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‘Xbox 720,’ ‘Durango’ or just ‘the new Xbox’: Here’s what you need to know [UPDATED]

xbox controller logo
Image used with permission by copyright holder

[UPDATE:] Although Microsoft has yet to reveal any details about its next Xbox, we finally know when the curtain will be lifted: the next Xbox will be unveiled on May 21 on Microsoft’s home turf in Redmond, WA. The unveiling promises to give us just a glimpse though, with more details planned for E3. Plus we may still have to wait a bit for things like pricing and details on what are certain to be multiple bundles, and Microsoft could always take the Nintendo route and not announce a release date beyond “Holiday 2013” (although this is probably unlikely with Sony breathing down Microsoft’s neck).

We have gone through and updated this list with some of the new rumors, as well as a few of the things that have been confirmed. We will do so again as new rumors and info are leaked, right up until we have some actual facts directly from the mouth of Microsoft to replace them with.

February’s highly publicized Sony event that served as the official announcement of the PlayStation 4 is in the rearview mirror now, and the ball is in Microsoft’s court as fans clamor for more information about the as-yet-unnamed successor to the Xbox 360.

There’s been no shortage of rumors leading up to – and in the wake of – Sony’s announcement that cast a comparative eye on Microsoft’s plans for the Xbox 720… or is it the Durango? Or maybe just Xbox? Along with the console’s name, many of the aspects of the next Xbox are likewise unknown, though certain rumors seem to have more credibility than others.

From the schedule Microsoft plans to keep regarding announcing the console, to the system’s use of high-end, recently announced peripherals, here’s where we stand on some of the biggest rumors about the company’s next-generation gaming system:

The Big Debut

As we mentioned above, the official unveiling will occur on May 21 in Redmond, WA. It is unclear exactly what will be revealed, but we should at least finally put to rest the name debate. We’ll also get a look at the philosophy of the system. Will it be a gaming system that also acts as an entertainment device, or will it be an entertainment device that also plays games? The difference is important

During the[the May 21 unveiling], we’ll share our vision for Xbox and give you a real taste of the future. Then, 19 days later at E3, we’ll continue the conversation and showcase our full lineup of blockbuster gaming experiences.

The teams here at Xbox have been very busy and are thrilled to pull back the curtain and reveal what we’ve been working on.

After the event we’ll have a short wait until E3 comes around in June, when we should get even more questions answered, possibly including some of the more tech-centric details. 

Shelf Date

With the PS4 confirmed to hit shelves this holiday season, it’s a good bet that Microsoft will plan to put the next Xbox in direct competition with Sony later this year. In November of last year, a source told Bloomberg to expect a November 2013 release for the new system. That seems a very likely target for the company, as both the Xbox 360 and its predecessor were on shelves in November 2005 and November 2001, respectively. 

The Name Game

Atari 2600Even though “Xbox 720” is the most used name for the console, nothing is official yet regarding Microsoft’s preferred branding for the system. The list of names attached to the system (via rumor, early developer units, and other unofficial sources) is long, and includes catchy labels like “Loop,” “Infinity,” and “Kryptos” – though the heavy favorite is still “720.” It has even been suggested that the system will simply be titled “Xbox,” yet that seems unlikely. Another popular name being bandied about is “Durango,” but that appears to be the official code name of the development model of the console. Consoles as far back as the Atari 2600 (which was known as “Stella” during its development) have had code names that were discarded once the final product was revealed. The PS4 was known as “Orbis,” the Xbox 360 was code named “Xenon,” and the “Revolution” was re-branded as the Wii. Interestingly though, the original Xbox was code named… “Xbox.” Of course, that was before Microsoft became a major player in the gaming world, so “Durango” still seems unlikely. 

A Question of Price

In a report that also predicted a November shelf date for Microsoft’s new console, Baird Equity Research further speculated that the Xbox successor (as well as the PS4) would retail for $350-400. This isn’t too far off-base for Microsoft, which dropped the 20 Gb model of the Xbox 360 on shelves with a $399 price tag in 2005. However, it will be interesting to see where the final price point falls in that range, given the PS3’s starting price of $499 when it arrived in 2006, a move that many still consider to have been the primary reason that the PS3 fared so poorly during its launch.

