Microsoft will unveil its new Xbox on Tuesday. It’s been eight years since the powerhouse Xbox debuted, so what can we expect from the next generation gaming console? Here’s our best thoughts:
Power and speed – The obvious – expect the new Xbox to be faster and more powerful. It will have better sound, better graphics and better cameras. It’s widely expected that the new console will use AMD-made core components. The next Xbox will reportedly have 8GB (or perhaps 12GB) of DDR3 RAM, and a GPU comparable in power to the AMD Radeon 7000-series.
PC system architecture – Watch for the new Xbox to use x86 system architecture, which is what the same CPU type used in Windows computers. This will make things easier for developers as they can port games between the Xbox, PS4 (which now uses x86 architecture) and your computer.
Controller – Don’t expect big changes in the controller. We expect better battery life, and perhaps some quick ‘share’ type options as well.
Blu-ray – Microsoft has had great success by including a Blu-ray player in the Xbox. Expect that to continue.
Deeper Windows integration – The next Xbox will likely leverage other Microsoft products and services. Microsoft’s SmartGlass app already allows mobile phones and tablets to become a second screen that can interact with an Xbox 360, turning those devices into remotes that can play, pause, rewind, or advance videos. Don’t be surprised to see deeper integration into the Xbox with Windows PCs and tablets, as well as Windows Phone devices.
Multimedia – Expect the Xbox to continue to offer services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. There are also rumors it could have a TV tuner and DVR. The latter items offer something attractive to people looking to cut the cable cord.
Skype – Microsoft may include Skype integration in the new Xbox (Microsoft bought Skype a couple of years ago).
Release date and pricing – Expect the new Xbox to ready for Christmas 2013. The console will cost $499, or $299 if you buy a two-year Xbox Live Gold subscription (which costs $10/mo).
In summary, expect Microsoft to push the borders of what an Xbox is used for. Console gaming has seen a marked decline, and the Xbox can’t just be a one trick pony. Microsoft knows this. Sure, they’ll beef up the gaming system – more memory and power and so forth. But watch for the Xbox to continue to evolve into more of an entertainment system that can play DVDs, stream services, play and record TV, and make phone calls. It’s a natural (and needed) evolution for the Xbox.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.