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Microsoft Unveils the Xbox One [UPDATED x2]

Improved Kinect functionality, live TV support, and a heavy focus toward sports content were some of the key takeaways from today's press event.

If you were coming into today's Microsoft press event primarily expecting to see new hardware, new media content, and a lot of sports things, then you probably came away pretty excited about the Xbox One.

Microsoft unveiled the new console today to a crowd of press in Seattle, WA, assigning the new console its singular name, offering up basic specs and new app and hardware features, as well as a small selection of games from both internal and 3rd party publishers. Here's a brief rundown on what we saw:

The Hardware:

Don Mattrick, presenting the Xbox One.
Don Mattrick, presenting the Xbox One.

The Xbox One includes:

  • An 8-core CPU
  • 8GB of System Memory
  • A Blu-ray drive
  • 500GB HDD
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • HDMI In/Out portsW

While these stats were touched on, Microsoft was far more keen to show off its new interface and media support innovations. Much was made about "Snap mode," a feature that lets you jump between multiple running apps by with simple voice commands. The demonstration showed that you could jump between a video game, web browsing, and live TV, among other things, just by calling out the relevant application.

Yes, live TV was a big focus of the presentation as well. Confirming previous rumors, it was revealed that the Xbox One will allow you to hook your cable connection directly up to the box, and jump between the live TV and in-system apps with relative ease.

In addition to the core hardware, the Kinect hardware has seen a significant technological bump as well. The new Kinect features a 1080P HD RGB camera (which can be used for Skype calls), 30 FPS color, and an increased field of view. It will be bundled with all new Xbox One devices.

Sports!

Exclusive content for FIFA 14 is coming to Xbox One.
Exclusive content for FIFA 14 is coming to Xbox One.

Sports got a big push in today's presentation, both in live and in video game form. On the video game front, EA Sports announced a special partnership with Microsoft to bring its upcoming slate of sports titles to the Xbox One within the next year. Games included Madden NFL 25, its upcoming UFC game, the (again) revived NBA Live 14, and FIFA 14, the last of which will include exclusive Ultimate Team content on Xbox One.

In the live sports arena, Microsoft has entered into an agreement with the NFL to bring live game broadcasts, as well as fantasy sports content, to the system.

Halo: The Series

One of the more unexpected moments came when the event cut to Steven Spielberg, who, via video, announced that he would be partnering with Microsoft to bring a new Halo TV series exclusively to Xbox One. His exact role on the project was not detailed, nor was any potential production date for the series.

Remedy and Forza

Remedy Entertainment, the developer behind the cult Xbox 360 favorite Alan Wake, showed off a brief, baffling trailer for its new Xbox One exclusive game, Quantum Break. The trailer mixed live action footage of a mother and her strange little girl, and presumably in-game (or at least pre-rendered) footage of a large ship crashing into a bridge, and then suddenly rewinding. More about the game is expected to be revealed at E3.

Microsoft also unveiled the expected, but certainly not unwelcome Forza Motorsport 5. After all, what would a next-gen console reveal be without exquisitely rendered video game cars?

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: There's a Dog Now
Call of Duty: There's a Dog Now

As expected, bulk of the show's end was dedicated to Activision's upcoming Call of Duty sequel, Ghosts, which will feature exclusive downloadable content on Xbox One. Ghosts, which is in development at Infinity Ward, features a script from Traffic and Syriana screenwriter Stephen Gaghan that follows a single soldier...and his trusty dog. Yes, much ado was made about a Navy SEAL dog buddy you'll have working alongside your character throughout the game. This dog was motion-captured, even, and will help out as a sort of companion A.I.

What Came After

Beyond the above, little else was learned at today's event, outside of a claim of 15 exclusive games scheduled for the system's first year, and a nebulous "later this year" release window. However, more information has been coming since the event ended, including additional games and a few answers to some lingering questions.

On the subject of backward compatibility, Engadget is reporting that the Xbox One will not play Xbox 360 games, nor digital games built for the 360 architecture. However, as small consolation, gamertags and scores will carry over to the new system.

As for the system's much-talked-about, but previously unconfirmed "always online" functionality, Wired's report on the console states that the system won't always be online. However, developers could make use of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing service, which could present situations where the system would have to be online.

That doesn't quite answer the lingering question of how the Xbox One might handle used games. The Wired article notes that games can be installed to the system, and may have to be. For games that have been previously installed, second players would be prompted with a note saying they could pay a fee to add their account to the game and install it. However, Microsoft wouldn't make a complete declaration about whether or not other players would ever be able to ever play a used game without having to install/pay an additional fee.

UPDATE: Microsoft Support has officially denied Wired's report regarding potential fees for used games via Twitter, and stated that it has sent a correction to them. Wired's report currently still mentions the fees.

UPDATE 2: Eurogamer was able to get Microsoft's Phil Harrison to confirm the original fees report. Sort of. The example mentioned in the Wired article was confirmed by Harrison, though he mentioned that the ability for multiple users to share the same game would be possible, and that a "solution" for the used market was in place. He did not, however, specify what that solution may entail.

Lastly, multiple third-party games have been announced as coming to Xbox One, including EA's Battlefield 4, Square-Enix's upcoming Thief remake, as well as Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch_Dogs.

We'll bring you more on the Xbox One as it becomes available.

Alex Navarro on Google+