It’s been eight long years since Microsoft launched the Xbox 360, which has over the years morphed into a very powerful home theater source for movies and streaming TV shows in addition to being a cool game machine. Today the company announced the successor to that system, the Xbox One. Odd names aside, will the One be the system to have for every home theater?
Microsoft’s plan with the Xbox One, as expected, goes far beyond games. The system was conceived to be the center console in your home entertainment system. It plays games, movies, TV, music and lets your communicate with friends (well, the 360 does pretty much all that too, just differently).
Voice and gesture control are a big part of it. To start the system, just say “Xbox On.” Voice commands can switch the unit to play live TV or launch a game. You can use hand gestures (swipes, grabs) to move between onscreen windows. You can snap your fingers to bring up an applications panel.
The new system seems heavily focused on TV—Skyping while watching TV, web surfing while watching TV, “trending” while watching TV…
A feature called One Guide lets you view and search through all the entertainment options available on the system. You can hook your TV set-top-box to the console and use it as your center of command. Well, actually Microsoft didn’t clarify how it would incorporate live TV, so I’m making an assumption here that it would work in a similarly to how you hook your cable box to a Google TV box. We also don’t know about DVR capabilities. DVR was mentioned for recording games, but nothing else, and if you’ve connected your cable box to the Xbox One via HDMI than no recording directly on the game console would be possible because of DRM issues. It may be able to control your cable box’s DVR function via an IR blaster.
Some serious hardware runs the new console. An eight-core, x86 processor and more than 5 billion transistors helps reduce lag and load times, so users can instantly jump between games and TV at lightning speed or run a host of apps right alongside a game with no loss in performance. The system also plays Blu-ray discs, includes a more precise Kinect and an improved handheld controller.
A new NFL on Xbox feature will use Skype, Xbox SmartGlass and player-worn technology for a fantasy football application .
Speaking of games, here’s a rundown of the first exclusive games for Xbox One:
• “Forza Motorsport 5” from Turn 10 Studios is the latest edition of the highest-rated racing franchise of the past 10 years.3 Built from the ground up to take advantage of Xbox One and the infinite power of the cloud, no game better delivers the sensation of being behind the wheel. “Forza Motorsport 5” sets a new bar for racing games and will be available exclusively for Xbox One at launch.
• “Call of Duty: Ghosts” is the next generation of “Call of Duty” and a stunning leap forward for the franchise. It delivers an all-new world, an all-new cast of characters and an all-new story, built on a new, next-generation engine. The next-generation technical innovations built to support the incredible gameplay advancements make this the most beautiful and immersive “Call of Duty” experience yet. Activision and Microsoft also announced the renewal of their close partnership that will see both the return of the “Call of Duty® Championship,” presented by Xbox, as well as all-new downloadable content debuting first and exclusively on the Xbox platform.
• “FIFA 14,” “Madden NFL 25,” “NBA LIVE 14,” and “EA SPORTS UFC” from EA SPORTS will change the way consumers experience and play sports games. Driven by the new EA SPORTS Ignite engine, these new EA SPORTS games will deliver massive innovations in human intelligence, true player motion and living worlds. Adding to its commitment to Xbox One, EA SPORTS also announced the promise of exclusive content to be revealed in the coming months.
• “Quantum Break” from Remedy Entertainment is a revolutionary entertainment experience from the creators of ” Max Payne ” and ” Alan Wake ” that blurs the line between gaming and TV by integrating drama and gameplay into one seamless, uniquely immersive experience. How you
There’s no word on what it will cost or when, exactly, it will be available, but you can bet it will be on shelves (and online) by this year’s holiday shopping season.
Also, it looks like you’re going to have to hang onto your Xbox 360 if you want to keep playing your old games because the new system won’t play those discs.
Here’s a video. It doesn’t really tell you anything, but it looks pretty:
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.
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