The race towards the next-generation is heating up, and whether or not Sony or Microsoft will acknowledge it, gamers will get their first tastes of their next home consoles in just a few short weeks with Sony’s “see the future” press event in New York City. Out of Kotaku comes a huge expose exploring some of the options developers are playing with in regards to the Xbox 720/ Xbox Durango (henceforth referred to as simply ‘Durango’).
We already knew a ton about the innards of the machine, powered by a custom AMD APU, but we didn’t really know about mandatory game installations, forced Kinect connectivity, a tweaked controller and the ability to run multiple games at once. If even 50% of these new ‘facts’ are true things are going to be mighty interesting come this fall.
Game Installs & Storage
Gone will be the tiered Pro & Core model introduced with the Xbox 360 and replaced with a standard 500GB system configuration. One of the greatest things about the Xbox 360, in my opinion, was the ability to play games right off the disc. Not only did it provide a lower cost alternative to those who may not want to get their feet wet in the digital infrastructure, but it also made the system modular and upgradable as consumer demand for space increased.
From a development standpoint, the consistent hardware means that all games are developed for the optimal system configuration. Games will no longer run from the game disc, despite the 50 GB capacity, but will instead in sections on the hard drive. This means that a player could conceivably install the first few chapters of a linear game and play them off the hard disc without noticing the rest of the game installing silently in the background. With such a solution problems that have plagued the PS3, long multi-gigabyte installs (see: Metal Gear Solid 4), shouldn’t be an issue.
Another new ability for the Durango, is the opportunity to run more than one game or application at a time. This means that while a game is running you’ll have access to more than just achievements, chat and messages. Conceivably you could play an episode of South Park on Netflix while Halo 5 is paused on your Durango. This isn’t world shattering – as modern SmartPhones have been able to do this for a while, but it is a welcome change in terms of the Xbox.
The Coming Kinect Controversy
I’m calling it right now, on Feb 12 2013, there will be an uproar, at least online, if Microsoft introduces mandatory Kinect integration and connectivity. This means that in order to use the console you are going to have to have the Kinect V2 sensor plugged in at all times. The idea is that, like the mandatory hard drive, this provides with developers even ground in terms of every Durango in the wild. I’m sure some gamers, advocacy groups and fringe groups are going to have a field day with the idea of our gaming sessions being constantly observed by multiple cameras. This is especially true if the “always on” DRM rumors are accurate.
As expected, new abilities have been added to the Kinect V2, including increased resolution of the primary camera (full 1080P versus Standard-Def), hand & thumb detection and reading facial expressions for emotion. Supposedly the console will also be able to identify which player is playing a game, and not just sign you into the correct profile like the current Kinect can.
There are lots more details in Kotaku’s article, I highly recommend you check it out. If some of this stuff is true I am sure we’ll hear a lot of different opinions, both offline and on, regarding the protection of rights, DRM and the like. With all of the technology leaps the Durango is about to bring, it is also treading some new, dangerous territory.
Sony’s PS4 is expected to be unveiled at the “See the Future” event on Feb 20 in New York City. Currently Microsoft is rumored to be unveiling the Durango sometime during E3.