After months of leaks and speculation, Microsoft has announced the Xbox One – the company's next-gen system and its competitor to Sony's PlayStation 4 console. The system is designed to provide the user with an “all-in-one experience," adding live TV integration and gesture and voice control on top of next-gen hardware and specs.
Hardware and Specs
The Xbox One runs on an x86, 8-core CPU with 8 GB DDR3 RAM with 500 GB internal storage, a Blu-ray drive and USB 3.0 connectivity. No specifics were given on the system's GPU, though it was revealed that it will be tailored to DirectX 11.1 graphics. The system will also include a new, more advanced version of the Kinect sensor with a 1080p HD RGB camera and a 250,000-pixel infrared depth sensor.
In stark contrast to Sony's PlayStation 4 reveal, Microsoft was keen to show off the aesthetics of its new system, including the redesigned controller. The console itself looks to be of a comparable size to the launch version of the Xbox 360 and exhibits an angular design and two-tone aesthetic.
The system's controller is similar to that of the Xbox 360, but features updated ergonomics and a redesigned battery pack, and a directional pad similar to that seen on Nintendo's systems.
An all-in-one entertainment device
The Xbox One's interface is similar to that seen on the Xbox 360, borrowing heavily from the Windows 8 tile UI. In addition to the voice and gesture control, the system will also feature a multitasking “snap” mode, allowing users to view two types of content at once.
Microsoft is betting big on live TV integration with the Xbox One. Users will be able to quickly switch between games, music, entertainment and live TV services, using both gesture and voice control. The system will feature an interactive and fully voice controllable guide that displays a live TV schedule, and both publicly and socially trending content.
Another major entertainment announcement came in the form of Steven Spielberg's involvement in a Halo TV series, exclusive to the system. No significant details or release information was provided but it's worth checking out last year's Forward Unto Dawn live action series for an idea of what can be expected from the project.
Microsoft has also partnered with the NFL to provide exclusive content for Xbox One users and live fantasy football integration.
Games and Xbox Live
A number of games were announced for the new system, including four EA sports titles. Fifa 14, Madden NFL 25, NBA Live 14 and UFC are powered by the new EA Sports Ignite graphics engine and will launch within the next 12 months. According to EA, the Ignite engine provides four times more calculations per second and 10 times more depth and detail in animations.
Two Xbox One-exclusive titles were revealed in the form of Forza Motorsport 5 and Quantum Break, with Forza being a launch title for the system. Quantum Break is being developed by Remedy, and aims to merge TV drama and games, providing a unique gameplay experience.
Call of Duty: Ghost was also announced for the system, including details regarding new features for the title and an all-new graphics engine and concept for the series. The franchise's hugely popular multi-player component will receive a number of key updates including dynamic map events and enhanced customization options.
There weren't a huge number of titles announced during a busy hour of announcements, and it's clear that the company is saving a more comprehensive launch line-up reveal for next month's E3 event. That said, the system will see 15 exclusive titles within its first 12 months of release, with eight of those being new franchises.
Xbox Live will be based on a “similar” membership model to that seen on the current system. The service will have access to some 300,000 servers and will utilize cloud storage for a range of content including saved games and media content. The company claims that the upgraded service will provide larger matches with more players online at once.
Check out the gallery for more Xbox One game screenshots.
The most obvious competitor to the Xbox One is Sony's PlayStation 4, announced earlier this year.
The Japanese company's system runs on a low-powered x86 AMD Jaguar 8-core CPU with 8 GB GDDR5 RAM and an unspecified 1.84 TFLOP AMD Radeon “Graphics Core Next Engine” GPU. These specs are similar to those of the Xbox One, and it's likely that the systems will feature comparable performance. We didn't get a look at the PS4 during the launch event in February and while Sony has recently released a teaser video for the hardware, we still don't really have any idea what the system will look like.
The PlayStation 4 already has a fairly strong prospective launch line up, with both first-party exclusives such as Killzone: Shadow Fall and third-party titles like Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag and Watch Dogs in attendance. The Xbox One's game line-up is a little thin at the moment, but we're sure to see a lot more for both Sony and Microsoft's systems at E3 next month.
The other big competitor to Microsoft's next-gen effort is Nintendo's Wii U console. The system hasn't had the strongest six months, with hardware sales falling significantly below expectations. Though Nintendo has consistently declined to give any information on the system's internals, it's fair to say that the console is not in the same league as the PS4 and Xbox One in terms of raw power.
There has also been a dearth of third-party support for Nintendo's platform, with EA announcing this week that it does not currently have any games in development for the Wii U. Ubisoft on the other hand does have a number of titles for the system, including Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.
Though the Wii U is more focused on “hardcore” gamers than its predecessor, it's clear that the system's strength lies in its first party titles and unique hardware offering.
Though it's very early days, the Xbox One is shaping up to be an impressive system. Upon initial inspection, the device seems to be roughly on par with Sony's PlayStation 4 in terms of power, and offers a lot of extra entertainment functionality. We'll have more on Microsoft's new system in the coming months.