Sunday, May 19, 2013

Let's Speculate About the NeXtBox

With just a scant couple days left between now and when the world will know of the NeXtBox in an official capacity, it seems like now is a better time than any to revisit the rampant speculation and rumors as they stand now in comparison to a month ago when they announced the reveal announcement.  To be fair, a lot of stuff hasn't really changed in the given time frame, but we can also use this as a jumping point to discuss a few other things about the NeXtBox that weren't previously covered, as well as giving me a chance to be horribly horribly wrong about things in a hilarious fashion as I have done in previous times.  Yet I insist on trying because one of these times I will be 100% right on predictions and it will be amazing until the universe implodes in on itself and for that, I apologize in advance.

Since I'd much prefer to speculate than regurgitate the rumors, let's just go ahead and list them out, both as they've appeared in the past post, and any that have come up new or expanded in the timespan.
  • There are heavy suggestions towards some form of Online DRM for your games.  Whether it's an Always Online requirement and/or a Check-in system that transfers Unique Disk Data that will prevent playback if it doesn't match has yet to be seen
  • As an extension of the previous point, there may be a built-in Anti-Used Games measure
  • Backwards Compatibility might happen in the form of a Mini-360 that attaches to your NeXtBox (This is looking pretty dead), otherwise there is likely no Backwards Compatibility
  • It's going to have a Blu-Ray Drive (this one is kind of a given and barely matters)
  • Two Models at launch - A full-featured stand-alone model (possibly $499) and a Subsidized Model ($299) that will require a 2-Year XBox Live Commitment at $10 or $15/month
  • Kinect 2.0 will be included with every model, ensuring you have it
  • In some cyclical speculation, originally the PS4 didn't have as much RAM as it announced, wanting to be ahead of the NeXtBox's specs (in quality if not quantity), but speculation is now that Microsoft has likely increased the RAM of their machine to be at least 8 Gigs as well (though perhaps not the same quality) so look for the NeXtBox to be close to par with PS4's specs
So really, not a whole lot with that list is different and we have really less-than-no indication on the truth to any measures of it.  Which means looking at it extensively for the best and worst possible outcomes and then picking from both since there's no way it's going to be the best or the worst of all of those rumors.  There is also an entire other facet of the whole thing to speculate about that really...doesn't have a lot of rumors, per se, and that front is the games.  Basically all we have is what we can guess for that, and I'll be doing a lot of that, you can bet.  Since that is what I do.  And it usually doesn't end well, as previously indicated.

The elephant in the room is definitely the Always-Online thing, and as such, that's what I want to address first, but I just...I don't know how to be honest.  It's going to have to come up during this thing or else there will be absolutely zero faith in the NeXtBox moving forward.  But with my current opinion that there is -some- form of the Always-Online thing in it, I'm trying to think of some way that they're going to try and spin it that won't subsequently get them laughed off of the internet.  And it is not working in the least.  It would honestly be easier to say that I think they're going to 'surprise' everyone by going "Hey, so yeah, no Always-Online stuff, phew that was silly right?", but I have absolutely zero faith in that.  I suppose what I'm going with is that they'll spin Always-Online as "XBox Live Full Integration - Allowing you access to your Content wherever, whenever, however", allowing you to do sort of a Remote Play thing (that won't let you play games, btw) which honestly isn't too offensive aside from the....well, the Always-Online thing.  As for the Online Check-In system, that'll be like "Developer and Publisher Incentivised Purchases, Allowing them to push Content to you as soon as it's available", which basically means you can only buy games new, but patches will download automatically and you might get free DLC every now and again once in a blue moon okay like once.  Ever.

Much like the Always-Online thing, I don't know what to say about the Anti-Used thing going forward.  I sort of already said how I think they might spin it if they run with it, with the "Incentivised Purchases" or however they'll state it, but it's a hard thing to consider, because it's hard to figure how they won't make it positively Draconian.  Project Ten Dollar, the thing that sort of started Online Passes (for consoles at least) to 'combat the Used Market' is officially being put out to pasture but, being EA, nobody is very interested in thinking that this move is because EA cares.  Which lends credence to the idea that the NeXtBox might have this functionality (so that EA won't have to mandate it themselves) and as a result, EA/Microsoft might be really really tight Next Gen.  Which would, of course, give Microsoft a very nice incentive right there to do it, since it'll likely mean a lot of stuff that is exclusive to the NeXtBox from EA as a whole.  It'd be an unprecedented partnership (ha!) and it would be very, very dangerous for Sony and Nintendo (though not the PC market, since they'll likely get it on Origin anyway).  For my part, I'm saying it won't be there, but whether or not that's more hope than thought is up in the air.

