The rumor mill has been spinning about the next-generation XBox for some time, but Tuesday and Wednesday of this week saw first IGN, and then Kotaku, reveal what appears to be the first non-gaseous (if not concrete-solid) information from inside sources as to the machine's spec. It seems that the console (not officially called the 720, but the placeholder is convenient) will, IGN reports, be approximately six times as powerful as the current generation of consoles. Kotaku says the device will play Blu-Ray discs, and herald the arrival of Kinect 2. Worryingly, it also reports that there's a possibility that the machine will prevent owners from playing pre-owned games.
IGN's scoop on Tuesday centered around the 720's graphics processing unit, which it reports will go into production before the end of the year. Its processor will reportedly be based on AMD's 6000 series (not the more up to date 7000 series) and, Kotaku says, will be "akin to the Radeon HD 6670" which supports multi-display and, as you'd expect, 3D and 1080p output.
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Though Kotaku says this equates to six times the power of current generation consoles, it claims this represents only a 20 percent bump on Nintendo's forthcoming Wii U. However, it appears that though this information comes from inside sources, it may only be hypothetical until actual hardware testing can take place.
A day later Kotaku got the drop on the 720's Blu-Ray support, which disc-swapping 360-owners will doubtless be pleased to hear (Blu-Rays can store up to more than five times the data of a DVD). Kotaku reports that the device will additionally ship with an updated Kinect sensor for controller-less gaming. It's claimed that the new sensor will include a processor.
If there's a sour note, it may be that Microsoft might include technology to lock-out used games. Speaking as a recent convert to a movie and games rental service, and as someone that only splashes the full shilling on the most essential and interesting titles, this is a worrying rumor. If it comes to pass, gamers would be forced to choose between paying top dollar or going without every time Ubisoft plops out an Assassin's Creed missions pack (or sequel, as they're officially known).
Still, though these developments sound perfectly plausible, I suggest that they are consumed with a healthy pinch of salty skepticism. At the very least this presents another opportunity to gawp at Epic's Unreal Engine 3 impressive, though unnecessarily violent demo, Samaritan, and wonder just how close to this benchmark the next wave of games consoles might get.