Microsoft officially announces Xbox One: here's what we know so far

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Microsoft live streamed their hour-long Xbox reveal earlier this morning and we've compiled all the important bits that were covered at the event. Here's what we know so far.

Not an always-on machine

Microsoft’s Don Mattrick wasted little time hyping up the next generation Xbox as he took the stage at the company’s reveal event on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. Right out of the gate we now have a name for the “ultimate all-in-one entertainment system” – Xbox One.

What’s more, Microsoft didn’t just tease the console without showing it like Sony did a few months ago. Instead they showed the new sleek console, the new Kinect and Microsoft’s updated gamepad. Mattrick finally put to rest the notion that the new console would be an always-on machine: it isn't.

Hardware and operating system

The Xbox One features an eight-core CPU with more than 5 billion transistors, 8GB of system memory and a 500GB hard drive. What's more, the system includes a Blu-ray drive, 802.11n Wireless with Wi-Fi Direct, HDMI In/Out and USB 3.0. Every new Xbox One will ship with a Kinect sensor in the box.

Even more interesting, however, is the Xbox One architecture which is essentially three operating systems in one. It consists of the Xbox OS, the kernel of Windows and a third that connects the two operating systems together for seamless integration. What that means is there will be no waiting. Users will be able to switch to a game just like a TV channel flip.

Controller and Kinect

The controller bundled with the Xbox One is all-new and took years to develop. As you’d expect, Microsoft went through several prototypes and designs before nailing it down. Failed ideas include adding a speaker to the controller (a silly idea considering your television / aftermarket headset / home theater system has better audio) and adding a capacitive touchscreen to the gamepad (subtle wink at Sony). Microsoft said a screen on the controller was little more than a distraction.

At the end of the day, the best controller gives haptic feedback. As such, there are now tiny motors inside each trigger to give an “HD rumble” effect. But that’s not all that’s been improved as the biggest investment took place on the inside. The new controller is a lot more complicated which in turn, results in better performance. Microsoft said the new controller is at least 15 percent faster than the previous controller in terms of latency.

Much like what Valve is experimenting with, Microsoft is already putting into action with Kinect. The system will be able to see who is engaged in the game and how they are reacting. It can also see players in complete darkness using an active IR that removes ambient light. Things like heart tracking could be used to augment the gameplay experience as well.

Xbox Live: Gesture and voice controls, live television, sports

As you might expect, Xbox Live is getting a huge boost on the Xbox One. The system will now feature full voice and gesture support. For example, to turn the console on, simply say “Xbox on” and it’ll take you right to the home screen. Live also remembers what you were doing last so it’ll take you right back to it when you turn the system on.

Users can navigate through the service using gesture controls as well. For example, you can grab and swipe to switch between screens or grab and zoom to open a movie up in full screen.

Navigation isn’t the only new feature coming to Live. The console is getting an injection of live television that could totally change the landscape of the living room. With the Xbox One guide, you can use voice control for search and navigation, easily locate your favorite channels and also see what’s trending. There will be no more memorizing channels or hunting for remotes.

Trending is a new tab that shows what is popular in the entertainment world at any given moment. It can show what others are watching and allow you to jump into the most popular shows. The feature also works for on-demand video, we’re told.

With live television and support for Skype, Microsoft says this is the beginning of truly intelligent TV.

Sports fans will certainly appreciate the interactive content that’s built into Xbox One. As demonstrated at the media event, sports fans will be able to tap into their fantasy leagues and have their stats updated automatically as the action happens – right on the screen. An exclusive deal with the National Football League aims to make watching the game an interactive experience through products like SmartGlass, Skype and Kinect.

Live action Halo TV series

Microsoft announced an expansion of the Halo universe in the form of a live action Halo television series during the Xbox One reveal. Steven Spielberg will be the executive producer of the series. Bonnie Ross from 343 Industries noted that Halo has always been more than just a game. It’s unclear when the series will debut, who will star in it or if it will be available outside of Xbox Live.

Games

Microsoft didn’t spend a ton of time talking about games for the Xbox One – we expect more of that to come at E3 next month. They did, however, touch on a few key sports titles including NBA Live 14, EA Sports UFC, Madden NFL 25 and FIFA 14. Turn 10 Studios was on hand to show off the Xbox-exclusive driving simulator Forza Motorsport 5 while Alan Wake developer Remedy Entertainment talked about Quantum Break.

We do know that Microsoft is planning 15 exclusive titles for the console within the first year.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Infinity Ward was on hand for the world premiere of Ghosts, the latest title in the Call of Duty franchise. The company said they didn’t want to do the safe thing and simply make Modern Warfare 4. Instead, they decided to build the title for the next generation.

It will feature new worlds, a new narrative and new characters powered by a next generation engine. Dynamic maps and character customizations in multiplayer are said to deliver a more immersive experience while self-casted shadows and a boosted polygon count will boost overall visuals. The game will run at 60FPS and feature low-latency controls, we’re told. And as always, Call of Duty DLC will launch first exclusively on Xbox One.

Xbox One isn’t backwards compatible with Xbox 360

Xbox One will not be backwards compatible with any features of the Xbox 360. That means you won’t be able to play any discs from the 360 on the new console nor will your Xbox Live Arcade titles work on the One. This is because the new system is based on a different core architecture. It’s really not a huge surprise and isn’t any different than the PlayStation 4 as both consoles are moving from a PowerPC architecture to an X86 CPU.

Xbox One carries a pre-owned fee for games

Microsoft has seemingly found a way to curb pre-owned sales on the Xbox One – implement a fee. With the new console, users will be required to install games to the hard drive in order to play them. Once a game is installed, it can be played without the disc being loaded into the console. As Wired points out, this means that each game will somehow be tied to a Live account or else a single disc could be passed around to friends and installed free of charge.

If the disc was used with a second account, the new “owner” would be given the option to pay a fee to install the game. Details on the second-owner fee are unknown at this hour but it could have devastating effects on the pre-owned market. What’s more, it seems you’ll no longer be able to take a game to your friend’s house and play it on their console without paying a fee.

What’s next for Xbox One

We know the Xbox One will ship worldwide later this year but as far as specific dates, none were given. We also have no idea how much Redmond plans to charge for the Xbox One. Microsoft is planning to showcase the next chapter of the Xbox One during E3 next month. It’s here that we will get a better idea of the lineup of games coming to the console and with any luck, information on pricing and availability.

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