In this week's rumour round-up, we look at speculation around the next Xbox's specs, always-online functionality and name, as well as some goss on Microsoft's new business model.
New legislation means that everyone in the world is now legally required to post an Xbox rumour online at least once a day. As a result, we've had another splurge of gossip this week, covering everything from the next Xbox's specs to Microsoft's new business model. We'll get right to it.
Nothing new here per se, but a Microsoft job ad for a Software Development Engineer has turned up, saying that experience with "x86 architecture" would be desirable. You may remember "x86 architecture" from an article on Bloomberg, in which sources "with knowledge of the matter" explained Microsoft was totally overhauling the new Xbox's system infrastructure to be similar to the PlayStation 4's. The new x86 architecture would use 8-core Jaguar processing chips supplied by AMD and not, repeat not, be backwards compatible. The new job ad suggests Microsoft is going ahead with x86, implying, perhaps, that original Xbox and 360 games won't work on the new console. Darn.
And that's about it for spec rumours. There was talk last week of course about the Xbox having a Share button similar to the PS4, as well as a reinvented online shop that'll allow you to buy things with real currency rather than Microsoft Points, but we've had no updates on either of those. If there's one thing that is worth reaffirming in the run up to 21 May, when the Xbox will be launched, it's that Microsoft, unlike Sony, WILL be showing off the console itself. Well, probably. Larry Hryb, Xbox Live's community manager, tweeted after the PS4 launch: "Announce a console without actually showing a console? That's one approach." Burn.
Free to play
This is a new one. As reported by Joystiq, at the Game Horizon conference held in Gateshead this week, Vice President of Epic Games Mark Rein told the audience that Microsoft and Sony have been telling game developers that they're "going heavily" into free-to-play games with the next console generation:
"The next-gen consoles are going to be fully embracing free-to-play business models," Rein said. "So in case you don't know that I'm putting that out there. Sony and Microsoft are both going heavily in that area."
When Game Industry International's Matt Martin questioned Rein, saying "we still need to see some kind of evidence," Rein replied: "Well, I'm telling you. I'm telling you what they're telling developers."
So, there's that. Mobile and tablet games aren't exactly a pressure on console makers like Microsoft - the experiences they provide are different and cater to different people - but the figures are undeniably appealing. Forbes revealed recently that Supercell, maker of the free-to-play Clash of Clans, currently rakes in $2.4 million a day on in-app purchases. If Microsoft is looking to shore up sputtering physical software sales, free to play games like that could work.
And it will keep the Xbox in the race against the PS4. Game Informer published an interview with Sony Worldwide Studios chief Shuhei Yoshida this month in which he said: "We are developing a free-to-play type of game, but we haven't announced it yet.
"We are open for any types of models," Yoshida continued. "Overall, we are increasing investment in the digital side of development, either through digital titles like Journey that we've been doing, but also trying to add more service-based models to our games going forward, like DLCs or additional features post launch."
Blacklight Retribution, a free to play game for the PS4 developed, not by Sony, but Zombie Studios was recently announced. And based on Yoshida and Rein's remarks, and the latest figures showing that AAA boxed releases like Tomb Raider are starting to slow sales wise, free-to-play seems a likely part of the next Xbox's future.
Ugh, this again. There have been so, so many contradictory rumours about the next Xbox needing to be always online, it's become like a rubbish "will they or won't they?" plot from an even more rubbish soap opera. The latest comes from Ars Technica, which claims to have picked up an internal memo from Microsoft informing all employees working on the next Xbox that it definitely will NOT always have to be connected to the net in order to function:
"Durango [the codename for the next Xbox] is designed to deliver the future of entertainment while engineered to be tolerant of today's Internet," says the email, apparently. "There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should 'just work' regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game."
This will be good news to people who want to play second hand games, or games they bought off John down the car-boot sale, but it should be taken with an entire bowl of salt. First, as we said, there have been more cross-rumours on always-online than there are stars in the sky (fact). Second, who's sending this email? The reveal of the next console is set to be in 11 days. Why would the hardware development team need telling now not to make the console always online? Surely, if it's happening or not, by this point, development would have had to have committed either way. This one's fishy.
And the name
This one comes from us, actually. Sources who we can't name because they'll get in trouble have told us that the next Xbox will be called Infinity, as in, Xbox Infinity. That comes not long after a supposed logo for Xbox Infinity, which we mocked for being fake last week, was leaked onto Reddit. It looked cheap and a bit sloppy, and it is a silly name, but according to our sources, yep, Xbox Infinity is the name Microsoft is going with.
Or is it? Because not long before our super trustworthy sources name-dropped Infinity, an article on Fusible revealed that Microsoft had registered several new internet domains relating to the name Xbox "Fusion". XboxFusion.info, XboxFusion.biz, XboxFusion.de, XboxFusion.co.uk and of course, XboxFusion.com have all been bought up by Microsoft, so, who knows? Maybe we were fibbed to?
Anyway, that about wraps it all up for this week. We'll have another bundle of Xbox rumours next Friday and then the following Tuesday, 21 May, we can finally all stop wondering because the next Xbox, be it Infinity, Fusion, Durango, 720 or what, will finally be ruddy revealed.