updated 01:50 pm EST, Wed January 25, 2012
New Xbox could see Microsoft jump to Blu-ray
The third-generation Xbox could mark a symbolic switch in storage but also a step back for game ownership. Kotaku understood from a rumor source that it would keep an optical drive but jump to Blu-ray, allowing it to hold larger games and play offline HD movies. For Microsoft, it would be the footnote to the HD disc debate of the mid-2000s, where the company officially backed HD DVD but was forced to drop plans after Toshiba axed the format and eventually supported Blu-ray.
The only official disc format for Xbox 360 games has been DVDs. While the system came out a year earlier than the Sony PS3 and cost less in the process, it has increasingly led to games either having to sacrifice art quality and content or else split games across multiple discs that only need one on the PS3. Some had speculated that Microsoft might lean more on downloadable games to overcome DVD's fixed 8.5GB limit.
Getting the extra space may come at a cost. The same tip had the new Xbox including an "anti-used game system" that could potentially prevent users from trading away their games. How it would work wasn't explained, but it could involve a one-time authentication that links a particular game copy to an account.
The system if true would likely anger retailers like GameStop. The North American chain has become dependent on used game sales' high profit margins to the point where it sometimes shows disdain for new titles. Its practice has been widely criticized by developers for depriving them of lost sales. Some gamers, however, have been concerned that it could complicate even just passing a game on to a family member. Some developers already use downloadable content as an incentive to buy new by either promising an extra or even disabling core features until the player redeems a code.
The new system may also get an upgraded Kinect with the built-in processor that had at one point been considered for the first model. The chip would both allow for a more accurate system and reduce the workload versus the existing Xbox 360 system, which leans on the main processor.
A smaller gamepad might be part of the design. While the sixfold speed boost was deemed in the "right ballpark," one of the newer sources said there was some room for that to change with developer kits yet to come.
The sudden rush of hardware descriptions, while still rumor, could be signs Microsoft has largely settled the hardware targets for the next Xbox and may be shifting its focus to developers to make sure the new console has a large amount of early game support when it does launch, which now is more likely to be in 2013.