As ever, take any rumors about unannounced, next-generation video game hardware with a huge grain of salt. Until anything official is unveiled, all this stuff that we’re about to discuss—well, it’s just possibilities and rumors. That said, a number of games press outlets are pointing the way to a post on VGLeaks that purports to have leaked details related to the next-generation of Xbox console from Microsoft. The main thrust of the supposed leak is that the console will require an always-on internet connection, will ditch discs after initial installation, and more credence to the rumors of used game-blocking. Let’s dive in.
The main thrust of the leak surrounds the document at the top of this post that summarizes the various bells and whistles that the next Xbox will provide to developers and users (retyped in full at the bottom of this post). The document says that the console will be “Always On, Always Connected,” referring to the system’s power state and its internet connection. It will “be ready instantly when users want to play, and will always maintain a network connection so that console software and games are always current.”
This really isn’t too shocking—a “sleep” power state isn’t unheard of for most consumer electronics these days, and handheld systems like the PlayStation Vita, 3DS, and even your cell phone all employ power states like this. The always-on part, too, isn’t particularly crazy. Even the lowly Wii had the “always-on” internet connection thing going six years ago, and this document doesn’t make it sound like a requirement. In short, it sounds more like a feature that’ll be really cool for those who can take advantage of it, and not too big a deal for those who can’t (since a considerable number of homes don’t have easy access to broadband internet).
However, the document does point to some bits that don’t sound optional—such as the “new high-fidelity Kinect Sensor, which will be required for the system to operate.” That’s kind of creepy, right? You can’t play your next Xbox without hooking up a high-definition camera in your living room? That’s connected to an always-internet-connected super-computer that lives under your TV? Hmmm…
Then there’s the high-capacity hard drive:
“Every Durango console will have a hard drive, although its exact capacity has not been chosen. It will be large enough, however, to hold a large number of games. All games will be installed on the hard drive. Play from the optical disc will not be supported.”
That’s not so bad, especially when you consider all the games that we routinely play that are installed directly onto consoles. In all probability, you’d still need the disc in the machine to boot up the hard-drive-based game to play it. But this also lends credence to the long-persistent rumors that the console will block—or make difficult—the playing of used games. If a disc is required to play a hard-drive-installed game, and the system is connected to the internet all the time, it’s possible that the network will only allow a certain number of console-installs for a particular disc—kind of how you can’t move your iTunes music to too many devices before having to pay again (or pay a fee or whatever).
Super important: this is all speculative. Even this document, which is purported to be the real deal—albeit from last year, as Eurogamer points out—says nothing one way or the other about used games. Chances are still pretty good in my mind that the console won’t really do much to block their use considering how much money is made for second-hand game retailers, how much Microsoft relies on those retailers for cash, and how poorly used game blocking would go over with them. We’ll simply have to wait and see what happens.
Take a look at the transcribed document below and let us know what you think in the comments. Think this is the real deal? Or just some smoke? The next Xbox will supposedly be unveiled at some event next month…or maybe at E3…or maybe never. Your thoughts?
Additional reporting by Lawrence Sonntag:
Nothing in this document feels technically incorrect, but something rubs me the wrong way about the tone and phrasing of this article. It just doesn’t read like technical documentation, It alternates from trying to convince the reader of how awesome the Durango will be to simply listing the technical capabilities of the device.
Work documentation is usually written for a single purpose. Talking about how users can “quickly and easily enjoy their connected entertainment experiences” feels like something out of a brochure, while the description of the next Kinect is incredibly clinical. Why talk about the user experience in one paragraph but ignore it in the next?
This may sound like splitting hairs, but it gives the whole article a weird vibe.
That said, the bit about blu-ray games requiring an install makes a lot of sense. As evidenced by early PlayStation 3 games (and modern Wii U games), the data transfer speed of a blu-ray disk is WAY too low to accommodate a modern game. Requiring hard drive installs for every game makes sense, and it’s the one thing in this document that is “new” information. That’s the only bit about this doc that helps me think it’s legit.
The Durango console is designed to offer game developers modern hardware that is more powerful than the Xbox 360. It uses a familiar x64 architecture and tools, and compared with Xbox 360 development, will reduce development time and effort spent on performance optimization. Hardware accelerators, including ‘move engines’ for common tasks, will be added to the console. Move engines can perform common game tasks like compression and decompression while moving data around the system. The console also has dedicated hardware support for common audio processing tasks that reduce the amount of CPU time that must be devoted to audio. The GPU provides considerable computing power, and supports Direct3D 11.
Durango will implement different power states so that it can always be powered on, but will draw minimal electricity when not in u se. The console will be ready instantly when users want to play, and will always maintain a network connection so that console software and games are always current. With this ‘Always On, Always Connected’ design, users will quickly and easily enjoy their connected entertainment experiences, with no waiting for the console to restart or install updates.
Every Durango console will be sold with a new high-fidelity Kinect Sensor, which will be required for the system to operate. The console will provide HD video, and will use new depth sensor technology to provide better screen resolution and less noisy depth data. Active infrared illumination will provide high-quality monochrome images even in low ambient light conditions. A wider field of view allows play in smaller spaces, and removes the need for a tilt motor.
System software will offer a full set of system API for Natural User Interface (NUI) and the API set will be an improvement to the corresponding API used by Xbox 360. Skeleton tracking, identity, and other NUI functions will be performed by the system, and for that reason, titles no longer need to allocate title resources to the NUI.
The Durango controller will make the best-in-class Xbox 360 controller even better. It will have low-latency wireless connectivity to the console, and improved ergonomics. System interactions that use the controller will be simplified to make them easier for noncore gamers.
Every Durango console will have a hard drive, although its exact capacity has not been chosen. It will be large enough, however, to hold a large number of games. All games will be installed on the hard drive. Play from the optical disc will not be supported.
Durango consoles will have a Blu-ray Disc drive. Disc media will be used for distribution, but during gameplay, games will not use content from the optical disc. An installation system is being designed that will allow gamers to begin playing while the game is being installed on the hard drive rather than waiting until installation is complete.
Audio output from Durango will be all digital—7.1 discrete PCM output through HDMI and S/PDIF. Hardware accelerators will be included for decoding and decompressing common audio formats. There also will be a dedicated sound processor to perform common signal processing in hardware.