durango article -
durango article -

Is it always-online or not? Given the negative publicity Microsoft has faced over the matter in recent months, it's probably the most important question the platform holder will need to answer about its next Xbox tomorrow. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the console won't require a persistent Internet connection, but that alternative methods of DRM will be introduced instead. Call me a cynic, but I don't believe that EA's decision to drop its Online Pass program is as straightforward as it seems, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft employ a new DRM architecture that requires a one-time use key to be registered with each game.

Not that such an initiative would kill off pre-owned, of course; I expect a system to be introduced that would allow second-hand users to purchase a new license for an additional fee, similar to the existing Online Pass system. And such a thing may also allow for disc-less playback as well. If the game's registered to your account and installed/accessible off the cloud, what need would there be for the disc?

Of course, given the 60 minute time limit, I wouldn't imagine too much time to be devoted to the politics behind licensing, and so anticipate precise details about the subject to remain relatively cloudy.

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Announced by Bill Gates in March 2000, the Xbox eventually launched across Europe in March 2002 for £299.99.

Elsewhere, though, I believe Microsoft will be crystal clear with its plans for the new Xbox. The hardware will be shown, and a price and release date could be announced, with the extra time between this and Sony's PS4 announcement giving MS a few vital extra months to lock down launch logistics.

The platform holder will likely want to be on the market in time for Call of Duty: Ghosts, so I predict a late October/early November launch date, and a £329-£349 price for a premium SKU bundled with a new Kinect. A subsidised subscription-based 'contract' model will likely be available, too, but - as some have been calling for - I can't see MS canning Xbox LIVE Gold. In fact, Xbox LIVE Gold will likely form a middle tier between Xbox LIVE Free and a new premium subscription-type that offers additional bonuses - for example, access to cloud gaming, or additional Marketplace discounts. Frankly, it's just too big a revenue stream for MS not to expand upon, let alone drop.

Games-wise, though, I don't think we'll see anywhere near as many titles as were shown at the PS4 reveal (Microsoft has already suggested that it's holding back multiple exclusives for E3). But with that said, I think we'll see far bigger IPs than at Sony's show. Hazarding a guess, I'd expect three or four major titles to be shown, including Call of Duty: Ghosts, Forza Motorsport 5 and, if the rumours about the deal between MS & EA are true, Battlefield 4. Dead Rising 3 has long been expected to be in development, too, so that could be revealed as an Xbox-exclusive, along with a brief montage showcasing other third-party titles. I wouldn't be too surprised to see the conference fade out with a teaser for a new Halo or Gears of War, either.

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The Xbox 360 was announced just three years after Xbox went on sale, launching in the UK in December 2005 for £279.99.

And then there's Kinect. I can see Microsoft saving a Ryse re-reveal for E3, but spending a fair amount of time discussing Kinect's functionality in entertainment apps (themselves likely a big part of Microsoft's show), along with any details about the enhanced online functionality of the system. It wouldn't be too surprising for the information included in last year's leaked document to still be valid today, so some sort of system that's able to overlay a ticker detailing relevant real-world information - be it football scores, breaking news, reminders or otherwise - will likely be detailed along with advanced social network integration. Given the social media trend, it's possible MS will lift the lid on a system that lets players interact with Facebook or Twitter in a far more meaningful way, possibly by inviting their friends to parties or games directly via the networks.

Project Fortaleza, the VR project that transforms the player's room into the game environment, may be hinted at, but a part of me wonders whether that's evolved into Microsoft's IllumiRoom project. A form of medium blending a typical episodic TV show structure with interactive gameplay - something Microsoft's LA studio is rumoured to be working on - will likely be detailed as well.

The most important aspect to some, though - the specs - likely won't be discussed in as much detail as that of PS4. To tell you the truth, it's the area I'm least confident in making a prediction, and while Microsoft will certainly want to come as close to Sony as it possibly can do, I'm still not convinced it will have the specs to match, let alone beat PS4. And it doesn't necessarily need to, either. If the next gen plays out as it has this gen, third-parties won't break their back (or their budget) enhancing software for specific formats - they'll simply build them for the lowest common denominator. If MS can shave some corners off of Sony's next-gen beast (most likely that 8GB GDDR5 RAM), it could afford itself some flexibility with the price, and in turn offer a lower-priced console: a major factor in attracting consumers this Christmas.

Oh, and my bet on the name? Xbox. Just Xbox.

But will I be correct in my predictions? Tune in tomorrow night from 6pm BST when Microsoft will raise the curtain on its next-gen Xbox, and let us know your own thoughts in the comments below.

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