The third major Xbox console is real, and it’s coming. Possibly as soon as Christmas of next year, if this leaked 2-year-old PowerPoint presentation document is to be believed.
I’m usually the biggest skeptic when it comes to rumors. But this thing has my spidey sense tingling. Methinks it’s the real deal.
Which isn’t to say that it’s accurate. It’s two years old, and a lot can change in that amount of time in the technology industry. But this document maps out Microsoft’s consumer offerings for five years, from 2011 to 2015, which still gives us plenty of meat to chew on. And for what it’s worth, most of the plans it outlined for 2011 and 2012 have come true, most notably Microsoft’s recent announcement of Xbox SmartGlass at E3, which in the document is called a “haptic controller.”
The presentation also reveals that Microsoft intends for SmartGlass to transcend supplemental game or TV information and move into an additional control device, and eventually even a screen through which you can stream games anywhere in your home — including other TVs, handheld devices, or even PCs — straight from your Xbox. Like DirecTV’s “Whole-Home DVR” service, your content will be synchronized across all of your devices and displays, so you can start watching or playing in one room, and then move to another room and keep right on going.
The document was originally posted on Scribd and found by crafty posters over on the NeoGAF forums. Once Microsoft got word of it, though, it was promptly yanked from Scribd’s servers. At the time of this writing, Game Informer is still offering it for download from their website.
After reading through the entire document, here are the highlights I gleaned:
- The as-yet-unnamed, third-gen Xbox console (referred to jokingly as “Xbox 720”) should arrive by Holiday 2013, with Kinect v2 hardware built in. Kinect 2 will allow for a far more advanced motion-sensing experience that adapts to your living room instead of forcing you to rearrange your furniture. Built for “closer, deeper” use, it will let you play standing or seated, and you’ll (finally, fulfilling a promise from Kinect’s debut as “Project Natal”) be able to use your own props in your games thanks to Kinect’s scanning capabilities. Instead of maxing out at 2 players, the new Kinect will track up to 4 at one time. The new Xbox was also expected to have a Blu-ray disc drive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that part of the plan has changed to go with digital downloads for everything.
- Perhaps the biggest shocker in the presentation is the revelation of a whole new class of hardware that Microsoft is no doubt deep in development and refinement right now. Code-named “Fortaleza” (yep, another Brazilian city name, just like Natal), it’s also referred to as “Kinect Glasses,” and is exactly what it sounds like: wearable 3D glasses that bring your games out of the screen and into the real world around you. Microsoft calls this their “Screen Zero transscreen experience,” or the full “big screen experience without the big screen.” The intention is for this device — which they hope to launch a year after the new Xbox, in 2014 — to not only revolutionize gaming, but to work as a lifestyle augmentation device, powered by 4G cellular networking, that provides real-time information about the world around you while you’re on the go. (Sounds an awful lot like Google’s Project Glass, but remember, this document dates back to 2010.)
- If the document’s timeline is still accurate, then sometime this year, Microsoft hopes to launch “XTV,” a live, streaming, cable-like television service. It will come complete with DVR-type recording, TV apps, and an “always on” function.
- Microsoft mentions something called “Concurrent Experiences,” that sounds kind of like SmartGlass, but goes a lot deeper. The way it’s described, it’s sort of a picture-in-picture mixture of whatever game and/or TV programming you want to experience at one time. But Microsoft also intends to release an SDK that lets content creators mix various mediums (games, TV, movies, music, etc.) to come up with entirely new interactive experiences.
- By 2015, Microsoft plans to take cloud gaming to the next level, creating an always-on experience for gamers that gives them access to their content not only from their Xbox, but from all of their devices. Imagine playing Halo or Gears of War on your smartphone or tablet, without having to turn on your Xbox or even be at home with it. With mobile technology advancing so quickly, this is entirely within the realm of possibility. Microsoft also mentions a “Cloud Rendering Platform” SDK that they plan to give developers and content creators, to make production of cloud-based media easier for game makers, TV producers, and app developers.
Microsoft wants its next Xbox to be the only media box your living room needs: games, movies, TV, music, everything — in a single, all-in-one box. The document says that the new box will be “sophisticated, silent, always on, and green.” Sounds good to me. And at a planned launch price of just $299, and an intended 10-year life cycle, it should be a smart investment, too.
Check out the full gallery below of presentation sketches extracted from the leaked document.