Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Xbox 720 release date, news and rumours

While gossip surrounding the next Xbox has been churning around inside the rumour mill for a good few years now, there's no doubt that we're getting closer to learning some cold, hard facts.
It would be absolutely no surprise if the Xbox 720 - if it is indeed to be called that – were to launch in time for Christmas 2013. And with the increasing frequency of new rumours, reports and leaks, an official reveal from Microsoft cannot be too far away.
Many think that a 2014 release is more likely though, and Microsoft has already ruled out making any kind of announcement in relation to the next Xbox at E3 2012.
So what can we expect from the Xbox 720 when it is finally revealed by Microsoft, and when will it finally hit the shelves?

Xbox 720 to pack AMD graphics and CPU?

If the next Xbox is to be as popular and last as long as theXbox 360 – without the frankly appalling hardware failures which blighted its early days – it's going to need some reliable and powerful components.
Latest rumours suggest that the console will contain a revision of AMD's 7000 series graphics, which is based on its 28nm Graphics Core Next (GCN) Southern Islands tech.
Anonymous sources are being quoted on VG247 as saying that the graphics setup in the Xbox 720 will be "like two PCs taped together" which sounds like waffle to us. What does that even mean?
The same sources say that the two GPUs in the Xbox 720 "aren't structured as they are in a normal dual PC set-up," with each chip working separately to draw different items simultaneously.
Again, this sounds rather wooly to us, so let's try and make some sense of it...
Perhaps it depends what the source is referring to as different 'items'. The traditional usage of multi-GPU tech is Alternate Frame Rendering (AFR) where each GPU renders a frame in turn; if the source is saying that is not the case in the Xbox 720 then it will be a whole new usage of twin graphics chips.
It's possible this simultaneous rendering of different items could be referring to using the twin GPUs to display 3D outputs – where each chip is rendering a different angle of a scene to generate the 3D effect. This would then minimise the stress that 3D gaming puts on graphics chips.Still, if that secondary GPU is lying dormant during non-3D gaming it would be rather wasteful, so the GPUs must surely still be used concurrently to render the games.
It's also possible the confusion here could be arising from the difference between AMD's old GPU architecture, used in the Xbox 360, and the new Graphics Core Next technology. The old Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) architecture of AMD's last gen GPUs essentially batched up instructions before outputting them.
But GCN is made up of more independent microprocessors capable of carrying out more instructions concurrently.
Either way, the inclusion of AMD 7000 series graphics would put the new Xbox on a par with the current rumoured specs of the Sony PS4 which is in turn expected to also contain AMD Southern Islands graphics as well as an AMD x86 CPU.
It would put the two consoles on level footing in terms of performance as they will essentially contain the same hardware, though by the time they actually go on sale they would to be hopelessly out of date compared to modern PCs.
Are we really to believe that the 'next generation' of games consoles would essentially be out of date mini AMD PCs, with just the operating systems and scale of fun-sucking DRM the only levels of differentiation? We can't see that being the case, and a report in April 2012 suggests that Microsoft does indeed have something more exciting up its sleeve.
Xbox World reported that the Xbox 720 will pack a 16-core CPU, which would certainly add some much needed muscle to the maybe-possibly underpowered graphics.

What will the Xbox 720 actually be called?

It's entirely possible that Microsoft could call it the Xbox 720, but we reckon it'll have something a bit more exciting up its sleeve.
Noted Microsoft blogger MS Nerd outed the name Xbox Loop, claiming that the long-awaited console will be "far smaller", cheaper and quite Kinect-focused when it finally lands on our shelves.
Rrecent reports indicate that Microsoft's internal codename for the new Xbox is 'Durango'. Sean Tracy, a technical designer at games developer Crytek,said on Twitter: "Enjoying the Durango developers summit in London. So far, great swag and interesting talks". The tweet was very quickly taken down but the codename was out of the bag by then.

Xbox 720 storage and disc format

It now seems highly likely that the new Xbox will arrive packing a Blu-ray drive. There have been too many rumours suggesting this is the case for it not to be true.
Microsoft was, if you remember, a staunch member of the HD DVD Promotion Group and went so far as to launch an external HD DVD drive for the 360. So it represents a bit turn-around for Microsoft to embrace Blu-ray, but it also makes perfect sense.
Read speeds from DVDs are still faster than from Blu-ray discs, but BDs can hold vastly more data. A standard dual-layer BD can contain 50GB of data compared to the Xbox 360's dual-layer DVDs which contain between 8 and 9GB.
Many current Xbox 360 titles come on two or three discs, and with the size of Xbox 720 games destined to dwarf current titles, that extra capacity is a fundamental requirement.
There are other wildcard alternatives to Blu-ray and DVD, of course. You'll find flag-wavers for flash drives, Nintendo-style game cartridges, even the resurrection of HD DVD.
There were even some rumours speculating that the new Xbox would shipwithout a disc drive at all. The report on MCV said that the console will use "interchangeable solid state storage" which would indicate that games would be both downloadable and available on PS Vita-style memory cards.
Omitting a disc drive would certainly save money and reduce the weight and power consumption of the final device but we honestly don't see it happening.

Xbox 720 games are in development

It looks as though games developers are already playing with Xbox 720 hardware - a recent job advert from Peter Molyneux's Lionhead studio asks for developers with a background in DirectX 11 - a platform not used by any of the current consoles but is rumoured to be used in the AMD-powered Xbox 720.
It's a bit of a no-brainer that titles are in development from all the big studios if you ask us.

What about the Xbox 720 controller?

Many rumours suggest that the second version of Kinect will sit at the heart of the Xbox 720 experience. A console built around motion detection has lots of promise and it seems highly likely that this is the direction Microsoft is taking, given the way it's currently pushing Kinect hardware and software.
However, you can be sure that the trusty control pad will remain a core component for hardcore gaming. The 360 control pad is wildly popular amongst both console and PC gamers so we can't see the design changing too radically, either.

Will Microsoft kill the second-hand games market?

There have been rumours cicrulating that the new Xbox console will feature a system aimed at preventing owners playing used games. That would mean no trading-in of old titles in order to fund the purchase of new ones - a move that would not be warmly received by gamers or highstreet store.
The rumours centre around the concept of the new Xbox demanding an always-on internet connection. That sounds like a horrifying idea to us – say it ain't so!

The Xbox 720 release date

According to a "high-ranking source at Crytek," the successor to Microsoft's Xbox 360 console is likely to be unveiled at E3 2012 - Microsoft has already denied this, which just goes to show how trustworthy even 'reliable sources' can be.
Microsoft has said publically that the Xbox 360 will have (at least) a 10-year life lifespan to match the PS3. That puts a new Xbox launch into 2015… However, we reckon it's far more likely that the console will launch either in 2014 or maybe even in time for Christmas 2013.
It goes without saying that neither Microsoft nor Sony will want to launch their new consoles after the other. The 360 stole a huge march on the PS3 by launching a year earlier and so it seems a safe bet that both consoles will arrive well before the 10-year life cycle of the Xbox 360 and PS3 are up.
Over on VG247 an anonymous source is being quoted as saying Sony is very confident of being able to launch the PS4 before Microsoft can release the Xbox 720. Quite how Sony or this source can be so sure is another matter. But if there is truth to this particular rumour, it might suggest a Christmas 2013 release is indeed on the cards for the PS4. Whether Microsoft can match that is one for the rumour mill.


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