May 29 2012
Oh, the rumor-mill is alive and kicking this morning. With E3 kicking off one week from today it was to be expected that news sources would be reporting on all the hypotheticals to tide us over. So it is time to take stock and look at what we actually know before we get all excited and start reserving our place in the line outside Gamestop.
Xbox 720 – Codename: Durango
If rumors from Kotaku are true, the next Xbox will not feature or have any announcements from Microsoft at E3. Where most companies would jump in and use the event to generate buzz, Microsoft actually avoided E3 with the 360 announcement as well, instead opting for a special show on MTV a few weeks prior to the expo in 2005. So, while we can rule out hearing any news over the next few weeks – don’t think that we have to wait until E3 next year before we garner anything. In fact, we already have some juicy details that provide a foundation of what we can expect.
While Microsoft clearly play by their own rules – which keeps us on our toes, and we will likely have to wait until early 2013 with a release date in Q4, momentum will gain with more and more snippets of information and we can paint a bigger picture before such an announcement. There are key pieces of information available now:
A quick scour of the Microsoft careers board sheds some light on one particular feature for Durango.
Skype is working on powering real-time voice and video communications on the Xbox. Xbox is a fundamental lynchpin of Skype’s living-room strategy, and we are focused on enabling amazing new in-game and in-console voice and video experiences for the next generation of Xbox.
Due to the time required to develop the new hardware, the job description points out that the position is time-critical. Back in October the deal, initially announced last March, was finally agreed with Microsoft acquiring Skype, the world’s leading VoIP client, for $8.5billion. There has been much speculation about what the future holds for the voice service but I don’t think anyone really expected it to be so closely linked with the future Xbox console.
Microsoft playing the cards so close to their chest – and showing that they don’t have to use E3 for their big announcement last time – certainly keeps Sony on their toes who are remaining very tight-lipped about their future console:
Playstation 4 – Codename: Orbis
The rumors surrounding the PS4 suggest it will use an AMD X64 CPU with an AMD GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) that will allow for a stunning 1080p, 3D-enabled gaming. The integration of cross-platform functionality between Orbis and the PS Vita is expected as one of the key Vita features is the remote play option already functional with the PS3.
Both platforms have rumors circulating that they will either limit or prevent the ability to play used games on the system as well as not supporting backwards compatibility of games from current systems . The anti-used game feature has already caused (and likely ignite to a greater degree if confirmed beyond a rumor) a lot of forum rage. The likes of Gamestop may also find their current business model would be hurt from such a move and have to review their strategy to stay operational. Personally, the only downside to the used game scenario would be the fact I can’t grab a couple of games from my brother-in-law to try them out before I buy them. As for backwards compatibility? Doesn’t phase me at all. If I’m getting a new system, I want to play new games. If I want to take a trip down memory lane then I just pull out one of my old consoles. That reminds me, I need to find the power cable for the PS2 so my wife can get her Final Fantasy IV fix.
There is currently a lawsuit involving the former developers of the Call of Duty franchise and Activision. While the legal issues are a little indolent to the workings of the average mind, within lies details of a contract between developer Bungie Inc (Halo) and the publishing giant. The details reveal Activision engaged Bungie to produce four bi-yearly sci-fi shooters starting 2013. The first game “Destiny” scheduled for Q3 2013 for both Xbox 360 and the potential successor aka Xbox 720. The Playstation 4 and the PC would see the release the following year.
The fact these details have emerged from legal documentation finally put some grounding to all the rumors we have been inundated with over the last few months (and years). Now, before you start doing the crazy dance, remember, it just provides a basis and nothing more. Where we have moved from rumor and speculation to primitive evidence – that, technically, has been there all along. These companies have been thinking about the next generation and the future the day the current systems first hit shelves. You always have to be thinking ahead if you want to stay in business. Just as a company needs to be forward thinking, likewise any good lawyer would recommend the same for contract clauses.
So, while we can probably stop overworking our minds on big hardware reveals at E3, we can expect some software developer news to be on the floor. Square-Enix and Avalanche have hat-tipped the next sequel in the Just Cause franchise to featured on the successor systems. According to Eurogamer, a job posting revealed their aim is to create an open world, action game. Christofer Sundberg, CEO of Avalanche, posted on Eidos’ official forums that his team were fully booked through 2014 and is working on a two licensed games – one comic book based the other on an upcoming movie – that are also open world based. All of these timelines just fit so neatly with the launch of two new consoles and the next generation of couch-gaming.
It’s expected that details of one of these two games will be released at E3 – so we’ll find out in a little under 168 hours time.