Some Thoughts and Speculation on the Next Xbox

Bill Loguidice's picture

On Tuesday, May 21, we'll have the next Xbox announcement. Nintendo has obviously already played their hand with the Wii U, an intriguing, but possibly failed gamble on a mix of current gen technology with tablet paradigms, and Sony has shown much of what they'll be offering with the PS4, a "social" next gen console that emphasizes its access speed for everything from updates to getting to play games/demos without much, if any, delay. Interestingly, Microsoft was first out of the gate this current generation, but will be last to make their announcement thanks to positive momentum in the past few years (everywhere except Japan, of course).

In any case, the rumor mill has been quite active, obviously, with the usual mix of thoughtful and not-so-thoughtful claims. You can read all about those elsewhere, but here are my thoughts on what is and isn't likely:

Solid bets:
- Windows 8 core (makes sense and will offer quite a few benefits with few downsides--for all the bitching about the new interface, the core technology is stable and runs well on modest hardware)
- Price, $299.99 with a two year Xbox LIVE Gold membership, or $499.99 without one. In a world where we've become accustomed to signing contracts for everything from alarm systems to cable service to smartphones, it makes sense to susidize expensive new hardware with something that frankly you would need to maximize the new console anyway. For those who hate that idea, you simply pay more and you're free and clear. No big deal, but I bet you'll end up getting an Xbox LIVE Gold membership anyway.
- Blu-ray
- No backwards compatibility (see below for more on that)

Reasonable speculation:
- A next generation Kinect will be bundled in with every system. The only way this wouldn't work is if costs would be too high, but at $300 - $500, there's probably wiggle room for a $99 retail device to be included. Kinect improvements would include higher resolution, less latency, and more sensors, which would probably finally realize most of the original sensor's potential combined with the beefier technology in the console itself.
-The controversial "always on" requirement for an active Internet connection will be left up to the individual developer/publisher. We're already quite used to this (Steam as one example), and the current Xbox 360 already requires such a check for playing Indie games.
- 1080p 60FPS base target, except for 3D-enabled content.
- A slight redesign to the current Xbox 360 controller, with a better d-pad and perhaps a PS4-like touchpad in the middle. No Wii U-like screen.

My wild guess/hope:
- We already know there's going to be a cost reduced, redesigned $99 Xbox 360 to provide the backwards compatibility needs for those who are vocal about wanting it (as well as of course, a more competitively priced media box). Personally, I think this is where Microsoft can innovate the most. What if said $99 console snapped onto the side of the next Xbox and used the same power connector (like the Kinect does with the current Xbox 360 models) and audio-video connection? It could be detected much like the old HD-DVD drive and accessible just like any other add-on. This way you'd have backwards compatibility without sacrificing any of the next gen power of the new Xbox (just like Sony's clean break with the PS4). If you don't need it or already have an Xbox 360 or two, you simply don't bother with the extra expense.

Anyway, those are my thoughts based on the presently available information. I'd love to hear what you think, so sound off in the comments!

#XboxReveal

After the big reveal, we'll see how we all did...

Comments

Ken Gagne (not verified)
Not bad

Without knowing how feasible your wild guess is, I like the idea. Most of my Xbox 360 gives are downloadable titles, and being able to bring them with me to the next generation is important.

I hope the price is cheaper than you propose, though. I didn't buy the original 360 until I could get one with a hard drive for under $300. The console came out in 2005, and I didn't buy one until 2008. Neither of the price models you suggest fall within that budget.

Matt Barton
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Price

Ken Gagne wrote:
Without knowing how feasible your wild guess is, I like the idea. Most of my Xbox 360 gives are downloadable titles, and being able to bring them with me to the next generation is important. I hope the price is cheaper than you propose, though. I didn't buy the original 360 until I could get one with a hard drive for under $300. The console came out in 2005, and I didn't buy one until 2008. Neither of the price models you suggest fall within that budget.

Agreed. I would never spend that much on a console, especially when you know that waiting a few months will likely result in a $50 price drop at min. You're always better off waiting at least 3 months for the price drop and more competitive bundle options.

