If you’re a gaming fan and happen to log on to the internet every once in a blue moon, it’s been near impossible to not be bombarded with next gen rumors and speculation. Thankfully, much of the madness was put to rest with the reveal of Sony’s PlayStation 4, and with the announcement of the next generation of Microsoft’s Xbox console rapidly approaching on May 21st, I’ve decided to go back and take a look at some of the biggest rumors circulating the internet and offer my thoughts on how likely they are to be true. Take out your tinfoil hats and join me, friends.
1: The Next Generation Xbox Will Be Always Online
There’s been a rumor going back and forth considering the idea of whether or not the next generation Xbox will be always online. Some “sources” say it will, others say it won’t, and yet we still have no solid confirmation.
This rumor has caused a near-spike in conversation over the past few weeks thanks to the obnoxious tweets of Adam Orth, creative director at Microsoft Studios. After making light of people’s concerns with the next generation Xbox requiring a constant internet connection, Orth inspired memes in his honor and the popular #dealwithit hashtag that ran rampant on Twitter. Orth exited from Microsoft a few days later, likely for this event and the outrage it inspired with industry professionals and fans alike.
Despite the fact that Orth took to the Twitter spaces to ignite the internet in a sea of angry flame, I have a very hard time imagining that the Xbox 720 would force players to have a constant internet connection in order to use the console in an everyday manner. Why?
Interestingly enough, the United States is not as well-connected to the internet as many might think. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. While we’ve certainly come a long way from the days when you had to disconnect your land line to hook your computer up to a dial-up connection, there’s still a fair amount of the country that has spotty or less desirable connections as a whole.
Here’s the thing; Microsoft is not dumb. Not by any means. And because of this, I’m more than willing to bet they’ve taken a look at the numbers and have reasoned that it might not be in their best interest to make a box that would require something not all of the country can satisfy. Doing so would mean less in sales figures, which means less money. I’m no economics major, but I do know that’s not a good solution for the company as a whole.
There is some speculation that Microsoft will have an always-on DRM feature, but will allow publishers and game creators to choose whether or not they want to use the feature in their game. I think we can all agree on this being somewhat more palatable.
2: The Xbox 720 Will Have a Lock on All Used Games
One of the other rumors that has ignited debate on the interwebs is the ongoing battle of used vs. new games and the idea of next-gen consoles rendering used games unplayable.
With studio doors closing frequently and disturbing numbers being released from publishers, it’s hard to argue that there is no merit to the idea that used games are harming the profits of studios and publishers alike. These companies see no return on used games, and the profits instead go to the brick-an-mortar shop where you picked up your used copy of Fallout 3 for the 360. Therefore, it’s not hard to believe that something can and will be done about the loss next generation.
However, while I do think something will be done, I don’t think it’ll be as totalitarian as a used game lock. While they might not be happy to admit it, companies need game stores like GameStop in order to help them move systems and track pre-orders. Shutting down the used game market would hurt these companies tremendously, which would in turn possibly spark a backlash from the stores if they refused to carry the next generation of consoles. It’s a weird wrestling match between the two where one has the other in a good hold from which they both can’t escape.
But while I don’t foresee a complete lockout of used games, I do think it’s highly likely you’ll have to pay a small fee in order to access the game itself a la online access codes found in many games today. This would require you to connect to the internet once in order to authenticate the product and give you the access pass after you’ve paid for it. And while it may still bother a loud minority, it’s a much more reasonable and level-headed way to approach the issue than a strict lockout.
3: The Actual Name Will Be Xbox Infinity
While Durango is the codename, and most on the internet are wont to call it the “Nextbox” or “Xbox 720″, it has been rumored that the console’s possible name will instead be Xbox Infinity.
While it is a Reddit image, even the logo above makes a credible argument for this rumor. With the idea of the console aiming to become more of an entertainment hub than gaming machine, the tagline “Infinite entertainment. Infinite possibilities.” is incredibly believable. Furthermore, domains for “xbox8.com, xbox8.us, and xbox8.org” have all been filed, with speculation that the 8 is actually a sideways infinity sign rather than the number.
