Tuesday, June 16, 2009

XBox Next

Rumors, rumors everywhere, and not a word of fact.

With Natal in theory coming sometime soon as an XBox accessory, the time would appear to be right for a brand new XBox version, complete with upgraded hardware to ensure that your XBox can handle the complex algorithms of tracking potentially dozens of motion points in all dimensions and manipulating that into visually impressive gameplay, all in real time with no noticeable input lag or loss of game quality or performance. 1UP thinks so, stating conclusively "Yes, there will be a new XBox console next fall." While the guts of the potential XBox Natal might be only minor upgrades, 1UP says one is coming.

Time to plan your next vacation? Not so fast!

Team XBox comes back and refutes the 1UP report categorically. There will NOT be a new XBox next fall. Now, there may well be a new repackaging of the XBox with the Natal system (XBox: Natal Edition?), but that will be as far as it goes. But thats not all. Team XBox goes on with tantalizing hints about what the next XBox will include. But they won't tell us directly. Nope. Stay tuned!

To GameSpy! Who today breaks the story the Team XBox sort-of but not-quite broke earlier. According to GameSpy (citing Team XBox, though the portion they quote is not at the link they give), the Heir to the XBox is aways off yet because Microsoft just won't ship it until TVs capable of stereoscopic 3d are commonplace. Stereoscopic 3d has become popular in the movie industry for some 3d movies. It isn't a bad setup and results in a decent looking visuals through the obligatory glasses, on a large screen anyway.

How will stereoscopic 3d translate to a small screen and how long will it be until stereoscopic-capable TVs are generally affordable and widely adopted? Good questions.

From were I sit, however, this all sounds wrong. Natal looks to be a somewhat pricey addition to the XBox. There is no way Microsoft gives away their price advantage by only selling +Natal editions of the XBox. The day after they announced such a move, Sony would slash prices on the PS3 and likely even up sales between the two units in a hurry. Microsoft isn't that careless with their market advantages, nor do I see them selling the Natal systems for far below cost. In this economy, I'm not sure how well the stockholders would tolerate eating that sort of a loss.

Nor can I see Microsoft banking their future on stereoscopic televisions. A Google search on the subject yields phrases such as "will be shown", "coming soon", "future products", and worst of all for a next-gen game market perspective, "eye strain."

Yeah... Microsoft is going to bank their future on a product that can be uncomfortable or painful to use? Ok ok... the original XBox controller aside, why would invest their resources on the assumption of an unproven technology that may never achieve market penetration?

Here's what we know for sure: there will be a successor to the XBox. Right now, I have to think anything beyond that is just wishful thinking.

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