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What we do (and don't) know about the new Xbox

Jason Cross | May 21, 2013
Rumors are swirling ahead of Microsoft's May 21 unveiling of the next Xbox. Here's what we know now, and what we expect to learn.

Perfect Dark Zero
Could Rare be working on another Perfect Dark game?

In truth, we know next to nothing about which hot exclusive games will launch with the new console. Recent rumors suggest that a new Halo game won't launch with the system, but we could see a new Project Gotham Racingalong with one or two titles from Rare, including a first-person shooter. Maybe a new entry in the Perfect Darkfranchise? Lionhead is said to unveil a major new game, too. It is said that the first game from Respawn Entertainment (the studio formed by ex-Infinity Ward members) will be exclusive to Microsoft. Crytek's bloody Roman sword combat game Ryse, announced last year, is said to be the showcase for the new Kinect.

We will probably hear only a little about the launch games on Tuesday the 21st, with many more announced at E3 in June.

Always-on, DRM, and used games
Perhaps the most debated rumor about Microsoft's successor to the Xbox 360 is that it would require an always-on internet connection and prohibit the use of used games. It's probably not that simple, but like many rumors, there's probably a grain of truth there that has been misreported, blown out of proportion, and misunderstood.

Retailers love used games, but publishers hate them, and the future is clearly online distribution.

Here's how we think this will likely work. The new Xbox will not require you to be online merely to function. You probably have to bring it online when you first set it up to register the box and make an Xbox Live profile, but merely watching a Blu-ray movie, or a movie you previously downloaded, or playing a completely single-player game would not necessarily require you to be online. A more important question is: will all the titles be available to download at the same time they're available in stores, or are we stuck buying discs?

So, while the next Xbox will probably not need to be online all the time, it will probably support allowing developers to protect their games via always-online activation schemes if they want to. Publishers and developers are livid about losing tons of money to used game sales, and it wouldn't be a surprise for Microsoft to have something in the box to help curb them. And most of its best and most exciting features (streaming media, TV overlay stuff, new Xbox Live features) will be inherently Internet-based.

Backwards compatibility

The new Xbox is unlikely to play Xbox 360 games.

Every other week the rumor mill flip-flops on whether or not the next Xbox will play Xbox 360 games. One report went so far as to suggest that the Xbox 360 hardware would be shrunk to a system-on-chip and included in the new Xbox. That costly move seems like insanity.


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