Microsoft’s Next Generation Xbox And The Rumors Surrounding It

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The flood of negativity surrounding the next Xbox has gone unchecked for far too long. The rumors being perpetuated by numerous media outlets are slowly becoming perceived as more factual, and less like unconfirmed reports, and the more time that passes without any information, or rebuttal from Microsoft, the worse it bodes for their next generation hopes. As a result of the rumors and speculation, more weight is being put on the shoulders of Microsoft to deliver a sweeping reveal of their next console. If Microsoft waits too long to announce, and provide specific details, it may not matter how well the reveal goes. Ideally they need to act sooner, rather than later, with countless rumors abound siphoning the excitement of their impending reveal.

The rumors being driven by media outlets, industry insiders, and the gaming community are numerous and damaging. The next gen feature that’s causing the largest outcry is the “always on” internet connectivity. Former Microsoft Creative Director Adam Orth may have secretly been on Sony’s payroll. His tirade on Twitter created a decisive anti-Microsoft demeanor in the gaming community. Game Informer recently ran a user poll asking it’s audience if they’d buy an always online console, or not. The response was overwhelmingly “no”, almost 82% of voters agreed they wouldn’t purchase Microsoft’s next Xbox if that was a requirement. There are many reasons gamers are hesitant about a persistent internet connection being forced upon them. Many owners simply don’t want their console online, for one reason, or another. Not to mention there’s still many areas inside the U.S. (and internationally) that don’t have broadband internet connection. The intention of an always on console would presumably be to have a constant exchange of data occurring, and slow internet will hamper this feature. Gamers are also finding it hard to believe that Microsoft, along with publishers, and developers will hold up their end of the constant connection bargain. The recent debacle that was EA and Maxis’ SimCity launch lends credence to that argument. Diablo 3 is another example of a large company like Blizzard not being able to provide the infrastructure needed to support their user base. There’s also the issue of used games being blocked by watermarked discs, or other forms locking content to a user. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rumors swirling around the next box.

Microsoft has levied a large amount of energy towards it’s Kinect sensor. The next generation of Xbox is reportedly bringing a new version of Kinect along with it. This time it’s rumored the infrared sensor isn’t an optional peripheral, but a hardware requirement. This is more than an annoyance for many gamers. The Kinect sensor has earned a reputation as endorsing the “casual” audience, and leaving the “core” audience with less resources being focused on the first party titles they crave. The improved sensor may also result in higher costs on the next Xbox.

During a recent podcast Paul Thurrott of WhatTheTech  stated the next Xbox will have a higher price point than previously reported. He stated the MSRP will range from $300-500. The lower price point is rumored to include a subscription of some kind. Whether, or not, that is the next generation of Xbox Live is still obviously in question as well. The higher price point will likely feature a larger hard drive, and no subscription cost. Another reported feature of the next Xbox would require the console to house a substantially larger HDD than any console of this generation.

The Verge recently reported that games will be launched exclusively from the HDD on the next generation Xbox. It’s rumored that games will be installed from a disc being read in the (Blu-Ray) optical drive. The same report suggests the user will be able to launch, and play a game while it’s being installed to the HDD in the background. Blu-Ray discs support an enormous amount of data being written to them. I caught a look at my Xbox 360 achievements the other day, and I have played 85 games during my 360’s tenure. To give some perspective to how large a next gen game install may be, we’ll look at an example. I recently installed Hitman: Absolution via digital download to my PS3, and it’s file size was over 16gb. I have other game installs on the system that are considerably lower, more in the range of 8gb. Even if game installs are markedly smaller (somehow) I’d still have blown through my 250gb HDD on the 360S quite a while ago. Taking that fact into consideration, the next Xbox would require a considerably larger HDD than what we currently have at our disposal. A larger HDD will lead to higher manufacturing costs on the console. that would obviously translate into a higher consumer price point. So many rumors, and apparently equally as much time before we learn the truth. Just how deeply are the rumors already planted in our psyche?

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Rumors, simply enough, are public communications infused with a private hypothesis. They tend to be more prominent when anxiety and uncertainty are abound in any given community. The gaming community has developed a sub-culture all our own, and rumors tend to take hold more stubbornly in tight knit groups. This is evidenced by threads upon threads of discussion about every one of the rumors we’ve just referenced. NeoGaf, Facepunch, and even the little guys have hundreds of pages worth of posts from users chiming in on the impact that these reports will have on Microsoft’s next console launch. What’s particularly jarring is the number of sources that have “inside information” about the next Xbox. It’s well known that rumors gain credence when they are cited by several sources. Kotaku, WhatTheTech, VGLeaks, and The Verge (just to name a few) have released multiple reports that have created our current understanding of what Microsoft’s next Xbox will deliver. These reports and rumors have taken hold in many cases, and have helped mold preconceptions in the minds of many prospective consumers. These preconceptions weigh heavily on the future choices many consumers make. As many of us know from our time in school, and the workplace, it’s hard to dispel rumors once they’ve started. Even if you present a factual statement, or evidence contrary to a purported rumor, there’s still some semblance of the debunked idea that’s ingrained within the community.

If Microsoft hopes to quash the rumors swirling around it’s next gen console release they’ll have to expel them in dramatic fashion. First off they’ll need to gain the gaming communities trust back after recent events like Adam Orth’s Twitter tirade. Microsoft did release a standard fare apology after the damaging comments were made to consumers –

We apologize for the inappropriate comments made by an employee on Twitter yesterday. This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views do not reflect the customer centric approach we take to our products or how we would communicate directly with our loyal consumers.  We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter.”

But, they’ll need to try harder in some cases, to fix the negative feelings Orth’s disdain levied upon Xbox users. This occurrence has put more pressure on the reported 5/21 Xbox console reveal. This announcement must be resounding enough to lay rumors to rest, and overpower the anger and preconceptions that have festered in the gaming community as of late. After a strong reveal event, Microsoft may need to implement a regimen of regular communication with their user base to keep the masses satisfied enough for a successful launch. Unfortunately Microsoft has already failed at one of the key tactics to uproot rumors before they spread like weeds. Confirming a rumors legitimacy early is one of the most powerful ways to either fully combat the negative effects, or spin the information in your favor. Microsoft may have, just today, employed a rather smart tactic to spin the “always on” rumor in their favor. A statement made by Ubisoft Montreal’s CEO Yannis Mallat may be the first of many third party “testimonials” that hope to legitimize the rumored always on feature of the next Xbox. Using a third party, or neutral source, to parlay controversial information is a fantastic strategy to help ease an audience into new ideas. It’s also a great way to rebut the negativity that said rumors and speculation have caused. Microsoft has kept silent long enough, and it’s resulted in what may be a long road ahead of them if they hope to succeed with the next Xbox.

The future of the eighth console generation isn’t going to be decided right out of the gate. But if damage control isn’t handled effectively, Microsoft may be starting this console generation on the outside, looking in. They’ll need to reveal their next Xbox in dramatic fashion, whether it’s three weeks prior to, or at the E3 conference. Microsoft’s E3 briefing provides an enormous opportunity to swing momentum away from Sony. If the presentation is executed decisively that is. That opportunity also hinges on Sony dropping the ball a bit during their own E3 briefing. The next Xbox is shrouded in mystery, rumors, and assumptions. The best way for Microsoft to combat them is to take the bull by the horns and hit them directly. The most powerful way of doing so is to give the gaming community detailed answers to their questions, a strong software portfolio, and cause for excitement. Microsoft needs to break the silence in dramatic fashion, and the sooner they do it, the better.

 

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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