The wait is over, gamers: Xbox One is here. Well, technically it’s only announced, but with the first look at the console, new Kinect, controller, and the first details on the sweeping changes coming to the Xbox experience, it’ll do for now.
New details are coming as we speak, but trading the old green color scheme and game-focused UI for a sleeker home-stereo style and media integration is enough to get fans excited already.
Although the official unveiling of Microsoft‘s next console is sure to trigger an onslaught of next-gen exclusives, and further details on the system architecture and developer accessibility. For now, let’s start with the hardware.
First and foremost, it’s a box. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the actual design of the Xbox One is about as clear an example of ‘sleek’ and ‘industrial’ as you can get; gone are the angular edges and glowing green LEDS, replaced with glossy blacks and what appears to be an all-white light scheme with metallic accents. The new Kinect is designed to mirror the look of the console itself, helping to soften the blow of a motion control perihperal that is still not integrated into the console itself.
Fans will be pleased to hear the controller doesn’t look to be undergoing too drastic a change – and pleased to hear of the “vibrating impulse triggers” being added. Previous reports claimed that the controller would be keeping all components exactly the same, but in a slightly smaller package, and that seems to be the case. Besides moving the new minimalist Xbox guide button to the top of the controller, and replacing colored face buttons with black buttons and colored letters, Microsoft isn’t fixin’ what ain’t broken. Sadly, the new controllers will not be compatible with existing headsets.
While gamers have yet to see what Sony has in store with the PlayStation 4 itself, the overall impression given by the Xbox One is a positive one. The multitude of Tron jokes sure to be made over the coming days and weeks are unavoidable, but whether we’re talking technophiles who long for their consoles and digital receivers to match, or consumers who prefer simplicity over ‘rad designs,’ the Xbox One is nothing if not understated. And that’s not a bad thing.
Especially with the subtle changes in logo and controller color-coding marking this console as one markedly different from the two that came before it. Unfortunately we’re still waiting on hardware details and specifications, hopefully coming either later in the week or in the coming weeks, with games taking center stage at E3 2013.
[Update:] The Xbox One will not require an always-on internet connection, despite persistent rumors to the contrary. The console will be equipped with an eight-core x86 processor, a Blu-ray player, a 500 GB hard drive (not replacable or user-servicable), 8 GB of RAM, and will not be backwards compatible with the Xbox 360. It will include an HDMI IN and OUT port, as well as USB 3.0 (can be used to plug in additional storage), and comes bundled with a Kinect. The new Kinect has also seen significant improvements, from an increased and refined field of vision, the ability to track up to six players and individual fingers, to full 1080p picture.
In addition to the technical details emerging from the post-event panel, Microsoft has released official information on the changes glimpsed during the live presentation. Have at them:
- Skype for Xbox One. Specially designed for Xbox One, talk with friends on your TV in stunning HD, or for the first time ever, hold group Skype calls on your TV.
- Trending. Stay on top of what is hot on TV by discovering the entertainment that is popular among your friends, and see what is trending within the Xbox community.
As for the changes coming to online multiplayer and the Xbox Live experience:
- Smart Match. A new Smart Match matchmaking system virtually eliminates waiting in lobbies by estimating wait times and finding people you want to play with while you are enjoying other activities — reputation fundamentally matters and helps find best matches.
- Game DVR. A dedicated Game DVR captures and accesses your magic moments, all saved to the cloud. Along with sharing tools, you will have the most amazing bragging rights with Xbox Live.
- Living Games. Dynamic, living worlds evolve and improve the more you play, and advanced artificial intelligence can learn to play like you, so friends can play against your shadow.
And for the popular gamers, the Xbox Live friends list is being expanded to 1000 according to Xbox Support!
We’ll keep you updated on all your Xbox One news as it’s released, with a release planned later this year.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.