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Bill Loguidice
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I certainly understand the

I certainly understand the desire for a "good deal" or a "budget price," but the reality is that's not what happens when consoles get released and certainly not for some time thereafter. In the case of the Next Xbox (whatever it's going to be called), it will be almost certainly be $300 + tax (x) $10/month for 24 months or $500 straight up. But again, since you're going to pony up for the Xbox LIVE Gold membership anyway (rough best price at retail for the current iteration is about $40 a year), it's not necessarily outrageous to go for the $300 contract option. I would expect the PS4 to be released at a similar price point, probably splitting the difference at $400 (if they know what's good for them, that will be the ceiling, $399.99). There's just too much technology packed into these things. The Wii U was $350 at launch for the DELUXE bundle and $300 for the doesn't-make-sense BASIC version, so the pricing of the PS4 and Next Xbox are right in line with that. The Wii U could come in a bit lower because it was leveraging slightly improved technology from essentially what the Xbox 360 launched with in late 2005. Even with that decision, Nintendo is still taking a slight loss on each unit and they've already stated they won't budge on price, even though they really, really should to help improve sales. Maybe for the holidays to help steal some momentum from PS4 and Next Xbox.

Anyway, you also have to consider that even if you pay $400 or $500 now, you're talking what in theory should be a full generation's usage. While it may not be realistic to think we'll get 8 years of prime-time console gaming from this coming generation, certainly even if it's 5 years, that's still a solid gaming investment.

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Matt Barton
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Good Point

Bill Loguidice wrote:
Anyway, you also have to consider that even if you pay $400 or $500 now, you're talking what in theory should be a full generation's usage. While it may not be realistic to think we'll get 8 years of prime-time console gaming from this coming generation, certainly even if it's 5 years, that's still a solid gaming investment.

That's a good point. I'm guessing this gen will be a lot shorter than the one we're in now, so it might make sense to get in earlier. $300 isn't insane; I'm just not willing to go to $400 and certainly not $500 for a console. That's just crazy talk.

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Bill Loguidice
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Trends

Matt Barton wrote:

That's a good point. I'm guessing this gen will be a lot shorter than the one we're in now, so it might make sense to get in earlier. $300 isn't insane; I'm just not willing to go to $400 and certainly not $500 for a console. That's just crazy talk.

One could argue that this generation will be even longer considering how things have been trending, but even if it's just 5 years, that's still quite a while. You also have to consider that for your $300 (plus $10/24 months) to $500 you're also getting a genuine media/social center/hub with Blu-ray, 3D, and all the streaming video and music services, etc. At their core, they're game consoles, but they clearly do far, far more to become the center of the television experience. The Wii U has taken steps towards that, the PS4 has some promise, and there's rumors that the Next Xbox will take that integration even further. We'll see. Certainly the existing systems already do a lot, and a lot of that was more or less hacked on since little-to-none of that was given much thought back in the mid-2000s. A lot has happened in that time.

Obviously the danger for all three platforms (Wii U, PS4, Next Xbox) is since they're locked down platforms being able to keep pace with the rapid developments in smartphones and tablets. Within 5 years we could easily have a smartphone or tablet as an example that could genuinely replace both our PCs and our consoles... I doubt it, since I think of all this stuff as complementary, but the possibility is clearly there.

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Matt Barton
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I wonder if there's been any

I wonder if there's been any thought towards making them modular, so that consumers could buy upgrades for the graphics or CPU?

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Bill Loguidice
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Maybe, but...

Matt Barton wrote:
I wonder if there's been any thought towards making them modular, so that consumers could buy upgrades for the graphics or CPU?

Not a bad idea, but too complicated for the average consumer, and then you're splitting your user base too much (software x doesn't support hardware revision y; that's why it would be a good idea for each new Xbox to have Kinect - it would mean even more support) and be too compromised in terms of max performance. If you're going to do that then you need something more like the $99 Ouya, which promises a new system every year. I actually don't mind the present console model of 5+ year lifecycles simply because it gives devs time to max out the platform. Really, that's the only type of technology (consoles and gaming handhelds) where you can really say that's the case.

