Microsoft have apparently been showing key developer and publisher partners their next Xbox in London over the last week or so, with the console supposedly launching in 2013. A Crytek developer tweeted the game away, giving the Xbox the codename "Durango
". And now, according to sources speaking to trade magazine MCV
, there is confirmation that the next Xbox won't feature a disc drive. Here are what we see as the issues, if this is even true...
1. Microsoft hates Blu-ray
that Microsoft putting a Blu-ray drive in its next Xbox wouldn't be a financial issue. But it would be an image issue. When the Xbox 360 launched, Microsoft backed HD-DVD. When that failed, it said you didn't need a Blu-ray player for games. But Sony have made much mileage of the Blu-ray in every PS3. Firstly, Blu-ray has become a well-established movie format. Secondly, games increasingly take several discs on Xbox 360, one on PS3. Putting a Blu-ray player in the Xbox 720, or Durango, or whatever Microsoft end up calling it, would be tantamount to a u-turn. It would also smack of "old" technology - after all the PS3 has had a Blu-ray player for years. Given that, it's hardly surprising Microsoft is keen to favour the cloud over discs.
2. Retail out of the loop
are only the latest in a long, hard battle over the future of retail. In an age of Amazon, why should we go to the shops? In an age of OnLive and Steam, why should we even buy discs? The problem, of course, is cutting out retail will cut out a valuable arena for people to try games before they buy, for grannies to shop etc. But perhaps Microsoft and publishers are ready to cut those ties. If so, there will be no doubt some sop thrown to retail - titles downloadable to proprietary memory sticks etc. But really, it'll be all over bar the administrators arriving.
No disc? No pre-owned market. But will gamers see the benefit with the price of games slashed? If not, publishers will make more profits, but gaming will become a lot more expensive. Of course, with fierce competition and no physical distribution costs, no discs should open up a much broader range of prices for games - like we see on smartphone stores. But yes, publishers will love getting rid of discs - because you won't be able to sell on an old game to recoup some of its cost, cutting them out.
4. Bandwidth/drive space
How many games will you be able to fit on the Durango's hard drive? Will you not need to? Will it stream games like OnLive, not requiring storage space at your end, but on the server instead? If you're streaming, what will video quality be like at average bandwidths? If you're downloading, how long will games take to download? Will, as some commentators have suggested, BT (or other broadband providers) freak out and limit your downloads? Key issues to resolve before launch.
5. Will the mass market buy it?
The biggest videogame success of the last few years? The Nintendo Wii - unashamedly old-school gameplay and a simplistic system, with behind-the-times visuals and poor online components. How did it win? By letting the whole family play with a console that's unthreatening. Does this mean Microsoft is choosing hardcore gamers over the mainstream - who're more likely to embrace smartphone stores than a new console?
Whatever the reality is, between this, Epic Games suggesting Apple is biting at the heels of Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, and OnLive demonstrating a glimpse of a cloud/streaming console-less future, the next console generation is getting very interesting...