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Leaked document reveals next Xbox price, tech details

Leaked document reveals next Xbox price, tech details

Mon 18 Jun 2012 7:40am GMT / 3:40am EDT / 12:40am PDT
Hardware

Unconfirmed roadmap of console through to 2015 removed from Scribd by Microsoft's legal counsel

Purported details of Microsoft's road map for the Xbox console through 2015 have been revealed in a 56 page PowerPoint document uploaded to Scribd by an unknown source on Saturday.

The document calls for the "Xbox 720" to be released for the 2013 holidays with 4-6x the power of the current Xbox 360, at a price of $299.

A few hours the leak, the posting was removed from Scribd at the request of Covington & Burling LLP, an international law firm that lists Microsoft as one of its clients.

The document described a box of multiple CPUs and GPUs, allowing for backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360 through an included PowerPC CPU, an estimated 4-6x increase in graphics performance, and background processing enabling TV recording while playing games.

The plan aims for "True 1080p and Full 3D", implying an ability to run 60 fps games at 1080p resolution. The Kinect 2 hardware is included, allowing for four player concurrent tracking with improved voice recognition, dedicated hardware processing, and a "better, wider, deeper" play space allowing use in smaller areas.

1

The Xbox 720 is designed to be always on in a low-power state to allow for multimedia operation, to be "the only box you need for premium living room entertainment." Blu-Ray is included, along with USB 3.0, HDMI, 802.11n, Gigabit Ethernet, PCI-E, DisplayPort and SATA connectivity. Storage includes the Blu-ray drive, a hard disk drive, and flash storage as well. Video RAM is pegged at 4 GB of 128 bit DDR4 RAM.

Beyond the Xbox 720 lies a project called Fortaleza Glasses, which are apparently similar to Google's Project Glass - except they would work in a living room setting with the Xbox 720 to provide an immersive augmented reality view, and a 4G version would work anywhere. (Note: Fortaleza is a Brazilian city, in the same region as Natal; "Project Natal" was the codename for Kinect.)

But is it all real? The document is ostensibly an internal working proposal to a Microsoft team, done sometime in late 2010. It's an awful lot of work to fake up something 56 pages long, but there are people on the Internet who have created more elaborate fakes. Microsoft's legal eagles ordered it taken down, which some take as a sign of authenticity; but equally that could just be a desire not to have a document out there that looks like it came from Microsoft full of misleading and possibly damaging information (if it hurts Microsoft's future hardware marketing and sales in some way). Of course, if this document was created in late 2010, much could have changed since then in any case.

Some analysts have pointed out that $299 is not a realistic price point for hardware including all the capabilities listed. Possibly, but it's also true that Microsoft could be prepared to lose a few billion dollars making this hardware successful. They did that with the Xbox and the Xbox 360; it's not at all unusual to lose a few hundred dollars on each console sold, in the beginning. Microsoft has enough cash that losing a few billion to establish themselves as a leader in the next big consumer market is a reasonable proposition.

Whether or not the document is real, it points out some interesting possible directions for Microsoft. It seems logical that Microsoft would want to dominate the living room by extending the media capabilities of the Xbox 360, and adding a feature set designed to take on Apple, Google, Sony and Nintendo. The road map also calls for the launch of "XTV Pay TV service" in 2012 on Xbox 360, Phone, and PC. Will we see such an announcement this year? That might be an indicator of the document's veracity.

The possibility of an impressive set of hardware features at an aggressive price would certainly put a great deal of pressure on Nintendo and Sony, if not Apple and Google. The stakes were already high in the next round of the console wars, and it may be that a willingness to lose a lot of money will be one of the most powerful weapons on the battlefield.

28 Comments

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
Let's start the fact or fake vote right here.

I honestly can't call it, but going with my gut, I vote fake. I could make this document from scratch, and if I could do it, a lot of people other people could do it too.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Thomas Luecking

69 13 0.2
I hope it is fake since I want more than just a 6fold power increase from the Nextbox... Common Microsoft... It has been 7 years!

