Though they’ve grown considerably cold in the wake of Sony’s PlayStation 4 unveiling this February and upcoming next-gen games — such as Watch Dogs, The Witcher 3, and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag — cropping up on the horizon, rumors have long persisted regarding Microsoft’s next-generation console, codenamed Durango, and its potential changes to the way we purchase and play games.
Previously, sources claiming access to Durango’s Xbox Development Kits (XDKs) have asserted that the console will feature always-on Internet technology and implement used-game restrictions through (Blu-Ray!) disk recognition software. Now, a new report has surfaced lending credence to the design — containing Durango XDK files that, in surprisingly explicit fashion, outline an always-on Internet connection and the mandatory installation of discs directly to the console hard drive.
The insight stems from a series of screenshots posted by VGLeaks reportedly grabbed from the XDK’s setup files. You can view them all on the site, but the screen below contains an overview of Durango’s hardware capabilities and, if authentic, serves as rather concrete (and handy) guide to a host of previously rumored Xbox 720 features. (Now might be a good time to get acquainted with your device’s zoom function.)
In addition to reiterating plans for an improved wireless controller; Blu-ray support; shipment with a new, required high-fidelity Kinect sensor; a powerful CPU and easy-to-develop-games-with hardware architecture, the overview reveals Durango’s mandatory system of installing every game to the hard-drive — and eschewing play from the disc altogether:
“Every Durango console will have a hard drive, although its exact capacity has not been chosen. It will be large enough, however, to hold a large number of games. All games will be installed on the hard drive. Play from the optical disc will not be supported.”
Continuing on, the overview explains that an “installation system” is being developed to allow gameplay while the installation is still in progress.
And regarding Durango’s ongoing connection to the Internet, which was first hinted at in earnest this February, the language is equally straightforward. The system will feature an “Always On, Always Connected” design that continuously updates the console, continuously updates games, but absorbs “minimal” electricity while not in direct use. It does sound preferable to turning on a console, eager to play a new game or hop into a multiplayer session with friends, only to be confronted with 10 minutes of updating. But is that the only purpose Microsoft has in mind?
Alone, always-on Internet and mandatory disc installation aren’t egregious, or even sweeping, changes to way most gamers purchase and access content — provided Durango’s hard drive is, in fact, spacious and its power consumption sparing. Taken together, however, as most gamers are astutely aware, they create the evergreen possibility of the console leveraging DRM to restrict used games. A recent report claimed Microsoft will embed its Blu-Rays with single-use activation codes, similar to an online pass. And short of that Durango could simply scan a foreign disc, scan an online database for another console with the same disc’s data, and then decide whether to install it or feign ignorance. Discs become discardable; “used games” becomes an oxymoron.
But of course we’ll learn of Microsoft’s true motivations and machinations soon enough. Following Sony’s lead, the company is believed to be staging a mini-reveal of the Xbox 720 in April, and E3 2013 is fast approaching this June — when both consoles are expected to be on full display.
What do you make of Durango’s — or the Xbox 720′s — purported always-on Internet connectivity and required disc installation? Would faster load times and fewer updates compensate for the potential of prohibiting used games?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.