The Xbox event has just wrapped so let’s get recapping. Here’s everything you need to know about the all-new Xbox One. Yeah, they called it the Xbox One…
The event kicked off with Don Mattrick taking the stage to announce the goals the Xbox One is setting out to accomplish. Mainly, to “Improve the living room.” The Xbox One is being billed as an all-in-one, forward thinking system. From there the presentation was broken up into a mix of hardware, software, and features/applications, so I’ll break down the highlights into those same categories. First, here’s a breakdown of the hardware of Microsoft’s next-gen console.
Marc Whitten of Microsoft came out to discuss the under-the-hood specs that developers and content providers will be playing with come next-generation. The Xbox One architecture consists of 5 billion transistors and 8GB of RAM. Other features include USB 3.0, Wi-Fi Direct, a Blu-ray drive, Native 64-bit OS, variable power states, and the promise of near-silent operation; so gone are the days of the Xbox boot that sounded like a jet engine taking off.
On the software side, Xbox One is a patchwork of 3 individual operating systems. It contains the best features and familiar accessibility of an updated Xbox OS, the basic kernel of the latest Windows systems, and a third OS that connects the previous two to create seamless multitasking and rapid switching between software and applications.
As rumored, Xbox One will be shipping with a redesigned Kinect 2.0. The new camera boasts a powerful 1080p HD RGB camera and 30 FPS color, and is capable of transferring 2 gigabits of data per second to reduce latency to within billionths of a second. Kinect 2.0 also improves the user experience by recognizing more conversational voice commands and easier, more natural gestures. The new camera can understand much more about the environment and human body than the previous Kinect, and is now capable of registering precise and subtle movements, such as wrist rotations, in addition to understanding the player’s balance and transfer of weight during movement. Apparently, it can even read your heartbeat, a feature to be utilized initially in fitness games.
Another new aspect of Xbox One is the redesigned controller and updated Smartglass integration. The controller now includes an integrated battery compartment, a refined trigger featuring customizable pressure-control, and newly designed D-pad for maximum precision. The controller will also be recognized by Kinect, so gesture control through controller motion is possible.
Smartglass is now native to the platform, built from the ground up with the Xbox One in mind so it will integrate with the next-gen console on every level. This means the application will have functionality throughout the entire Xbox one experience; from gaming, to watching movies and TV, and even social aspects as well.
Finally, a revamped Xbox Live will be based on the same membership gamers are used to, now with even more features. To show their commitment to providing the best infrastructure possible, the Xbox One will have 300,000 servers to host the service, as opposed to the 15,000 servers currently running on the Xbox 360.
The Xbox One will utilize cloud saving for all game and application files. It also comes with a baked-in dedicated game DVR, providing recorded video which can then be edited through the console and shared online.
To provide a more streamlined service, developers can take advantage of Xbox Data Centers to create a living, thriving world with access to real-time data based on player feedback.
Don Mattrick mentioned that the Xbox One will be able to talk to all living room devices, but more on this feature will be detailed at E3.
Navigating with voice and gesture controls will be easier and more intuitive than ever. A simple command of “Xbox On” will turn the console and TV on so the experience can begin immediately. From there, Kinect will instantly recognize users and display a personalized home screen; one that remembers recent activities. In an effort to make navigation easier, there are three new search methods to use while looking for new content to view on the Xbox One. The example used contained the all-new Xbox One Guide, a menu for searching through live TV and DVR programming. Once brought up with a command of “Xbox, show the guide:” There’s a Trending section which shows popular content as viewed and rated by the Xbox community, a Favorites section which will display all shows and content users have pinned to their favorites, similar to the current Xbox 360 dashboard, and finally, voice and gesture navigation.
One of the new standout features of Xbox One is the ability to switch between games, live TV, and applications seamlessly. The service, called Instant Switching, allows users to hop between whatever content they want to enjoy just by saying simple commands such as “Watch TV,” “Watch Movies,” or “Xbox, go to Internet Explorer.” This will be coupled with a new feature called Snap Mode to create personalized content streaming to suit individual tastes.
Snap Mode will display two applications alongside one another. In the example given on-stage, live TV could be viewed on the left half of the screen, while the user then snapped Internet Explorer into the right half of the screen, which integrated with Smartglass to facilitate web-browsing while still watching the show in progress.
Of course, Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype did not go unspoken. Featuring Widescreen HD and Group video calls on the TV, the best Skype experience is now accessible through Xbox One. As with any service on Xbox One, Skype can be used in snap mode so that video calls can run simultaneously alongside other applications.