Super Specs

No surprise here: the hardware in the next Xbox is expected to be a major upgrade from its predecessor, with VGLeaks reporting that the console will have similar – although slightly less powerful – specs than the PlayStation 4, with 8 CPU cores running at a speed of 1.6 Ghz, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 6x Blu-Ray drive.

microsoft xbox 720 durango console horizontal
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Additional rumors indicate that the console will be available in multiple bundles, specifically a 250 GB and 500 GB HDD models, which makes sense, given the likelihood that downloadable games will be a high priority for the console. Popular speculation also suggests that many next-generation games will require the installation of hefty amounts of data in order to reduce load times and expand beyond disk-reading limitations.

Building A Better Media Hub

Chief among the rumored features aimed at making the next Xbox the center of your home entertainment universe is the packaging of the next Kinect motion-control device with every console sold. Kinect will not only receive a huge upgrade with the arrival of the next Xbox console, but improvements to voice recognition, object detection, and the field of view (among other elements) will make the Kinect a mandatory part of the home media experience on the next-generation Xbox. There have also been reports that Microsoft will look at ways to introduce more “props” into gaming. Nintendo had huge success with its peripherals like the Wii Balance Board, so this isn’t all that surprising. 

During CES earlier this year, Microsoft also unveiled what it is calling “IllumiRoom,” a device that combines Kinect technology with a projector to turn your wall into a monitor that you can interact with through gestures. So far Microsoft has only suggested this technology for use with computers – imagine turning any surface into a keyboard and monitor – but it is now confirmed as a peripheral that will “extend the gaming content out of your TV, creating a truly immersive experience.” 

A report published by Kotaku also describes a multitasking ability on the next Xbox that will allow users to effectively pause games, switch to a different program, interact with it, and then return to their game without the need to save or quit their session. Additional rumors suggest that the new console will also have some level of DVR-like media consumption and storage abilities, and feature some integration with the popular, Microsoft-owned Skype technology that has become the go-to system for Voice Over IP communication – essentially allowing users to take calls via their Xbox in the middle of gaming sessions or television marathons.

A New Controller For A New Xbox

microsoft xbox 720 durango controller conceptA report from CVG suggests that Microsoft will jump on the touch-screen controller bandwagon with Nintendo and Sony and release a new controller for the next-generation Xbox that features a touch pad in addition to the requisite sticks, triggers, and buttons. The new controller, which is also rumored to use a new wireless technology that will make old Xbox 360 controllers incompatible with the next model, will be more akin to the PS Vita than the bulky Wii U, according to the report.

There are also reports that Microsoft would like to introduce a version of its Surface tablet for use with the new Xbox. One way or another, there will be some integration between Windows 8 and the Xbox, and there’s no reason to think that integration won’t include tablets – the only question is to what degree?

What About The Games?

The internet is filled with conflicting rumors regarding the ability to play used games on the next Xbox, with multiple reports suggesting that the system will require an always-on Internet connection in order to verify the authenticity of games being played on the system. While subsequent reports have suggested that the secondhand game market won’t be entirely eliminated form the next-generation of Microsoft’s console, it could very well be limited, with activation codes like those used for the multiplayer elements of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games becoming the norm for unlocking most of a game’s functionality. According to Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen, backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games isn’t likely for the next-gen console, either.

With used games it sounds more and more like there won’t be a technical impediment for the hardware to play used games. Sony already confirmed that the PS4 wouldn’t have any issues with used games – at least from a technical standpoint. Sony and Microsoft are both publishers as well as manufacturers, so it is no surprise that both would be happy to see the death of used games to increase their publishing profits, but as manufacturers, it may be akin to a game of chicken. One of the most asked questions of the PS4 was whether or not it would play used games. It’s important to gamers, so if one system did block used games while the other didn’t that could be one of the most important deciding factors for consumers when deciding which side to pick in the next wave of the console wars. 

To be Always on, or Not to be

One of the consistent and most contentious of rumors regarding the NextBox is that it will require an internet connection, and need to be always online to function. This rumor has not sat will with fans. A persistent Internet connection makes some sense though, assuming the console is positioning itself as a home entertainment device as much as a gaming console. It also would mean the original new video content Microsoft is creating would be guaranteed to find a potential audience.

Still, the backlash was strong enough that Microsoft Studios’ creative director Adam Orth chimed in on Twitter and told fans to “deal with it.” That seemingly confirmed the worst fears of many, and enraged an already angry fanbase. Soon after, Orth was no longer with Microsoft, and Larry Hyrb issued an apology for the comments and stated that Orth was not speaking for Microsoft. Further rumors have since suggested that the NextBox will not require an always on connection, which if true means all the earlier rumors were either wrong to begin with, or that Microsoft listened to the outcry and decided to remove this condition.

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Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
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