February 12, 2013, 8:30 AM —
Sony has a press event set for a week from this Wednesday. They haven't said what it's for, but it's generally assumed to be their Playstation 4 announcement. I'm guessing this is why the Xbox contingent is going crazy with the leaks and the rumors all of a sudden. Let me do my part to smack the hornet's nest.
Just days after the rumor stating that Microsoft's next game console requires an always-on internet connection comes a new rumor, and this one says that Microsoft Kinect will be required in order for the next Xbox to function.
Before we dig into that, let's talk about names. I don't think anyone knows for sure what Microsoft's next console will be called. I've been referring to it as the Xbox 720 because that's just a popular name coined up by gamers, but I really don't think you'll ever see an "Xbox 720" on store shelves. It seems pretty clear that the internal codename is Durango, and I've heard it referred to as the Xbox Next as well. The most interesting name rumor I've heard is that it'll just be called the Xbox, in much the same way as Apple just calls their tablet the iPad now.
Anyway I've got a friend who keeps giving me grief for using "Xbox 720" and I promised him I'd address the issue next time I talked about the new Xbox.
So back to the rumor du jour. It comes from Kotaku this time, and at least they name their source (SuperDaE) and give us a little background on this person's history with leaks. It's not much but it's better than the meaningless 'trusted sources' that are so often referenced.
So the big news, according to SuperDaE, is that the Xbox 720 will come bundled with Kinect and it'll require Kinect to be on and calibrated in order for the console to function. Hmm.
The first thing we have to assume is that the new version of Kinect is a lot better at dealing with small rooms than the current version is. I have to move furniture in order to use Kinect in my current living room and I don't live in a tiny apartment (about 1,200 square feet). SuperDaE says the new Kinect can track your hands and thumbs and even your facial expression but he doesn't mention what kind of space the system requires. Let's hope not a lot or it'll take the new Xbox right off the table for a lot of people playing in small rooms.
Assuming we have that problem licked, let's talk about the Big Brother implications. Your Xbox 720 will always be watching you. That's creepy. It'll be able to track up to 6 people and can recognize you when you come into its range. Kotaku also raises the disturbing spectre of Microsoft charging you based on how many people are watching a piece of content!
On the plus side, requiring Kinect means that game designers can build systems knowing that they have a functioning Kinect camera to rely on. I guess that's a good thing. I'm still not sold on Kinect as a gaming peripheral though I do like using it's voice recognition system to control the Xbox.
Last week I called the "no used games" rumor BS. This week I'm not as sure. I'm doubtful that Microsoft would do something as nefarious as tracking viewers of content in order to charge 'per head' but I can imagine them wanting everyone to have Kinect running in order to provide designers with a unified system. I'm not 100% sold because I really do think a lot of consumers will find it pretty creepy to be 'forced' to have a camera watching them whenever their console is on. I'm giving this rumor about a 30% chance of being true. What about you?
SuperDaE had a lot more to say about the internals of the next Xbox and one thing I hope he has right is that there'll be just one SKU and it comes with a hard drive, so again designers can create games with the confidence that there'll be a hard drive to rely on. I'll again refer you to Kotaku's article for all the details.
So do you think Microsoft will force gamers to turn a camera on themselves whenever they're using their Xbox? Or is this rumor just more nonsense?
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.