With the past year seeing rumors regarding Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox shift increasingly from speculative to credible, as much seems to have been revealed about what the console might restrict gamers from doing as it has about new innovations — about new designs, new ideas and new gameplay experiences.
Consider backwards compatibility.
Many reports have suggested that the next Xbox could prevent the playing of used games; the past week has seen an online firestorm ignite over a Microsoft executive’s always-online internet comments. And now a new report has surfaced claiming that the upcoming console will implement a version of AMD chipsets which, while bringing its power on par with the PlayStation 4’s, will preclude any compatibility with Xbox 360 discs.
According to Bloomberg, Microsoft’s next console will be built around AMD’s “system-on-a-chip” architecture: a combination of graphics chips merged with the much lauded “Jaguar” CPU currently being implemented into the PlayStation 4.
Owing to Jaguar’s x86 format, a staple of the modern PC, Microsoft will essentially be incorporating a chipset so divergent from the Xbox 360’s Power PC technology that the Xbox 720 won’t be able to run its predecessor’s discs. Any nostalgia treks back into Halo 4 or BioShock: Infinite would have to be done digitally, via emulation or cloud streaming. However, as Sony revealed with its similarly-backwards-incompatible PlayStation 4 — which isn’t setting its initial sights beyond delivering PS1 and PS2 games through the cloud or the PS4 storefront — both methods still appear to be somewhat limited.
Microsoft’s ostensible solution for backwards compatibility might not be an overly creative one — but it is outside the box, so to speak.
The latest AMD chipset report arrived just a day after veteran tech blogger Paul Thurrot dropped a host of alleged details regarding Microsoft’s Xbox 720 agenda. Amid claims of a May 21st reveal, November release, $500 price (or $300 with a subscription), and the notorious always-on-Internet requirement was Thrrout’s assertion that Microsoft will release a $100 version of the Xbox 360, codenamed “Stingray,” alongside its new system.
By comparison, the cheapest Xbox 360 model available today — a standalone 4GB unit — is $200. Granted, declining demand for the 360 once the Xbox 720 arrives would ebb its retail value further. But if Stingray isn’t just developed as a cheaper alternative — if it’s slimmer, lighter, (sexier?) and yet holds the hard-drive space of the average gamer’s current library (say, 50-100 GB; though we’re hoping Microsoft would confirm that through actual market research) — it might obviate some of the hassles many would associate with keeping two generations of a console connected to the same setup.
Naturally, though, spending $100 wouldn’t be among them.
Ranters, how important will backwards compatibility be for you when purchasing a next-generation console? Are Microsoft and Sony simply the victims of rapidly evolving technology, or could both have taken greater measures to develop software-flexible hardware?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.