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
Yes, Thomas. That too is how I feel. 4-6x the power of Xbox 360 is just awful; putting it way behind current mid-range PCs (even though more can be achieved on a closed system). By the time the console is out, the 360 will be eight years old. I would expect at least a 10-20x leap in power over such an excrutiating length of time. I don't think that's unreasonable going on previous genrational jumps and by the technology that's out there right now.

However, if the next Xbox is more about services than it is about games, 4-6x may be all we get as Microsoft's strong focus on these services may drive power-related decisions. It may be that it is felt there is no need for large amounts of horsepower, except by the hardcore gamer; an audience that is subjectively not as important as it once was in Microsoft's grand strategy.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

robert troughton
UK General Manager

221 93 0.4
The thing with measuring performance increases on new hardware is that it's really not just about that any more... even just considering such as hardware tessellation and displacement mapping on DX11 class hardware, those technologies improve graphical quality immeasurably without the need for the hardware to render a huge number more polygons. Models close to the camera can now have huge levels of detail and that detail can gradually, and smoothly, reduce to very simple models in the distance.

Essentially, if next-gen consoles had the same power as current-gen but with DX11 capabilities added, in hardware, you'd still see a huge increase in quality.

Hopefully the next Xbox will be more that 4-6 times as powerful - but people shouldn't worry that such a "small" increase won't be noticeable or worthwhile.

Personally, I think these specs are entirely plausible. There are no real "shock" items here... so whether the leak is accurate or not is fairly moot. The only thing that surprises/concerns me here is the Augmented Reality stuff ... that's something, along with Google Glasses and Wearable Computing, that I really don't care too much about... apart from anything else, wearing tech on your head/body, is likely to be a healthcare time bomb that will burn those involved sometime down the line (my own possibly controversial view).

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
Very interesting Robert, thanks.

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
The 360 was launched in NA in November 2005. So the 720 will be exactly 8 years later. Moore's law (which still holds) has a doubling every two years. So this means that the 720 should have X16 the power of the 360. Talk of 8 X86 cores makes this possible.
4 GB of 128 bit DDR4 RAM will be very welcome after the memory paucity of the 360.

I think this document looks like a powerpoint from a couple of years ago before the hardware spec was bolted down, so it mainly gives an idea of strategic direction. In that it is a close fit to what we know MS are doing.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
The thing is a little bit vauge, TBH. 4-6 times the power of the current console is the misleading part since we're not talking specifically about the CPU or GPU.

It's a nebulous, undefined standard that we're measuring it against.

I wouldn't be unhappy with 4-6x the power of the current console as long as the graphics look as good as they do now and that it allows for more in-depth AI/simulation/interaction instead.

I think Bruce is correct - this is probably more an indication of intent than a firm decision. Like a mock-up project or pitch.

Posted:2 years ago

#7
If Kinect2 comes packed-in, I think $299 seems way too cheap. MS may be willing to lose $100-$200 per unit around launch (and really sting Sony who couldn't afford this) - then again, there is a lot more pressure internally at MS now to make money from these devices.

The specs themselves seem very reasonable to me, although much comes down to exactly how powerful the GPU is, and what capabilities it has. Its also not that much more powerful than the WiiU (not enough to make them obviously "different generations").

If true, it seems MS's focus is very much about releasing this as a general "living room entertainment" device (again similar to the WiiU) - rather than a top-notch, ultra-powerful gaming device. It could open a path for Sony to release a "uber" powerful (and pricey console), and get the hardcores back.

Posted:2 years ago

#8

robert troughton
UK General Manager

221 93 0.4
A doubling every year would give a 2^8 increase not a 2*8 increase in speed... so that'd be 256 times faster... Moores Law really doesn't apply any more, CPUs haven't doubled (annually) in speed for many years now... Rather than doubling in speed, as you mention, manufacturers have instead gone for more cores and that will likely continue. But even there, remember that having 8 cores doesn't mean that you will get 8X the speed... those cores won't be running at 100% of their potential, for a start, and secondly, giving each core equal amounts of work to keep them 100% busy doesn't always work... having 8 cooks in a kitchen doesn't usually mean that your food will be ready 8 times faster.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Stephen Woollard
Online Infrastructure Specialist

146 71 0.5
It seems plausible, but if it's true the main kicker for me is the amount of RAM - why do console manufacturers always skimp on what is arguably the cheapest bit of the machine?

