Up until now, we've heard all sorts of rumours surrounding Microsoft's next-fen console codenamed 'Durango'. But in a rather curious finding, if you head over to Major Nelson's blog, you'd find a countdown timer ticking towards E3 2013 with the words "And it's on..." written above it. Currently, it stands at 157 days and some odd hours from now.
Well, it isn't Microsoft's best kept secret considering we've known for quite sometime that the software giant indeed is planning to launch the next generation Xbox console and we'd say it's about time. Though the timer isn't highly indicative of the fact that it will be unveiled at E3, but let's face it, why else would Microsoft be so excited about E3?
Microsoft wants the next Xbox on store shelves by the holiday season this year and it would make sense for the company to launch the console at E3. Two months ago Bloomberg reported that this in fact is true citing "people familiar with the company's plans". It mentioned that the company's roadmap is still confidential but the new console can be expected around Thanksgiving.
In June last year, a leaked Xbox presentation spanning 56 pages revealed some interesting details regarding the Xbox 720. The console might include Blu-Ray support, be capable of playing 1080p HD movies, 3D viewing and an 'always on' state mode for faster start up speeds. Power is expected to be beefed up 6 times compared to the current Xbox.
Processor wise, Microsoft is currently debating between two options - use six or eight ARM cores or x86 cores clocked at 2GHz each with 4GB RAM. These would be put alongside 3 PPC cores clocked at 3.2GHz each to enable backwards compatibility with current Xbox 360 titles. Earlier speculations have also hinted at a quad-core Intel processor.
The document also mentioned the next generation Kinect, termed as Kinect V2 that is expected to include a host of new features such as better accuracy, stereo imaging, improved voice recognition, a better RGB camera and dedicated hardware processing. The key highlight among these seems to be support for four player tracking and Kinect props. Players will experience closer, wider and deeper 3D play space.
Further, Microsoft plans on introducing Kinect Glasses codenamed Fortaleza, which will be Wi-Fi or 4G-enabled and will feature augmented reality technology similar to the Google Glass project. As per a roadmap, the Fortaleza glasses, which will also incorporate cell radio, are planned for a 2014 launch.
The question is will Microsoft have two versions of the Xbox? The document mentions that the Xbox 720 is being positioned as "All Your Entertainment. One Box." This means it would provide TV recording functionality and a Windows 8 base suggests easy development of apps across the console, PC and Windows phone as well. The company predicts a 10-year life cycle for the console along with sales of over 100 million units.
The Verge earlier reported that according to "multiple sources familiar with Redmond's plans" the company plans to bring an affordable alternative to the Xbox console that will provide access to core entertainment services. It will feature Windows 8 OS and support casual gaming titles and not full Xbox games as typically found on a dedicated console.
More recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft has acquired a promising startup, R2 Studios that has worked on home-entertainment technology. Is it possible that the studio's technology could be implemented in the next Xbox powered by Kinect 2? We're not ignoring it completely.
If Microsoft plants to introduce its next-generation console at E3, it won't be the only one. Sony is also in the race for the PlayStation 4. For all we know, we could get some details of Sony's next-generation console at its Destination PlayStation event. Nintendo, on the other hand is already ahead of the curb with the Wii U, but it hasn't really been a hit with the masses so far.
If Sony reveals its console, Microsoft can look forward to some stiff competition, else it might continue to dominate holiday sales just like it did last year. All eyes are on E3 later this year where we will hopefully get to see all rumours and speculations finally put to to rest.