all incorrect, and all sorts of people have been whispering the words “always online” over the last few months for me to ignore. From the Microsoft Studios Twitter meltdown recently defending the idea to Microsoft’s complete silence on the matter, it’s strongly looking like there is truth to the rumour. Now, what exactly “always online” means is a completely different matter. Does it mean if you drop your internet connection the box turns off? You need to be online to play offline games? Or is it a PR rebranding of the current system where user accounts can’t access a lot of features without some sort of internet availability? Personally I think we will end up with shades of grey (not the book) on this term, and I find it hard to believe it will be an open and shut case. I guess May 21st has the answer to this one, and I’ll wait with baited breath.

So there you are, a few of the main rumours about the new Xbox (now I’m saying it…) to whet your appetite in the face of the coming announcement.

Will my opinions prove correct? Well of course I think so, otherwise they wouldn’t be my opinions. Duh.

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