The online world is already ablaze discussing the ins and outs of Microsoft’s next generation Xbox console, dubbed Xbox 720. In this article we take a look at what’s true and what’s not, which features should make it into the Xbox 720 and bunk the fears surrounding the Xbox 720. So, without further ado, here goes.
1. Is the Xbox 720 already in development?
Yes, it is. Microsoft has already begun work on developing the Xbox 720. In an interview with EGM, Peter Moore, Ex boss of Interactive Entertainment Division at Microsoft, confirmed that “the production team from the Xbox 360 is working on the next Xbox 720 [our pet name], and they’re looking into what kind of CPUs will be available on the market in 2011-2012″. In fact, development on the Xbox 720 might have been going on for longer than we think, as Robbie Bach, the President of Entertainment & Devices Division at Microsoft, said, “We started thinking about the next generation before we shipped the Xbox 360″. So, we can be dead certain that the X720 is already in development.
2. When will it be released?
In the same interview with EGM, Peter Moore said that “they’re looking into what kind of CPUs will be available on the market in 2011-2012″. That’s 6-7 years since the release of the Xbox 360, so, it’s a fairly safe bet that the Xbox 720 will be released sometime in 2012. And they want to be first at it again. Talking with Venture Beat, Robbie Bach said, “if you take the question of whether it was the right thing to try to be first [with Xbox 360], the answer to that is definitely yes”. That is the reason why Microsoft was able to compete better with Sony and have a leg up on the competition. It has given them an advantage with game developers as they quickly familiarized with the 360 hardware. Robbie Bach added, “if you asked if we wanted to be first again, I would say yes”.
3. Will Microsoft pull the plug on the Xbox 360 once the 720 ships?
Many fear that when the Xbox 720 ships, Microsoft will drop support for the 360 much like what they did with the original Xbox. This doesn’t make sense in so many ways. From a business perspective, Microsoft will keep selling the Xbox 360 as long as there is a demand for it. That’s because they made a serious investment in the X360 and want to recoup the costs and hopefully make a profit with the 360. I believe that Microsoft is going to pursue a policy like that of Sony’s, selling the 360 side-by-side with the 720 at a greatly reduced price. The 360 will have a great library of games by then, and it will be hugely popular with gamers.
4. The Xbox 720 will be more “family-friendly” and cater to a more casual audience
Everybody has seen it. Everyone knows that’s where the money lies. Microsoft is sure going to target a slice of Nintendo’s market with their 720. We are going to see more and more games geared towards casual gamers, and the much hyped about motion sensing controller. But that doesn’t mean we hardcore gamers will be left out in the cold, because we are the root of Microsoft and the original Xbox. The Xbox 720 is obviously going to feature a motion sensing, Wii-like family friendly controller. I guess this controller (code named Newton) will also be released for the 360 and a much more improved version will debut for the 720.
5. Include an internal Blu-Ray drive
The main reason why Microsoft didn’t include a built-in next-generation drive with the X360 was because they weren’t sure which format would win at the end. They didn’t want their customers to complain to be stuck with an obsolete piece of hardware (I’m not looking at those who bought the HD-DVD add-on). Sony included the Blu-Ray drive with their PS3 because they are a strong supporter of the format and to boost PS3 sales, much like the DVD player with the PS2. They made a huge gamble and it paid off.
Microsoft would be a fool not to include a Blu-Ray disc player with their X720. It’s the standard format now and DVDs will head to obsolescence because there is no way next-generation games can fit on a mere 4.7 GB disc. Hopefully the internal Blu-Ray drive will be backwards compatible with DVDs and CDS because people don’t want to be stuck with a huge library of games that they can’t play on their next-gen console.
6. Better backward compatibility
The Xbox 360 is a huge success and it has a solid library of games. And by 2012, that library will get even better. Why will anyone upgrade if they can’t play their old collections? That is why there will be better backward compatibility with the Xbox 720. And don’t think that backward compatibility isn’t important. It is. That’s the same reason why people still download Xbox originals over Xbox Live.
7. HDMI and Wi-Fi will be built in
The Xbox 360 Elite already has HDMI and in 2012, Wi-Fi will be a standard and so, it should be built into the Xbox 720. The PS3 already has a built in Wi-Fi Ethernet and Bluetooth.
8. A 4.7GHz CPU on the Xbox 720? It could happen
The Xbox 720 could feature something similar to Sony’s Cell-like processor. But will Microsoft invest in something like that? We already have four cores on today’s PC. They might not have to look farther than their partnership with IBM. IBM has already developed a dual core 4.7GHz server CPU, dubbed the Power6. Who’s to say that Microsoft won’t put it into their X720? Those extra GHz could go towards assisting the GPU and more realistic AI. Looks like Microsoft’s partnership with IBM is finally paying off.
9. Stringent and better anti-piracy features
Xbox Live will be a standard by the time the 720 ships. And by 2012 we will take the Internet for granted and almost everyone will have a net connection in their homes. Microsoft can use this to their advantage and include a proprietary technology, much like Valve’s Steam. You have to activate your game over Xbox Live before you can play it. Sure, people still might not have Internet then and that’s why Microsoft needs to make sure to have an “offline” mode. But you have to activate your games out of the box before you play it.
10. Achievements will be carried over to the X720
This is a no-brainier. Xbox Live is platform independent, and erasing hundreds of hours worth of achievement points just for upgrading to the next-generation will be a bad move by Microsoft. Xbox Live gamercard is universal and, hopefully, we will have your achievements and friends list intact when we upgrade to the 720.
Enough of this already! When can I get more concrete details?
Much of this article is based on rumors and assumptions, although quite a few might hold out to be true. We can learn about more solid details on the Xbox 720 somewhere in early 2010, as it approaches the release date. As Robbie Bach said, “stuff doesn’t become concrete until you get inside a window of when you have to ship, more than 18 months or so out”. So, until then, we just have to hold on to our seats and hope that Microsoft doesn’t make a mess of the Xbox 720. And, as always, the Internet is already there for new gossips, rumors and speculations .