Microsoft Reveals New Xbox One Console with Blu-ray Drive
Earlier today, Microsoft unveiled their next generation gaming and entertainment console, the Xbox One, at a press event on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. The hour-long event was also streamed live worldwide on xbox.com.
Several members of the Xbox development team as well as third-party game and content developers talked about the exciting new features of the Xbox One console. With this new device, it’s about more than just games.
The newest Xbox has several new features that push it beyond the boundaries of the traditional game console. For instance, it can also play live television through your cable provider. There is an on-screen guide called Xbox “One Guide” that can help you find what shows are popular with the Xbox Live community, as well as show you what shows your friends are watching.
Blu-ray Disc Drive
Beyond television, the Xbox One also has a slot-loading Blu-ray disc drive. This is an unprecedented first for Microsoft, who initially partnered with the HD-DVD format on the Xbox360. The ability to play Blu-ray movies adds huge value to users. It also gives game developers a low-cost, high-capacity format for game discs that can hold up to 50GB of data.
This announcement settles the long-standing debate about whether Microsoft would include a Blu-ray drive in their latest machine. As regular readers of this blog will know, Blu-ray discs were developed and heavily backed by Sony, makers of the competing PlayStation 3 game system. Microsoft have swallowed a bit of their pride by including their competitor’s technology in the Xbox One, but surely this choice was better than having no Blu-ray at all.
A Connected Console
The Xbox One also has a built in version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser for going online. The new console will make extensive use of cloud computing for storing everything from your Xbox Live profile to your music collection and more. You can even record and edit in-game movies and save them to the cloud as well.
Video Calls with Skype
Following Microsoft’s 2011 acquisition of Skype for $8.5 billion dollars, the voice-over-IP calling and video service is now an integral part of the new Xbox. A built-in 1080p high-definition camera (also used for Kinect) allows people to make video calls from the comfort of their living rooms.
Microsoft also introduced a few other features that are unique to the Xbox One. Let’s take a minute to go over them individually:
Voice Command: The Xbox One console features an extraordinary level of voice command options. To power on the console, simply say the words “Xbox On.” It recognizes your voice and the voices of other users in your household.
Instant Switching: Taking voice command a step further, the Xbox One has the ability to change modes instantly. You can say “Watch MTV” and the device will instantly switch to TV mode and to the desired channel. Say “Watch ESPN” and it will switch channels. Say “Return to game” and it will take you back to your game. Say “Go Home” and it will take you to the Home screen. It all happens seamlessly with no loading or waiting.
Gesture Recognition: On the Xbox360, the Kinect made its debut as a $149 add-on in November of 2010. The motion-tracking system allows users to “be the controller” in supported games.
With the Xbox One, Kinect comes standard. It’s built into the console and includes a high-resolution 1080p video camera, which can also be used for Skype calls as mentioned above. The system also responds to gestures, which Microsoft employees demonstrated during the Xbox One reveal event earlier today. If you make a fist with both hands and slowly draw them together, the console will take you to your Home screen.
“Snap Mode:” One of the great things about a personal computer is that you can multi-task. Traditionally, game consoles have only been able to do one thing at a time, which is play games. Now, you can snap an application to the side of your screen while you are doing something else.
One example shown in today’s demonstration was looking up sports scores or movie trailers from the Internet while you are watching a movie. The applications can be “snapped” to the side of the screen, much like the ill-fated sidebar in Windows Vista.
Adding all of this technology to the Xbox One takes a lot of processing power. Fortunately, the hardware under the hood is several orders of magnitude better than the Xbox360. The new console features:
- 8-core, native 64-bit CPU
- 500GB Hard Drive
- 8GB RAM
- Blu-ray Disc Drive
- USB 3.0
- Built-in 802.11n wireless with Wi-Fi Direct
- New Ergonomic Controller
- HDMI In/Out
These improvements give the Xbox One some serious hardware muscle. It remains to be seen what Sony will put into their PlayStation 4 when it is announced later this year, but these specs will be tough to beat. Microsoft also advertised the console’s “near-silent operation” during the press event.
More Games, More Entertainment
Representatives from Electronic Arts and Microsoft’s in-house game studio were present to talk about some of the new games that are coming out. A total of 15 new games are under development right now, all of which will be out in the first year.
Electronic Arts promised that it is working on four new titles for 2014, including Madden 25, FIFA Soccer, NBA Live, and a UFC fighting game. Upcoming titles from other developers include Forza Motorsport 5, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Quantum Break by Remedy Entertainment.
Microsoft also announced strategic partnerships with the NFL to bring exclusive football content, and a live-action TV series based on the “Halo” franchise of combat games. The series will be produced by famous director Steven Spielberg.
Redesigned Xbox Live
A core component of the Xbox360 is online gameplay through Xbox Live. The network has been completely redesigned for the Xbox One, featuring a new system of achievements, gamer scores, and other profile information.
Microsoft has not yet announced pricing or availability for the new console, but it is likely to be on sale in time for the 2013 Christmas season. More details about the system are to be announced next month at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles, California.