January 26, 2012, 8:50 AM — When IGN revealed the latest "the new Xbox is coming!" rumor on Tuesday, I more or less ignored it. Game consoles are right behind Apple products when it comes to unfounded rumor mongering, after all.
But IGN's rumor was accompanied by a couple of others, and now I can't help myself. I always wonder why these rumors come in clusters; my best theory attributes it to the need to show off what we know. When one guy breaks an NDA and starts sharing info, other people who're under the same NDA are more apt to break it in order to show off the fact that they're also privy to secret info. Internet bragging rights and all that. I have no data to support this; I just do a lot of online people-watching.
[ Free download: 6 things every IT person should know ]
Anyway let's get caught up. First, as I mentioned, IGN said that the next Xbox, they're calling it the Xbox 720 this week, will be out in the fall of 2013, with dev kits going out this summer, and that it'll be "six times as powerful" as the current Xbox 360.
Really? After 8 years they can only manage six times as powerful? Does Moore's Law not apply to gaming consoles? IGN says the GPU will be based on the Radeon HD 6670 chip; you can buy a 6670 video card for your computer today for about $100. By the end of 2013 it's going to be a positively ancient GPU. Of course, as a friend pointed out, it only has to push a resolution of 1080P so it'll probably be adequate (working on the assumption that Microsoft won't be targeting the new 4K TVs yet). IGN doesn't speculate on a price, but I will. Assuming this intel is correct, I'm guessing the Xbox 720 will launch at $299.
It's worth noting that Fudzilla disagrees with IGN (or vice versa really since Fudzilla published first) and says that inside the Xbox 720 will be a System on a Chip based on the Radeon 7000 series. Fudzilla says production on these chips started in late December and the first batch is headed to development systems. If that's true, we might see the Xbox 720 earlier in 2013; it'll probably depend on how fast game development goes.
The next rumor came from Kotaku. They say that the Xbox 720 will ship with a 2nd generation Kinect; one that has an on-board processor that lets the system be more responsive and accurate when it comes to reading gestures. If that's the case then I'll change my prediction to an Xbox 720 launch price of $349 (particularly if Fudzilla is right about the 7000 series chip).
Kotaku's rumor doesn't stop with Kinect 2 though. They also say the new Xbox will ship with a Blu-ray drive (that seems reasonable) and that it'll have some kind of anti-used-game system built in. That part I find really hard to swallow. Kotaku says they have no idea how it works, and I can't imagine how it would work either. I get that the gaming industry hates all the revenue they lose to used games sales, but how would such a system differentiate between a used game and a game I took over to a friend's house for some multiplayer action? I suppose they could tie a game to an Xbox Live account but it all just sounds like too much of a hassle to inflict on your customers.
This latest spate of rumors didn't mention it, but let's not forget Microsoft's game console DVR patent that we talked about a while back. I guessed it would come out as an add-on to the Xbox 360 but maybe it'll be built into the 720?
So summing all this up, it looks like we have a new console coming out in 2013 that's about as powerful as today's mid-range gaming PCs. Every Xbox 720 will include Kinect so you can bet that gesture and voice controls will be baked into the UI, and (I'm starting to extrapolate now) Microsoft will push the system as a Family Media Center, able to play Blu-ray disks as well as stream digital content, including live TV (and the ability to record same). Oh yes, and it'll play games, too. My prediction of a price for this device is $349 at launch with a pretty early price drop to $299 if sales are slow.
Of course, all this goes out the door when the next bunch of Xbox 720 rumors start flying. I figure we've got time for one or two more batches before Microsoft reveals the truth at E3.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.