Check back on this slug frequently for updated details about the Xbox release.
Microsoft today showcased details of its next-generation gaming platform, Xbox One, which will succeed the Xbox 360. The announcement at Microsoft's Redmond campus followed significant speculation about the new device, which is expected to include a built-in version of the formerly detached Kinect module.
Don Mattrick, president of the interactive entertainment business, debuted the box at 1 p.m. EST Tuesday, with the Microsoft team showing off a "hub"-style device that relies heavily on voice commands and gestures for control. A lead-in ad for the release talked of the platform's ability to recognize individual voices, faces and use patterns.
That focus on human interaction is an extension of current trends, says Emanuel Kimbrough of Power Gamer on Reisterstown Road.
"People seem to be very excited about making your whole room the game," he says, discussing the IllumaRoom feature.
He says the idea is applicable to a wide variety of game types, including action, adventure, treasure-finding games, battlefield simulations ... "anything that's very innovative, new and original."
The hardware of the new system will feature 8 gigabytes of random access memory, according to Microsoft's Marc Whitten, citing the need for a "lag-free" experience. Other upgrades from the older console including USB 3 and Wifi Direct, according to company officials.
The lead-in rumors were not always positive, says Alexander Ryan, the founder of Maryland's Gamer Symphony Orchestra.
"From the time [Sony] revealed the Playstation 4, Sony has been getting a lot of good attention about that decision," Ryan says, contrasting Sony's approach with Microsoft's tight-lipped stance. "In that silence a lot of negative rumors crop up."
The new console comes into a gaming landscape that has seen decreased focus on standalone consoles, with game companies like Zynga increasingly taking the center of the industry. Zynga, which closed its Baltimore County facility earlier this year, focuses on simple mobile games.
Joel Guttman, who is also active in the gaming orchestra, says such mobile and social games are targeted at short attention spans. "They aren't meant to have the same depth," he says. They're focused on busy users with "a few simple actions that you can use quickly ... you can pick it up and then put it down equally fast."
That shift in style has forced console manufacturers to play the same game as PC makers and service providers: All three groups are attempting to make their devices into subscription entertainment hubs that manage media, connect to networks and interact with the user.
Ryan says that the Microsoft approach to that subscription model has been disappointing to him in the past, with users seeing ads and paying for "pretty much the rudimentary online features that you'd get on other platforms for free."
Much of the first part of Microsoft's platform release event was focused on content, with a live demo of how users could control ESPN and view other content.
Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios, had a few bones to throw gamers. Among those was Quantum Break, which was shown off with a trailer evoking Fringe. He also announced that the studio would be a releasing eight new franchises in the coming months, as well as enhancements of existing nameplates.
Soon, though, it was back to non-interactive content, with an NFL partnership plug and the announcement by Steven Spielberg of a Halo franchise on screen before staff finally allowed the audience a sneak peek of the next Call of Duty installation.
That shared attention on non-interactives is somewhat in contrast with what Kimbrough and Ryan say they are hoping to see. They would enjoy more focus on innovative game content.
"I can't say I'm sick and tired of Halo," he says, but he'd like to see the new hardware inspire "something original ... I'm hoping that this new system will bring a revival to the industry because it seems kind of stagnant, with same titles but different coding, opportunity for more innovative ideas, for independent developers bring revival to gaming community.
Ryan says that regardless of whether the Microsoft team brings its own game innovations, developers' attention to the new hardware will be likely to have spillover benefits for gamers on other platforms.
"Games are still designed with the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 in mind," he said Tuesday, shortly before the Xbox announcement. "Cutting-edge PC technology never really gets utilized." He hopes that software will catch up with what is now standard hardware. "That's the big thing I'm excited about."