At an event today called, appropriately, Xbox Reveal, Microsoft announced the next generation of the Xbox, the first new version in eight years: It's an "all-in-one" entertainment system called the Xbox One. Not only has the console's architecture changed both inside and out, but improvements have been made to the Kinect and the remote control, and new entertainment options abound, says the company.
The Xbox One looks like a rather large black AV box. And at least Microsoft showed the console, unlike Sony at its PS4 announcement; but pricing and availability (beyond "later this year") aren't yet known. The new console's specs include 8GB of RAM, an eight-core CPU, a 500GB hard drive, a Blu-ray drive, HDMI in/out, and a USB 3.0 port. Few other details about inside-the-box technology were provided.
One key change in the way you'll use it is that manual log-in is no longer needed, thanks to voice command. You can verbally turn the Xbox on and also quickly switch between TV shows, movies, music, and games. Microsoft has also added new universal hand gestures.
Another new feature called Snap Mode lets you run multiple activities side by side on-screen. You can be playing a game, for example, and speak to a friend on Skype as you play. Skype group video calls will be possible, as well.
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Microsoft introduced a concept it calls Intelligent TV, which lets you use voice control to access your Favorites (a personal channel with all the shows/movies you watch) and Trending (what the Xbox Live community is watching in real time). The new Kinect sensor responds to your voice, while the controller has about 40 new innovations.
On the game front, Electronic Arts and Microsoft have partnered to release four sports games over the next 12 months: FIFA 14, Madden, NBA Live, and UFC. Using a new proprietary gaming engine called Ignite, these games blur the line between the real and virtual by providing more animation and depth, for true "sports player" motion and experience, according to an EA spokesman. Graphics did look really impressive in the demos.
MS Studios also introduced Forza Motorsport 5, a car-racing game that will be available when the Xbox One launches. The company announced that more than 15 exclusive games to launch within the first year, including eight being new franchises.
Activision's next generation Call of Duty game, Ghosts, will feature a new world, a new cast, and a new narrative—also expected to be released within the first 12 months after the Xbox One's launch.
And last but not least interesting, Steven Spielberg and Xbox Entertainment Studios have teamed up to bring a live-action "Halo" series to the screen.
More information should come from the major gaming show, E3 which takes place June 10 to June 14. We'll be at the show, so check back for coverage. And of course we'll be reviewing this new console as soon as we can get our hands on it!
—Antonella Pomilla with additional reporting by Carol Mangis