updated 02:30 pm EDT, Mon April 2, 2012
Next Xbox may lean on graphics and DRM
A currently uncertain but unusually detailed rumor Monday has Microsoft's next-generation Xbox making aggressive decisions on hardware. Multiple tips to VG24/7 supported AMD's hints of movie-quality 3D graphics with claims there would be two Radeon HD 7000 graphics cores. Rather than simply pair them up to form a single virtual card, as with AMD's usual CrossFire, it would have each core rendering separate objects in the same scene.
The processor inside would be either a quad- or hexa-core chip, although it's unclear whether it would still be Power-based like in the Xbox 360 or switch to another platform, like ARM or Intel. Two of the four cores would be reserved, one for recognizing Kinect control when active and the other for the underlying operating system. Kinect would supposedly be built-in, although that would imply a much smaller design or a bundled external camera.
Despite leaning towards downloads, Microsoft would reportedly have a Blu-ray drive and come full circle after its failed shot at backing HD-DVD.
A controversial step might be a requirement for an always-on Internet connection. It would possibly be an "anti-piracy measure" and presumably check periodically to verify that code hadn't been modified. The solution could pose a problem for homes that either don't have the Xbox in a place it can get online or which loses its Internet connection to an outage.
While the details are very much unconfirmed, they corroborate both the AMD remarks as well as Crytek designer Sean Tracy's inadvertent confirmation of the Durango codename for the next Xbox. He briefly posted mention on Twitter of going to a "Durango summit" in London during February and deleted it soon afterwards. As the developer of games like Crysis 2, Tracy would be looking to test future hardware.
Both Microsoft and Sony are believed to be aiming for holiday 2013 releases for their consoles. Sony may be launching the Orbis, which might also use AMD video but could also switch over to AMD x86 processors. The switch could greatly simplify game development versus the historically hard to support PS3, albeit at the expense of compatibility.