The Blu-Ray drive and Kinect 2.0, at this point, are about as close to confirmed things as they can be.  I absolutely believe that Kinect 2.0 will be shown off for a good 10 minutes or so at the reveal and that it will be included with every system.  And you know what?  It should be.  You cannot afford to pull a Nintendo with accessories and peripherals by releasing them to a market that simply won't adopt them because you can't afford to -make- them adopt it.  This last gen saw a lot of Nintendo-Pulling with Kinect and Move, not to mention the Motion Plus on Nintendo's own front, and going forward, the Circle Pad Pro is literally already the Motion Plus of this generation.  So even if the Kinect 2.0 never sees some truly innovative use or something, at least there will have been the genuine offer instead of the half-hearted attempt to put it out there for developers to make something out of that'll position it as a driving force.  (Protip:  Such a thing will never ever happen.)

As for the last three rumors, well, I pretty much absolutely believe those to some degree as well really.  We won't get a price at the event - that's specifically for E3 - but we'll find out about Backwards Compatibility and the Technical Specs there.  I just don't see the NeXtBox offering Backwards Compatibility in any fashion, as unfortunate as it might seem.  What I do see is there being a "Promise" of "Some of the Highest-Rated titles" seeing a NeXtBox release where you -might not- have to purchase them again, based on your account history.  That means things that are almost synonymous with XBLA will see a port thanks to a little green incentive that might be available on launch, so you'll be able to download Geometry Wars or Shadow Complex for the novelty of it, but not a lot else.  The spec sheet that I have no doubts will reveal a machine close in technical power to the PS4 (though I'm still hedging with less RAM) which means games will basically have to be properly ported to be on the NeXtBox and aside from some First-Party efforts (As On Demand titles) I just don't see that happening.

Though, speaking on the games, that's where it really gets hard to figure out.  Obviously, they'll want to show off -some- games at the event, but obviously, E3 is where the majority of things are going to be announced and shown off.  Still, you have to have -something- of a demonstration and so far, only Call of Duty:  Ghosts has been announced as a thing that will be there which makes sense, and I have no doubt that they'll announce some timed exclusivity stuff there.  Destiny has sided with Sony unless they're going to double-dip and make Microsoft-Exclusive content as well which is almost unheard of.  Other than that, it gets a bit tricky, because....what does Microsoft really have?  Halo 5 might have a teaser trailer as an attempt to generate hype, but that probably won't get really shown off.  Forza or their other racing franchise is a good bet, I suppose.  I guess we could dream of New IPs since that's one area where they sorely lacked this generation, but even if we do, what sort of lines will they run along?  Hopefully not more First/Third Person Shooters, since that is an image that Microsoft should be downplaying in an attempt to create a vision of game diversity that....they actually have in a sense, but never draw attention to in a real way.

So, I suppose my predictions for the show are basically thus:  They'll address the Always-Online thing with serious amounts of spin, and I'm anticipating at least a 'Check-In Validation' type of DRM.  I don't think they will include any Anti-Used Games measures because even if EA pays them a bunch or they anticipate a bunch of money through an EA partnership, it won't be worth the backlash.  Kinect 2.0 will get a good showing off with extra attention paid to its ability to detect more subtle motions and will be included with every NeXtBox at launch because they want that shit out there if just for the Dashboard.  No Backwards Compatibility, even akin to Sony's Streaming idea, but 'select titles' will be ported to the NeXtBox's Arcade from both the Arcade and the On Demand section, possibly available at launch.  Technically, I think it will be slightly underpowered in the face of the PS4, mostly due to RAM.  And Call of Duty:  Ghosts will be shown off alongside exclusive DLC announcement, Halo 5 teaser, a couple new IPs of some type and possibly a new Forza title that might show off the tighter Kinect 2.0 as an added benefit.  Now we wait for the 21st to find out that I am at least completely wrong on three of these points.

for the record, I have no predictions on the name because 'Infinity' and 'Fusion' are the rumored ones and they suck

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