Tuesday 21 May will be a day to go down in the history of gaming. It’s the day Microsoft will officially unveil the next Xbox, currently known as the Xbox One, Xbox 720, Xbox Infinity, or a half-dozen other names.
But soon the fog will lift. Here’s what we expect Microsoft to say at the event.
New Xbox reveal – the name
The next Xbox has been linked to a dozen different names – Loop, Infinity, Durango, 720, Fusion and plain old ‘Xbox’. We still have no concrete idea of which is going to be the real one.
Its real name is unlikely to be ‘Durango’, as that is the work-in-progress codename for the console. The rest are all in with a chance of earning the lead role in the next Xbox saga, though.
New Xbox reveal - PC system architecture, 8-core CPU
Just like the Sony PS4, the next Xbox is expected to use the x86 system architecture. This is the same CPU type used by computers that run Windows – the vast majority of laptops and desktops, in other words.
This is good news for developers, as it’ll make porting games between the Xbox and PS4 relatively easy. In the last generation consoles, the situation was quite different. The Xbox 360 has a PowerPC-based CPU and the PS3 a particularly fiddly proprietary ‘Cell’ architecture.
It has already been revealed that the PS4 will use an 8-core AMD CPU, and it’s widely expected that the Xbox 720 will too feature AMD-made core components. It is possible that the PS4 and Xbox will use exactly the same base CPU, clocked at 1.6GHz – where the PS4 is clocked at 2GHz.
The next Xbox will also reportedly have 8GB of DDR5 RAM, and a GPU comparable in power to the AMD Radeon 7000-series. This is a mid-range graphics card family in the PC world – and similar, if not identical, to that of the PS4.
New Xbox reveal - Controller
As the next-generation Kinect is likely to provide the next Xbox’s more creative control interfaces, the Xbox 720 controller will probably stay fairly similar to the current model. It’s a long-standing one, too.
The Xbox 360 controller’s design is based on that of the S Pad, which became the 'default' Xbox controller in 2002, a year after the original Xbox console was launched. We expect the Xbox pad to offer tweaks rather than a completely new design.
Rumours suggest it’ll have better battery life – predictable – an improved D-pad and a Share button that will let you show off your favourite gaming moments on social networks.
However, conflicting reports also suggest the next Xbox controller will feature a touch panel like the PS4’s pad.
New Xbox reveal - Kinect 2.0
Kinect is an integral part of the Xbox world these days, and the next-generation console is going to be accompanied by a next-generation Kinect. Some early specs have already been leaked.
As you might guess, the most important improvements are to general fidelity, across the board. It’ll have a larger sensor spread resulting in a larger ‘play area’. Its cameras are much higher-resolution too, letting Kinect 2.0 sense more separate objects, smaller objects, and more accurately judge close-up objects.
It’s faster too – with a reported latency of just 33ms. It is – as has already been said a hundred thousand times – what Kinect always should have been.
New Xbox reveal - Launch line-up
Microsoft is likely to show us a glimpse at a few of the next Xbox launch line-up games at the console’s unveiling. Almost thirty top-tier titles are known to be in development for the console, but we’ll likely only see a handful.
Top of the hit list are Call of Duty: Ghosts, Watch Dogs and Destiny, the new project from the creators of the Halo series Bungie.
New Xbox reveal - Blu-ray drive
An optical drive-less home console is almost certain – assuming the traditional games console doesn’t die out entirely – but it’s too early for that with this generation. It’s believed that the Xbox 720 will have Blu-ray drive, as seen in the PS3.
This seems a sensible solution. DVD won’t offer enough storage for the high-fidelity art assets of next-gen games and most people's broadband isnt' strong enough to either download huge game files or stream games reliably. An online-only Xbox at this point would be a recipe for disaster.
New Xbox reveal - Renewed multimedia focus
Over the past year, Microsoft has put significant effort into bringing more video services to the Xbox Dashboard. You can expect to
see integration of services currently offered by the Xbox 360 (Sky, Netflix and so on), and rumours indicate the console may double-up as a digital video recorder - suggesting it may even incorporate a TV tuner or two.
The PS3 offers this sort of functionality through the Play TV tuner, although as a next-gen device we'd hope to see the next Xbox do something a little more dramatic than simply including a Freeview tuner.
New Xbox reveal - 2013 release
Both the PS4 and the next Xbox are set to arrive before the end of the year. Get that Christmas list drafted up now.