The new Xbox is almost here; we just have to wait a little longer for the public unveiling. But we don’t have to wait anymore too see what’s under the hood.
Microsoft had a pretty busy booth during PAX East, but I was still able to talk to several reps about their upcoming system. They were able to confirm some details, including when it will be revealed, a price, and some specs.
Let’s start with the good news. Like Sony, Microsoft will be holding their own press event to announce the system. It will happen during April at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. We can expect details for the next Call of Duty, Alan Wake 2, and a new Perfect Dark game from Rare. Now, before you get your hopes up concerning that last game, I have some sad news: it will be a Kinect-heavy experience, which makes sense since Kinect is an integral part for the Xbox’s strategy.
You read that right, the new Xbox system is simply called “Xbox.” No Xbox 720, Xbox 2, or Nextbox. The name is simple and familiar.
“We already have the core market locked up, so the name Xbox will be more than comfortable for the hardcore crowd,” said one Microsoft rep during PAX East. “By having the name simply be Xbox, we hope to make newcomers feel just as comfortable. You already use the word to play a movie or music with Kinect, so why not make the system’s name just that one word?”
As expected, the Xbox will be far more powerful than the Wii U. But what wasn’t expected was just how powerful it will be. NVIDIA has been a bit standoffish about their support for the PS4; now we know why. Inside each Xbox will be a NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan, an Intel Core i7 I7-3770K 3.5 GHz processor, and a whopping 12 gigs of DDR3 RAM; this thing is an absolute beast, but why beef up the console so much?
“As much as we hate to admit it, there’s a new competitor on the horizon. One that lives in our backyard and is extremely popular with the hardcore crowd.” The Microsoft rep is, of course, talking about Valve, who is planning to enter the console market in the near future. “One thing we have in our favor, though, is experience in terms of the console market, as well as packaging all of this power in a small, sleek-looking console.”
Obviously, there’s some concern regarding the price of such a powerful console. I was told not to expect something similar to the PS3’s original price point; $399 was hinted at as a starting point, but $499 would seem to be the better option as the higher SKU will likely have a more reasonable hard drive.
“I’d understand the concerns gamers would have about offering a price point like that, especially the consumer crowd,” the rep explained. “But we have to find middle ground somewhere. Yes, we’re obviously losing money on the hardware, but we feel that it’s set at a comfortable price point. We’re also confident we’ll make up the differences in terms of software sales.” Hints were made at a higher game cost. While I couldn’t get any concrete details, it’s looking like we’ll be paying $64.99 for our games next generation.
There are, of course, a couple of concerns that I personally have. How will such a large price point resonate with the casual crowd? “We’re currently working on a third SKU,” the rep mentioned. “It’s essentially an enhanced 360 with a built in Kinect. Think of it as a lower-grade PC, while the Xbox is the high end of the spectrum. You’ll be able to play the newer games on the model, but you won’t be getting the full experience.”
There’s another concern of mine: The system will indeed require a constant Internet connection to play games. There wasn’t any mention of anti-used game technology, but there would be a verification process to ensure that discs are indeed legitimate. So while always-on is coming to Xbox, we’ll still be able to play our used games at least.
We’ll know more about the Xbox, very, very soon. But for now, it’s nice to finally have some concrete details.
Date: April 1, 2013