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Microsoft's Xbox 720 Exposed...Sort Of


A gaming magazine has published everything it knows about Microsoft's next-generation gaming platform.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL It may be some time before the public receives any official announcements regarding Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) next Xbox and Sony's (NASDAQ:SNE) Playstation 4, but journalists are hard at work trying to get whatever information they can from both companies. In preparation for their final issue, Xbox World, a gamer magazine, recently released an online article naming everything they know about the system, including specs, features, and much more. Below is a summary of their findings with some analyst opinions for good measure.

For starters, Microsoft has already released its 'Durango' development kits revealing that the future Xbox will have four hardware cores each divided into four logical cores, allowing for a processing power ahead of most PCs. Simon Mack, a tech chief at Naturalmotion, states that with this more advanced processor, "We can simulate more things and simulate those things better… You get more physics, you get better fidelity… We can start to look at having more complex characters under simulation with more complex interactions, and can add more things... This all helps to increase believability."

Xbox's motion control peripheral, the Kinect, will also receive an upgrade allowing it to track up to four players and read more precise movements, hopefully resolving complaints from Kinect's current customers. The system will also allow for an augmented reality platform that would work alongside the Kinect or Microsoft's new Omni touch peripheral. This would make it possible for video game characters to appear in your living room and interact with objects. 3D sound may go along with these innovations to provide a level of immersion that wouldn't be possible with direction-based sound.

The next Xbox should also feature a standard Blu-ray drive, allowing for games up to 50 gigabytes on disc. However, there is a chance that a slim version of the console will drop the disc drive altogether and require only digital downloads. The article isn't specific on whether this slimmer console is actually newly announced Microsoft's Xbox TV project, or another version of the "Xbox 720" line. Either way, a console that solely accepts digital downloads could hasten consumers' acceptance of its usage, thus help the game industry cut out stores like GameStop (NYSE:GME) as its middle man, and provide greater support for indie games.

Naturally, the "Xbox 720" will feature a greater graphical capability, specifically, the ability to run DirecTX 11, and will further advance the gaming controller, perhaps allowing for button placement customization. However, there is some speculation that Microsoft will change the system's UI to resemble Windows 8's Metro interface, so as to provide some unity with Microsoft's brands. The interface changes will most likely include a new version of Xbox Live, and the addition of cloud and always-on gaming to allow gamers to play immediately from multiple devices.

With all that taken into account, it seems that the next Xbox will have little difficulty crushing Nintendo's (PINK:NTDOY) Wii U, when it comes to consumer appeal, though there is still some question as to when the product will be launched and what it will be priced at. For that we turn again to Wedbush Securities' Analyst Michael Pachter, who believes that Microsoft will most likely release the Xbox 720 in the spring of 2014, giving the company sufficient time to make enough units to "accommodate what is certain to be overwhelming demand among hardcore gamers."

In terms of pricing, Pachter believes that Microsoft might partner with a cable provider, like Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) to extend its services, allowing for a $99 Xbox 720, severely undercutting Nintendo's Wii U. However, a price without such a deal has yet to be predicted, though it is most likely that the system will range between $399 and $500 at launch.

All this hardware is great, but what truly puts Microsoft ahead of the curve is its ability to stack its gaming library with console exclusives and routinely cut deals with major developers to gain early access to the most desired downloadable content. It's speculated that Sony's Playstation 4 will feature even more powerful hardware specs and will be released even earlier than the Xbox 720, but unless Sony can deliver on the games, Microsoft's next Xbox will boost to first place right out of the gate.
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