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clok1966
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the module stuff was tried on

the module stuff was tried on a few Laptops, they found less then 5% used it.. I think in consoles much like phones and tablets now.. you have to program down to the lowest common denominator anyways.. adding features that only worked for the upgraded people who would most likely be a small minority would be cost problems.

I really like the $299 and 2 years of xbox.. depending on how they make you pay the 2 years. if its still a lump sum (i think it has to be, or people would just cancel, and you cant take the console back).. its just MS rebating really.. with the standard HOOK UM for cheap, make um pay when addicted idea.. LIVE is easily the best Online console system, but its surprising how few 360 players actually use it.. You gotta expect MOST will opt for the 2 years.. even if you are not going to use it, the price is the same. I hope SONY follows with a deal like it.

again we will see, but MS (rumored) no touch pad (not in any dev programming docs that have been leaked, but now that SONY has shown one.. maybe?) and KINECT absolutely! leaked dev docs basically show you don't have to use Kinect, but MS gives advantages to games that do (more advertising, more MS help, etc)..

you mention a $99 360? MS will break the "we dont support shit after we release a new one" mantra its kept for so long on -hardware-? I find it hard to believe.. but even MS has to wise up sometime on that..

and please don't compare STEAM to always on.. Once you set it (either verify key online once, or tell steam you want games available offline, when you are ONLINE) ALMOST any game on steam can be played OFFLINE.. that is not always on.. yes any multi player game needs it.. but 90% of all games have single player still.. and once you do 2 minutes in steam ONLINE or install and do your verification ONLINE your done.. pull the plug and the game will still play, that is not always ONLINE. Sorry this one is a huge bullet point for me.. always on .. is always on.. ability to play offline is not always on.. and now that the HATE for that idea has came out.. MS has said 'its on devs shoulders" but I for one bet it was "always on" till the hate erupted, now MS says.. eh. I bet once you can risk teh IRE of MS it will come out it was changed.. all launch games will be 'always on" as it was part of the Dev doc.. game in the future might now.. and IM ok with that.. if i have to verify I bouhgt it once i dont have issues.. if i cant play it without net.. ever.. Im not ok with it (on single player games).. sorry for beating this one into ground.. we had a huge thread on it already.. i just believe that strongly about it.

davyK
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Think the Windows 8 core s

Think the Windows 8 core is pretty certain. Given the state of the consumer market it's the only way they will sell that OS to consumers the way things are going.

I'm actually only now going to dip my toe into "this gen" by getting a 360 this month - and I'll be expecting an upgrade path re DLC to the next machine as a given from now on no matter what the platform.

I have to say though that I couldn't me more nonplussed by the new gen. I can't help feeling totally apathetic to all 3 platforms. I will get a Wii U at some point but I suspect I'll only buy into one of the other two which will be indistinguishable as far as content is concerned.

Bill Loguidice
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Digital ownership

davyK wrote:

I'm actually only now going to dip my toe into "this gen" by getting a 360 this month - and I'll be expecting an upgrade path re DLC to the next machine as a given from now on no matter what the platform.

I think both Sony and Microsoft are limiting digital content purchased on the PS3/360 to those platforms and will not allow it to be carried over to the new platforms. Video content will probably carry over since that will be tied to a generic account and is not dependent upon a specific architecture to run. It's not ideal, but I also don't mind the clean break, like I said.

Nintendo has promised you'll be able to transfer most of your Wii content to your Wii U for a small fee, but my biggest frustration with the Wii U right now is that digital ownership is tied to the CONSOLE, not the account holder. I have two Wii U's in my house and only one houses digital content. I'm hoping that stance changes sooner rather than later as its a rather backwards mentality. I can understand not transferring content between generations, but certainly not having my content locked to a single box.

In terms of your comment about Windows 8, it's a solid OS, it's just that it's caught in a transitional period where people are moving away from traditional PC form factors. I think it's a move they had to make and it will pay off long term, albeit with lots of short-term pain. Window 8.1/Blue should fix most of the issues that people are having right now.

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