When Will The Xbox 3 / 720 Be Released?
This is tough to call at this point. Microsoft just released Kinect in November 2010, which it considered at the time to be a new system launch in itself (and we did get the radically improved / redesigned Xbox 360 slim in 2010 as well) and likely won't want to pull the trigger on the next gen too soon. With that said, however, the Xbox 360 is currently in year six of its lifespan, which is unusually long for game consoles between new hardware. Most troubling is that the limitations of that six year old hardware are starting to show in comparison to the PS3.
One thing that should be made clear is that we have to assume that Microsoft has already been working on a next-gen Xbox for a while now. In March 2011 news surfaced via LinkedIn profiles that Microsoft was hiring hardware engineers for "future platforms". A lot of folks around the net interpreted that to mean that a new system hadn't already been in the works before now since they are only now looking to hire new people, which would put the potential release date several more years away. This is pretty foolish thinking, we feel. Just because they don't tell you everything, doesn't mean things aren't happening already. Sort of like the U.S. Government. Expect a new Xbox system sooner rather than later.
So when will we see the Xbox 3 / Xbox 720? 2012 seems like a likely landing spot, but it could well be 2013,2014,2015 instead. Reports a while ago indicated both Sony and Microsoft wanted to wait until 2015 potentially for new systems, but with the Xbox 360 showing its limitations more and more, and with Nintendo likely showing off new hardware at E3 2011 for launch in 2011 or 2012, Microsoft needs to do something sooner rather than later.
Game Devs Want New Hardware
You can't have a game system without games, and many game companies are anxious to kick off a new generation, which will likely pressure Microsoft as well as Sony to release new hardware sooner. Battlefield series developers DICE have expressed it is "desperate to move into the next generation". Epic Games (Unreal, Gears of War, etc.) have already presented tantalizing glimpses of its updated Unreal Engine 3 graphics engine intended for use on next-gen systems. Ubisoft want to move onto the next-gen, and has even implied it is intentionally holding back new IPs until the new systems come around. Square-Enix is already planning to expand studios for next-gen games. As the weeks and months continue ticking by and PC gaming gets even further ahead and Nintendo launches its new hardware, expect many more developers and publishers to start saying the same things.
What Will The Next-Gen Xbox Be Like?
This is purely speculation on our part, but a few things are clear.
- Microsoft learned its lesson from the Red Ring of Death and other hardware problems with the Xbox 360. Expect the nex-gen Xbox to be much more reliable.
- Expect both standard controls (hopefully they keep pretty much the same controller design as the current Xbox 360 pad, it is near-perfect) along with motion controls - likely a new version of Kinect. Casual gaming and motion controls are clearly big business, but don't expect Microsoft to ever abandon traditional gaming the way Nintendo did with the Wii. There will be a balance between both.
- The next-gen system will have some sort of physical media as broadband still isn't quite as widespread as it needs to be to have a 100% digital download service. More and more ISPs are also trying to implement download caps on users, so until that gets sorted out don't expect any system to be download only. One thing is sure, the next-gen Xbox won't use regular DVDs like the original Xbox and Xbox 360 do. It will be either Blu Ray, or some other disc media (some rumors even indicate Microsoft is buying up patents to the now long dead HD-DVD format to use for games (but definitely not movies)).
- It is unclear what kind of visual leap the graphics might take in the next-gen. Games on the Xbox 360 still do look pretty good, after all. Longer draw distances, more stuff onscreen, better framerates, etc. - should all be expected. 3D may or may not be a focus - depends on whether the 3D fad loses steam in 2011 and 2012 or not.
We Want A New Xbox!
One thing is certain - we're definitely ready for new hardware. Between the time the Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and now, technology in every other area has jumped light years ahead. TV tech is better. Computer tech is better. Cable TV is nearly obsolete since you can legally watch everything online. Print media is just about dead. Cell phones have exploded into crazy multitasking devices that are taking over the world. Etc. We love the Xbox 360, but we can't wait to get our hands on something new.