Call it a hunch, but this rumor actually seems to have some merit to it, and I wouldn’t be surprsed if this did indeed end up being what the future Xbox console is called.
4: The Console Will Launch in November 2013 With Multiple Price Packages
Another recent report puts forth the possibility of the Xbox 720 launching in November 2013 (around the same time as the PlayStation 4) with two separate versions. The first would include the console for a straight $500, while the second would offer consumers a $300 console and a required 2-year subscription to Xbox Live for $10 a month.
Yes, $500 seems a bit steep. And yes, $300 with a two-year subscription to Xbox Live (which will end up costing you more than the first offer of $500) also seems a bit like finding the nasty small print at the bottom of a contract after you’ve already signed. But the truth is, Xbox Live has made Microsoft money. A lot of money. So much, in fact, that you can bet they’ll be pushing it hard come the next generation. Considering the functionality that both Steam and the PlayStation Network have now, Live does seem to be a bit of a ripoff in comparison. But I’m willing to bet that they’ll be overhauling the service to become much more competitive in the next generation in an effort to get people to subscribe. Providing this price package seems like a no-brainer in this regard. Furthermore, November is that magical time of year when moms start beating each other up at the store in order to score the best presents for their holiday shopping, so this release window seems like a given.
5: The Xbox 720 Will Feature Kinect 2.0
Rumors were leaked the day the PlayStation 4 was announced that the 720 would feature Kinect 2.0. Along with improvements to cut back on lag and a better camera, the tech is also supposed to have a larger field of view that will allow players more freedom to move about and will be able to work around furniture layouts and a person’s height.
Likelihood: Very High
For reasons unknown, console manufacturers simply won’t let this whole motion control business go. But, seeing as how voice controls and gestures are highly likely to play a major role in the 720′s functionality, it’s more than likely you’ll see a resurrection of the Kinect on the 720. The real question is, how will they make us care about it?
6: The 720 Will Feature a Touch Screen Controller, 3D Gaming, AR Glasses, and Anything Else You’ve Seen in a Sci-Fi Movie
There’s a special section of rumors that have always been dedicated to some of the more outlandish claims of the next generation of consoles. Everything from headwear to controllers with touch screens have been “leaked” by possible sources on forums and outlets everywhere in a big conglomerate of weirdness that embodies the awkward nature of speculation.
While I do think they’ll make some slight changes to some of the tech found on the system now, I’m hard-pressed to believe that I’ll look like Luke Skywalker when booting up the 720 to play whatever next gen title of Gears of War is released. After all, this machine will have a broader entertainment focus, shifting away from the gaming crowd and posturing to get itself in people’s homes by being a Roku/console hybrid that will offer a one-stop shop for all of your entertainment needs. If this is the focus, why would they dump money into R&D for more weird tech that would appeal to a more niche audience?
7: The Xbox 720 Will Double as a DVR
A patent long ago filed by Microsoft suggests that the next console from the company will have DVR functionality that would connect the box to the television and allow users to record television content, games, and music, even while the device is turned off.
Likelihood: Very High
With new television provider apps and entertainment companies popping up in the Xbox Dashboard recently, this isn’t surprising in the least. Again, it’s clear from the direction Microsoft has taken even in this generation that the next Xbox will be a one-stop media hub meant to rule the living room, so adding a DVR functionality to a console that would allow it to record content while you’re gaming seems like a plausible idea.
8: Social Integration Will Be Overhauled
A recent posting by IGN suggests that the 720 will have an increased focus on social networking and how players will interact with each other on the platform. Some of the most notable mentions in this post include that Microsoft will allow for people to “follow” other players a la Twitter, remove the 100 friend cap on Xbox Live, will allow developers to add in achievements outside of DLC, and, much like the PS4′s Share button, will allow players to record sessions and share them instantly on Ustream and Facebook.
Likelihood: Very High
Thanks to an increasingly connected society and advancements in social media, the console is more of a social sphere now than it has ever been. And with the next generation gearing up to take over your living room, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see them approach social networking and media in a new, overhauled way with the Xbox 720. And who doesn’t love the prospect of easily-added achievements?
What do you think of the Xbox 720 rumors? Share your thoughts in the comments below!