Nancy Tellem took the stage to announce some new content coming from Xbox Entertainment Studios. This new studio is dedicated to conceiving a new art form which creates interactive television viewing. On Xbox One, immersive TV experiences will be truly personalized (via recommendations, social experiences, and bonus Smartglass integration)
The major announcement to come out of Xbox Entertainment Studios was a m=partnership to develop a live-action Halo series, as announced by the head of 343 Industries, Bonnie Ross. The goal of this series is to evolve storytelling by merging TV with interaction. The project is being co-developed by Steven Spielberg with input from 343 Industries. Currently titled Halo: The Television Series, this will be Microsoft’s first attempt at creating live-action content exclusively for the Xbox One platform.
Live sports will also evolve with next-gen. Microsoft announced a partnership with the NFL to integrate Kinect and Smartglass with fantasy sports. Additionally, the entire NFL season will be viewable through the Xbox One, with live broadcasts that feature real-time fantasy stat alerts which can be snapped in for simultaneously viewing. Exclusive NFL content will be coming to Xbox One, but specifics have yet to be detailed.
Andrew Wilson from EA came out to detail a special partnership with Microsoft, before offering a first look at 4 new games: Fifa, UFC, NBA Live, and Madden. All four franchises will launch within 12 months of the Xbox One launch.
Additionally, Wilson announced EA Sports Ignite, a new game engine designed to blur the line between real and virtual sports. Ignite is designed to replicate true player motion (to simulate athlete’s actual playstyles,) with adaptable AI to mimic human intelligence, and the resources to create living worlds (such as a 3D audience and secondary AI to create dynamic sidelines.) The new engine is capable of 10x more animation depth and detail. More information about Ignite, as well as upcoming EA titles, will be revealed at E3, with one example being Fifa’s popular “Ultimate Mode” getting exclusive features coming only to Xbox One.
Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft Studios, came out to talk about first party content coming to the Xbox One. He began with a Forza Motorsport 5 reveal and trailer, running in real-time on Xbox One. Forza Motorsport 5 will be available at launch, with more information coming in just a few weeks.
The next announcement pertained to Max Payne and Alan Wake developer Remedy Studios, who announced Quantum Break. A story-driven experience, Quantum Break appears to be a mix of live-action acting and traditional gameplay. This hybrid experience will focus on player choice, with significant consequences and a variety of final outcomes shifting based on in-game decisions.
One of my personal highlights of the show was the announcement of new and original IP from Microsoft Game Studios. According to Spencer, there are more titles currently in development for the Xbox One at Microsoft Studios than ever before in Xbox history. There will be more than 15 exclusive games in the first year of Xbox One alone, with 8 of which are brand new IPs.
The event closed with a world premiere of the next Call of Duty. Alongside the announcement that DLC will once again launch first on Xbox One, Infinity Ward’s Eric Hirshberg came out to present Call of Duty: Ghosts. Wanting to avoid stagnation, the team at Infinity Ward eliminated creative restrictions so they could deliver an entirely new CoD experience. This brand new entry in the series features a new game engine, focused story-driven narrative, and an original cast of characters. Emotional reality is said to be the focus of the new title, meaning story and character interactions are at the forefront of design. The Ghosts are an elite team, with a dog squad member (yeah, they mo-capped a dog and everything) to sniff out explosives and protect the team in combat. The new engine offers better graphical fidelity and upgraded textures for higher resolutions, and new tech designed to help maintain a curvature viewing angle that makes first-person shooting feel more immersive and real. There are also secondary AI improvements so characters react more realistically to the player. Revamped Multiplayer includes a feature called Dynamic Maps, a system where earthquakes, floods, and other player-driven shifts affect the layout of a map in real-time. More character customization will be added to create a more personalized experience for players.
The presentation concluded with the announcement that more games and features will take the spotlight at the E3 presentation in just 19 days. It was stated that the Xbox One will launch later this year, presumably during a November release window. There was no mention of price or launch bundles.
Overall, the presentation contained a number of great announcements. Xbox One is clearly meant to take over the living room and be an all-in-one device filling every possible entertainment need. The lack of detail about features such as live TV and NFL programming leads me to believe additional service charges may pop up before all is said and done, but we’ll have to wait until E3 before we hear any concrete details. To dispel the popular rumor, though, the system will NOT require an always-on connection.
What do you folks think about the Xbox One? Are these features enough to make you an early adopter? Or did the PS4 win you over back in February? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+.