Microsoft is set to finally unveil the next Xbox tonight after years of speculation regarding what form the next generation console will take.
But what can we expect from the new hardware? Below we have put together a list of all the biggest rumours accumulated over the last few years – all in one place.
Will Microsoft’s new console really feature an always-on requirement to allow the console to function? What does Microsoft have in store with Kinect 2.0? Will it launch this year?
Take a look below to see what you could expect from Microsoft’s next-gen hardware.
As expected, the next Xbox is set to be substantially more powerful than its predecessor, the Xbox 360.
A report from IGN in January last year suggested that the next Xbox’s GPU would be based on AMD’s 6000 series, and would be six times more powerful than the Xbox 360.
Sources “close to the project” also claimed it would be 20 per cent more powerful in terms of performance than the Nintendo Wii U, and would support DirectX 11 3D and a 1080p HD output.
A report by VGleaks in January this year, stated that the next Xbox would feature an eight-core CPU from AMD running at 1.6GHz. It said the hardware would also include 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a factor that allegedly encouraged Sony to double the PS4’s own RAM count from 4GB.
The GPU is said to be a custom D3D11.1 class 800-MHz graphics processor with 12 shader cores for a total of 768 threads, supposedly capable of 1.2 trillion floating-point operations per second at peak.
In addition to the 8GB of DDR3 at 68 GB/s, it claimed the console - believed to be codenamed 'Durango' - has 32MB of ESRAM at 102 GB/s in a parallel bandwidth to system memory from the perspective of the GPU, resulting in a total peak bandwidth of 170 GB/s.
The report also stated the hardware has a Blu-ray player and will, of course, support Microsoft's Kinect motion control system in addition to Wi-Fi and Ethernet.
The heated debate and furor surrounding the 'always-on' component of the next Xbox has been the subject of much tension during the last year, an issue which Microsoft itself has never broken its silence on, despite the potential negative impact of such a strategy.
Edge reported in February that sources “with first-hand experience of Microsoft’s next generation console” had told them the new Xbox would require a constant internet connection to work, a claim subsequently backed up by numerous other publications. Without this, it was said the console would not function.
In fact, in what was such a touchy subject, when Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth spoke out on the matter last month by stating “I don’t get the drama around always-on”, he shortly left the studio after a giant internet backlash against his support of constant internet connectivity.
Shortly after however, multiple sources speaking to Polygon claimed that the always-on requirement would not be as stringent as had been feared, and that it would be up to publishers to decide whether their games required a constant internet connection or a one-time authentication, which would not be a requirement set by Microsoft.
Earlier this month however, in a memo obtained by Ars Technica, rumoured to have been sent to all employees working on the new Xbox, Microsoft said the console would not require a constant internet connection to run.
The memo stated that many features on the hardware would in fact work regardless of a connection, such as a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV and playing single-player games.
The rumoured always-on functionality of the next Xbox has also led to speculation that Microsoft would use it to effectively kill off the second-hand market by requiring authentication codes. The reports were later reaffirmed in March by VGLeaks.
Should Microsoft’s next Xbox require online functionality to run and effectively block second-hand game purchases, it could likely be met with a backlash from consumers already up in arms over a similar always-online requirement for EA’s SimCity.
If true, it will also be interesting to see whether the always online connectivity will also act as a form of DRM, particularly given that games can only be installed from discs, rather than played or streamed from the internet. It is also unclear how the prevention of a second-hand market would sit with current laws on ownership.
It is expected that, as well as unveiling its next generation Xbox, Microsoft will also unveil the next step in motion sensing, Kinect 2.0.
Leaked in presentation slides from a purported August 2010 meeting posted on Scribd last year, the successor to Kinect is expected to have better accuracy and cater for four-player tracking, while the next Xbox could also adopt augmented reality and 3D glasses codenamed ‘Fortaleza’ for the Kinect and motion gaming.
Serial next-gen console leak website VGLeaks said the new Kinect would featured higher depth accuracy and an increased field of view to allow play in larger spaces and differing room sizes.
Revealing a number of specs, the report also said the peripheral now possessed a 70-degree horizontal and 60-degree vertical field of view, compared to 57.6 and 43.5 on the current iteration. It also claimed that unlike earlier reports, up to six players would now be able to use the Kinect at once.
You can find the all the leaked specs below.
KINECT 2 SPECS
Field of View: 70˚ horizontal by 60˚ vertical
Resolvable Depth: 0.8 m -> 4.0 m
Colour Stream: 1920 x 1080 x 16 bpp 16:9 YUY2 @ 30 fps
Depth Stream: 512 x 424 x 16 bpp, 13-bit depth
Infrared Stream: 512 x 424, 11-bit dynamic range
Registration: Colour <-> depth and active IR
Audio Capture: 4-mic array returning 48K Hz audio
Data Path: USB 3.0
Latency: ~60 ms with processing
Tilt Motor: No tilt motor
Sources speaking to Kotaku in February claimed that Kinect 2 will play a more integral role in the new Xbox than it did on the Xbox 360, where it acted as an optional peripheral.
A source, who goes by the name of ‘SuperDaE’, known for trying to sell a Durango development kit on eBay, said that the Kinect 2 would need to be plugged in to the console for it to be fully functional.
Games and Entertainment
EA is expected to make strong showing at tonight’s reveal, after a being a notable omission from Sony’s PS4 reveal. Games such as FIFA and a new UFC are expected, as well as a number of other EA titles.
Earlier this year, two sources speaking to CVG said EA is to announce a “key exclusivity agreement” with Microsoft for the next Xbox. The sources however did not reveal what this new partnership would mean and that exact details of any exclusive releases.
Two more sources “familiar with the game” later told Kotaku that new EA studio Respawn Entertainment, formed by Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vincent Zampella, were set to announce their debut title, a futuristic multiplayer-focused shooter, as an exclusive for the next Xbox.
The report did however indicate that the game could be a timed exclusive, but “neither source indicated that was the case”.
Microsoft also houses a number of its own studios, such as UK developers Rare and Lionhead, which could reveal new games tonight. The computing giant may not show all of its cards however, with some titles instead showcased at E3 next month.
As well as showing off games, Microsoft has recently been paving the way for the Xbox to turn into an entertainment hub, as well as a gaming machine.
One of its biggest moves into this area was the opening of Xbox Entertainment Studios in LA back in February, putting it in little doubt that the console giant was gunning to be a central part of the entire living room entertainment experience, not just in gaming.
The new studio will be responsible for creating original content for Xbox and other platforms, as well as overseeing live interactive events.
Throughout 2013, the computing giant said it planned to launch more than 40 new voice-controlled customised TV and entertainment apps for Xbox.
The new studio will be headed by Microsoft president of entertainment and digital media Nancy Tellem, who will also oversee live event programming for Xbox Live.
Launch date and price
With the PS4 set to launch later this year, it is expected the next Xbox will also launch during the holiday period as Microsoft looks to ensure Sony doesn’t steal an inch of ground in the next-gen console race.
It has been rumoured as far back as March 2012 that the next Xbox would launch in 2013, although more recent speculation has suggested that it will be released around November.
It is not currently clear however, like the PS4, whether the next Xbox will launch in November worldwide, or just in certain regions.
On price, Technology blogger Paul Thurrott, who previously revealed the next Xbox would be unveiled on May 21st before its confirmation, said he expected the console to retail for $499.
He also suggested however that a $299 version of the hardware that requires a two-year Xbox Live Gold subscription could also be launched.