What will the new Xbox look like? Well, it's certainly hard to know for certain; the image here is just an artist mockup. However, Kotaku just released the inside scoop on what the internals of new Xbox has in store, and let's just say it looks pretty good - though there are a few worrying pieces stuck in there. For starters, the box is codenamed "Durango"—note that Durango isn't the final name for the system, but just the name Microsoft will use to refer to it before it's "officially" announced to the public.
To start, Kotaku didn't see or use the unit themselves; they had an inside source named SuperDaE, who you might remember from last year, when he tried to sell a Durango development kit on eBay for $200,100. This is the same person who recently posted a lot of information about the next-generation Sony console, along with 90 pages of Sony development kit documentation.
Now, to be very clear, console developers tend to refuse to acknowledge that they're working on next-generation consoles, or that games are being developed for them, in order to not undercut sales of their current systems and games. This makes it exceptionally difficult to verify information, as Microsoft refuses to comment on "rumors or speculation", and doesn't release any information themselves, but much of what SuperDaE has released seems to make sense, and line up with confirmed reports from other sources. So this is likely the state as it was in January of 2013 of the system design; although it could certainly significantly change before release.
So what's in store for the new system? Here's a point-by-point breakdown with my two-cents on the upgrades.
Multiple Games at Once
It appears the Durango will have the ability to run multiple games and apps at once, multi-tasking in a way that most users will be familiar with from smartphones or desktop computers - but Durango may be the first console to do so, which will certainly give it a leg-up on the competition. It seems you'll also be able to "suspend" or "constrain" games, which would allow users to pause a game and switch to another application or game, then return to the game without losing their place. I know this is something I've been looking forward to in a console, and will certainly be a step up from "save points" and waiting for title screens.
Hard Drive Included
Every single system will ship with an internal hard drive, standardizing how storage will work, which almost certainly will be a relief for game developers. The flip side of this, however, is that the documentation seems to imply that every single game will require an "install" the first time it's inserted. The 500 GB HDD will almost certainly be mostly filled with game installs, which is the bad news, and hearing that an install will be required with every new game should certainly give you pause; the good news is that games will be programmed in "sections", so that first time install will happen in the background while you're already playing the game, which should almost definitely give the games a performance boost (once the install is completed). These installs will also be mandatory, as game details will not be read from the disk.
There is going to be a new version of the Kinect motion-control sensor array included with every Durango. In fact, the Durango will only work when a Kinect sensor array is plugged in; even though it's a "much-improved" version of the Kinect, still, I'm not one-hundred percent certain I want to be forced to use that hardware. This is particularly worrying, because according to the Durango documentation, it is always watching you.
"The new version of the camera can track up to six individual "skeletons" in the same room at all times. This has clear gameplay implications, such as allowing a game to instantly identify a person, but could also be related to a recently-patented Microsoft system for monitoring and maybe even charging users based on who is watching what." I don't know about you, but I'm not excited to possibly be charged a "by-person" fee to play games or watch movies.
The new controller will be a "natural evolution" from the current controller, language which seems to imply it will be fairly similar to the XBox 360 controller. That said, the 360 controller you have in your living room won't work with the system, apparently, as the new controllers will use "new wireless technology", whatever that means. Seems to me like a grab for more of your money, but it's a little early to tell.
So, the control scheme in the physical controller hasn't upgraded much; what control upgrades should we expect? Well, there will apparently be an application designed to allow you to use a phone or tablet's motion sensing capabilities with the built in Kinect to execute motion sensing similar to what the Wii U controller is capable of. All we know is that Microsoft has said, "There is no limit on the imaginative possibilities with this input medium and its screen real estate." As mysterious as that is, we may just have to wait to see what developers do with this opportunity.
So technical specifications of Durango development kits have previously been released, but what's exciting is we now have the exact specs you'll expect to see in the units you will actually be able to get your grubby little hands on.
The hardware will be completely custom, and buzz along running an 8-core, 64-bit CPU running at 1.6ghz, an 800mhz DirectX 11.x graphics processor units and various "custom hardware blocks" to perform specialized tasks to free up cycles on the main CPU.
To the left you can see sketches and details provided by SuperDaE, showing 8GB of DDR3 memory, along with a small amount of flash memory for system tasks, which isn't astounding, but is still enough to likely get the job done. The optical disc drive is 50GB in size for the BluRay disks and the previously mentioned hard drive has read speeds of up to 50 MB/sec,
The Durango will also display on 3D TV's in 1080p, which is certainly a step up from the 360 when it first shipped, and there will be no wi-fi external adapter like there was with the 360; the wifi capability looks to be built directly in.
And the audio doesn't look half bad either, with supported output via either HDMI or S/PDIF (optical) connections, and 7.1 channels of sound.
What Don't We Know?
Well, there have been rumors circulating for a while that the new Xbox will require an internet connection to run, and SuperDaE had no information on that front. And as reported at the top, we have no idea how the system or the controller will look. When will we know? Well, Sony has scheduled a huge even in New York City on February 20th - Kotaku postulated that Microsoft might try to spoil that event with a pre-show tease. My opinion? We likely won't hear anything until E3 in June; but just in case I'm wrong, I suggest checking back here on February 19th.