Next Xbox Speculation: Why Shouldn’t it Be a Windows App Machine?

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I’ve mentioned Microsoft here and there in various posts about next gen gaming, but I don’t think I’ve actually gone over much of the speculation on them specifically. Despite Xbox being the main platform for traditional console games right now, its successor is the next gen system we know the least about.

What’s even stranger in my opinion is that all the rumors have been mostly talking about hardware, when I think that’s probably gonna be the least interesting part about the platform.

The most recent “Durango” rumors talk about how it’s gonna have Kinect as a mandatory pack-in. I’ve seen a lot of people practically pull their hair out over this, but I’ve seen it as inevitable ever since Microsoft first unveiled Kinect. It’ll probably be integral to interfacing with the system like the Wii U GamePad is for that system. I think if they can get the thing to play nice with a standard controller, you could see some interesting gameplay come out of it. I doubt however whether you’ll see multiplatform games utilize it much at all.

The other half of that rumor states that the next Xbox will require an internet connection. I still think this is unlikely because we still haven’t reached a point where close to 100 percent of console gamers connect their machines to the internet. It would definitely look bad if Microsoft had the only console that did this. Even iOS devices, which Microsoft probably sees itself as competing with, don’t absolutely require an internet connection at all times. The Apple TV does but that’s because it has no drives of its own.

The next Xbox not being able to run games off of a disc at all is, essentially, another form of blocking used games (as well as probably saving wattage), which I think is slightly less unlikely. It would basically make Xbox games operate like PC games — you install off of the disc and that’s it. While functionally that would be cool, it brings back all obvious problems with locking a game down to one console. That brings me to the point however that software is still the key thing here when speculating on a new piece of hardware.

Just as Xbox Live was probably the most important thing about the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s big reveal for the next Xbox will probably be its OS and software environment. Sony went through a whole conference revealing the PS4 without showing the actual box and still got people hyped. I could see Microsoft doing basically the same thing.

Over the last couple years there have been rumors about the next Xbox’s relationship with the Windows 8 ecosystem Microsoft is trying to build which currently includes computers, the Surface, and the Windows 8 phone. I think it’s pretty easy to draw the lines here.

I could definitely see the next Xbox running a derivative of Windows 8, or at least being compatible with a significant chunk of the software on the Windows 8 marketplace, almost turning it into a Windows 8 set-top box. It would be the last piece to their puzzle, and a piece that one of their main competitors in that space — Apple, hasn’t dominated yet.

In a previous post I think I talked about how easily Apple could have a big impact on consoles games if they were to simply offer an iOS device for the living room. It would be natural for Microsoft to not only compete, but beat them to the punch with a Windows 8/RT machine for the living room, and what better than a beefy Xbox? Just look at how much they focus on apps for the Xbox 360 right now.

Possibly most importantly for gamers, I don’t think this will really interfere with “core gaming” on the system at all. It simply means more software. It’s not like the hardware will instantly become non-gaming hardware, or lesser gaming hardware.

The presence of Netflix and music apps on the Xbox 360 doesn’t make it a less viable platform for Halo and Gears of War. The existence of a wide-ranging non-gaming app store on the next Xbox won’t kill those games or make game publishers stop releasing games on the platform. There will simply be a wider variety of software.

I could maybe see Kinect advertised as the main way for non-gamers to interface with the next Xbox when they’re using all those apps and whatnot, but once again, what’s to stop Microsoft from letting you use a standard controller in tandem? It’s not like they’ll just stop using it.

Look at it like this: Every game console, even going all the way back to the NES, is basically a living room computer (the NES was even called the “Family Computer” in Japan). It’s just a computer that up until now has only had entertainment software developed for it. Now we’re approaching a stage where there’s more and more software that people want to run in their living rooms. In light of that why should consoles be restricted to running software for only one purpose? The way I see it, more software adds more value to the hardware, period.

BULLETS:

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