Gamers have been eagerly anticipating the launch of Microsoft's next generation Xbox console, and today they finally got what they've been waiting for. Microsoft's next console, previously referred to as Durango and Xbox 720, was introduced to the world as Xbox One, a name that underscores Microsoft's intent to rule the living room with an all-in-one entertainment system that's equally adept at playing games as it is for watching live TV, chatting on Skype, browsing photos and videos, and more. The device itself looks rather large and almost VCR-like.
Microsoft's Don Mattrick took to the stage and talked about how the living room has become "too complex, too fragmented, and too slow." The Xbox One is Microsoft's answer to these problems, and much of the magic of the new console has to do with intelligent voice recognition and gesture control.
Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, demoed several of Xbox One's navigation features. One of big differences between the Xbox One and 360 is that the console recognizes who you are right off the bat. Say "Xbox On" and it will turn on your device and launch straight into your custom profile with your personalized home screen. It will also remember what you were last doing, in case you wanted to jump back into a game or movie that you had to duck out of prematurely.
One of the most impressive demos was Mehdi showing how quickly and smoothly the Xbox One can switch between tasks, going from Internet Explorer ("Xbox Internet Explorer!") to watching movies ("Xbox movie!") and live TV. It will be interesting to see what kind of relationship Microsoft and the Xbox One has with cable providers. It can also, of course, play games. The Xbox One recognizes gestures, too. Reach out your arms, grab, and close to bring up the Home screen, or expand to go back to where you just came from.
A new Snap Mode allows you to multi-task, to an extent. While you're watching a movie, for example, you can have Skype running in a sidebar on the right or look up content on the web via IE.
Live TV figures to be a prominent feature of the Xbox One. Say "Show the guide" to bring up a listing of TV shows and then navigate through voice control, by browsing favorites, or by seeing what's "Trending," which is a new tab added to the Dashboard. If you're bored with your program, you can say "What's on HBO?" and Xbox One will respond with a listing of shows and movies on HBO.
What About the Hardware?
As for the hardware, well, the Xbox One will rock an 8-core CPU with 5 billion transistors, 8GB of system memory, 500GB hard drive, Blu-ray drive (yes, the Xbox is finally getting Blu-ray!), 802.11n Wi-Fi, HDMI in/output, and USB 3.0 support. Beyond that, it's not clear if that RAM will be unified like it is on the PlayStation 4 or which exact processor and GPU Microsoft is tapping into, or whether it will be x86 based like Sony's console. We suspect those details will come to light in the coming months, and potentially at E3, where Microsoft will make several Xbox 360 announcements.
On the platform side, Microsoft described a three-in-one OS architecture:
Xbox software that gives developers deep access to the sysem and hardware
A Windows kernel
Special software to connect the two above OSes
Following the press conference, Nvidia revealed to us that the company will offer the console PhysX support. Whether that is on the GPU side or CPU side is still up in the air. Maximum PC has tried reaching out to Nvidia for more clarification on the matter to only recieve a "no comment" reply. Regardless, with PhysX support coming to the Xbox One, this will be especially interesting as earlier rumors pegged the Xbox One as using AMD components for both the CPU and GPU. This could theoretically mean the green and red team may be collaborating on the console in some capacity.
UPDATE: AMD has confirmed it is indeed designing an APU for the Xbox One. “AMD is very excited to be working with Microsoft on their next-generation Xbox One. The Microsoft Xbox One leverages a single-chip, semi-custom AMD APU, with custom components co-developed with Microsoft designed to enable unique attributes of the system Microsoft is bringing to market,” said Saeid Moshkelani, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD's Semi-Custom Business Unit.
UPDATE #2: A Microsoft representative confirmed to us that AMD would be the Xbox One's primary parts maker, stating, "AMD is our primary partner for the custom silicon that makes up our GPU/CPU SOC that is the heart of Xbox One. We don’t have any further details about Nvidia PhysX at this time, but do stay tuned."
Updated Kinect Sensor and Controller
A new Kinect sensor will be paired with every Xbox One console. It expands to 1080p, can read more joints than before, understands subtle movements like a flick of the wrist, and can even detect your heartbeat when exercising. Microsoft also updated the familiar controller so that it's more ergonomic, though retains the same semi-butterfly shape as previous versions.
Sorry folks, Microsoft isn't giving up its subscription-based Xbox Live service in favor of free online play for everyone. The same memberships as today will exist, though the backend infrastructure is significantly overhauled. While today's Xbox Live service taps into 15,000 servers, there will be 300,000 servers powering Xbox One's Live service.
Microsoft will put that horsepower to use in part for better matchmaking. It will search for opponents in one game while you're playing another, and overall, Microsoft envisions a deeper, richer Live experience.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Finally, Call of Duty: Ghosts made an appearance towards the end of the event. Microsoft announced that will continue its exclusive downloadable content (DLC) deal with Activision, ensuring Xbox One gamers get DLC before gamers on other devices.
There's a new game engine being introduced in Ghosts. It will run at a steady 60 frames per second while you control new characters in a new game world. The script is being hammered out by Stephen Gaghan, writer of Traffic and Syriana.
Dogs will be part of your squad and are able protect your team and sniff for explosives. Other animals, like fish, will move out of your way as you get close, which is part of a new artificial intelligence (A.I.) system. There will be dynamic events like earthquakes, and player-driven events too. You'll be able to customize your characters in multiplayer, choosing heads, bodies, helmets, and other gear.
"It will be the best Call of Duty game we've ever ever made," Activision's Erik Hirschberg declared.
That wraps up the highlights. Microsoft didn't announce a price or release date, instead confirming what we already know, which is that Xbox One will be available "later this year."
What did you think of the announcement? Are you as bummed as we are that more hardware details weren't revealed? Let us know in the comments!