When the current generation of video game consoles was being designed, so was Facebook. In a dorm room. Fast forwarding nearly ten years, much of our world is "always online," or "always connected," to the Internet. Consoles have always remained above the fray of building such requirements into their framework, into their modus operandi, but rumors regarding the next generation continue to paint it as an inevitability.
According to a story in Edge, citing sources with first-hand knowledge of Microsoft's next-generation console (known aliases: Xbox 720, Durango, Xbox Infinity), the next Xbox will indeed require an constant Internet connection. It will also inhibit the function of used games, support Blu-Ray-based physical media, and ship with new versions of Xbox Live and Kinect.
Furthermore, the story claims that the most recent power prognostications for the Xbox 720 are right on point: the system will reportedly boast an AMD eight-core x64 1.6GHz CPU, a D3D11.x 800MHz graphics solution, and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Blu-Ray discs will feature a capacity of 50GB -- hopefully curbing the "second disc" needs that we've seen increasingly from DVD-based 360 games (Halo 4, Assassin's Creed 3, Mass Effect 3 and Battlefield 3, to name a few.)
That the Xbox 720 would block used games isn't surprising; the oft-rumored notion began circulating over a year ago. The explanation, or "how", however, is now a little more concrete. According to Edge, Microsoft's Blu-Ray discs would each be shipped with an activation code, and, similar to today's online passes (only now pertinent to an entire game), the code would activate the disc for one particular console and become void going forward.
The concept part of is Microsoft's initiative to expand its digital distribution services in the next generation. It also poleaxes the used-games market. Secondhand discs would become impotent, obsolete. And assuming the next-gen lifespan runs at least at long as this one (currently in its seventh year), physical media altogether could be removed from the console equation when all is said and done. We already know Sony has explored similar options for single-use discs. And it seems a bit more than conjectural panic that Gamestop, whose brick-and-mortar business is all-things physical media, saw their stock price drop over 10% on the news as soon as markets opened today.
But of course, digital isn't the only emerging trend in gaming; the report goes on to mention Microsoft's plans regarding Kinect 2.0. The company continues to "invest heavily" in motion-control technology, it says, and the next version of Kinect is believed to be more responsive than its predecessor. Moreover, no doubt as an attempt to ubiquitize the hardware, Kinect sensors will reportedly ship alongside each Xbox.
Even though there's still plenty of mystery surrounding hardware release dates, the curtain is quickly rising on the next-generation. Once-sporadic rumors are growing more consistent; once-mercurial tech specs are starting to set in stone. We're even getting our first glimpse, courtesy of games like The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 and Dragon Age 3, at the titles we'll soon be playing.
February 20 will see Sony deliver an announcement on "the future of PlayStation," and with plenty of speculation already encircling the PlayStation 4, we might just learn definitively about the way the two console giants plan to compete.
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.