Xbox Kinect

Microsoft’s still-unannounced next-generation Xbox console will ship with a new control pad, a 500GB HDD, a “much-improved” Kinect motion sensor and the ability to run multiple games/apps simultaneously, according to a Kotaku source who claims to be in possession of a development kit for the machine said to be codenamed Durango. According to Kotaku’s article, all Durango SKUs will not only ship with a Kinect sensor, but they will also only function when one is connected.

This latest next-gen scuttlebutt follows in the still-crashing wake churned up by another round of rumors that XBLAFans reported on just last week. The sources behind those rumors also asserted that the so-called Xbox 720 would bring with it a new and improved version of Microsoft’s motion-sensing technology.

Regular next-gen rumor followers will be familiar with Kotaku’s latest rumor source, who goes by the handle “SuperDaE.” He, as Kotaku identifies him, caught gamers’ attention last summer when he attempted to sell what he said was an Xbox Durango dev kit on eBay. Interestingly, SuperDaE said the sale was intercepted by Microsoft and prevented from going through on account of copyright issues. Microsoft has not acknowledged as much and is unlikely to considering that it has so far done everything short of wave its collective hand in front of a Kinect sensor like some sort of Jedi Knight and confidently state that there is no next-gen Xbox whenever the subject has been broached.

SuperDaE’s information, which was supposedly gleaned from a score of Microsoft whitepapers, points to the next-gen Kinect sensor being capable of tracking up to six gamers simultaneously (up from two in the current version) and 25 of each player’s skeletal joints (up from 20). Color and depth resolution and depth range are said to be getting dramatic increases, and “Active IR resolution” is reportedly being added to Kinect’s specs. The whitepapers say Kinect will always be watching users and that it will automatically detect players and associate them with their Xbox Live accounts.

The report also points to a new version of the standard Xbox controller. Any changes are planned to result in a physical controller that relies on a “new wireless technology” and that is a “natural evolution” of the current one. Xbox 360 controllers would not function with the console said to be releasing this holiday season.

Xbox 360

Of course, a new console wouldn’t be too exciting if all it did was iterate rather than innovate. SuperDaE has Microsoft building in the ability to “suspend” and “constrain” games, allowing for an app or even another game to be pulled up and run simultaneously while the first game is paused. As Kotaku points out, most internet-connected devices of today can already do this, but home game consoles have not previously given users this ability.

Microsoft also has apparent plans to require all games to be installed onto the standard 500GB HDD that Durangos will all ship with, thus eradicating the disparity in what gamers can do with their Xbox 360s that was brought on by the lack of a standardized hard drive in the console. Developers would be given the ability to design games in “sections,” which would allow for one portion to be played by gamers while the remaining sections are installed in the background. Like Kinect, installs would be mandatory.

The report also re-confirms the hardware specs that were said to be confirmed by last week’s inside source: an eight-core x64 1.6GHz CPU, a D3D11.x 800MHz graphics solution and 8GB of DDR3 RAM and adds a few more details to the mix. It’s looking more and more likely that these specs are, at the very least, what Microsoft is currently planning for the next Xbox.

One thing has remained constant with the next-gen Xbox rumor drip these past couple years: if anybody knows anything concrete about Microsoft’s future plans for XBLA, they aren’t sharing it. Amazingly, the only source willing to talk about the future of XBLA has been Microsoft itself, but the company mostly spoke in generalizations about its plans to continue to evolve the platform.

Sony will hold a press event on February 20 to, presumably, unveil the PlayStation 4. Microsoft has yet to announce such an event. The wait continues — as will the spreading of rumors.

Source: Kotaku