My home PC has a measly 12Gb of RAM, and nearly all the programmers I know bemoan the fact that consoles never have enough memory. Surely it would make more sense to put 16 or even 32Gb of RAM in the thing if they want it to last another eight or ten years...

Posted:2 years ago

#10

robert troughton
UK General Manager

221 93 0.4
@Michael: My belief is that the subsidised console that Microsoft are currently doing in the US, where you get a 360 cheaper if you sign up to a Live subscription, is a precursor to what they'll do with the new Xbox. What if the next Xbox releases for $150 but with a $20/month 2-year-minimum-term Xbox Live subscription? Such a deal would make sense for Microsoft (and Sony) on so many levels.

Also, with the current subsidised deal, if the take up on that is good (which I personally doubt - in the "trial" case I don't believe the subsidy is anywhere near enough), I can see Microsoft contacting all of those customers part way through their contact, just as the mobile phone providers do, to ask if they'd like to swap out their 360 for the next Xbox - faced with a further year's contract on their 360 and the option to go next-gen just by extending that contract for a year, it's a fantastic way to lock those customers in to Microsoft's next console instead of Sony's...

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@robert troughton

Morre's law has nothing to do with clock speed. It is the number of transistors within a given acreage of silicon.
And it is every 2 years that they double.
And the law still holds as you can see on this graph: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/00/Transistor_Count_and_Moore%27s_Law_-_2011.svg/350px-Transistor_Count_and_Moore%27s_Law_-_2011.svg.png

Posted:2 years ago

#12

robert troughton
UK General Manager

221 93 0.4
@Bruce: ah, apologies, I didn't realise that - and stand corrected.

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Thomas Dolby
Project Manager / Lead Programmer

335 283 0.8
Well I really hope it is true, but like other people have said, this looks like a wishlist to me. If they can meet this specification, I'll consider getting one of these.

Posted:2 years ago

#14

Peter Dwyer
Games Designer/Developer

481 290 0.6
actually that all sounds rather accurate......

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,104 1,075 1.0
Core system designed to be scalable in frequency / number of cores
If regular hardware upgrades in the style of ipad-iPad2-iPad3 are part of the strategy, then $299 sounds reasonable. If you plan on selling a more powerful version in a year you can hit two birds with one stone. Keep the price stable and the pressure on the competition up.

Different resolutions and texture quality settings worked for the PC for decades, it should work for Xboxes as well.

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
A console's greatest strength is its strictly defined limits. It's why six years after a console's launch we're still seeing visuals comparable to that of PCs. If you know where the ceiling is, you can't bang your head.

An upgradeable console would not be a console, it would be a PC.

Splintering SKUs would be hell for gamers. I would declare myself 'out' even before it even came to market.

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Barrie Tingle
Live Producer

374 148 0.4
"The document described a box of multiple CPUs and GPUs, allowing for backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360 through an included PowerPC CPU"

Why would they do this. They hardly bothered with the original Xbox games and they scrapped it early on. Is it worth them even looking at doing it this time around since it will just increase manufacturing costs.

Posted:2 years ago

#18

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,020 1,467 1.4
I know core gamers hate to hear it (and I myself am an admitted graphics whore), but we need to done down the console power leaps between generations. Something like two dozen studios were closed this generation due to rising costs, and even at the end of the generation we have games that aren't breaking even with millions of units sold (like Amalur).

If Sony and Microsoft go for another massive leap in graphics (which will be outdated by PC standards at launch anyway), we could be looking at an industry where only Activision, EA, Epic, 2K, and Ubisoft have the cash reserves to spend on development, and they'll stick to safe sequels and FPS games, because a fact of the market is that as risk rises publishers take fewer chances and innovate less. We could be setting the console gaming market up for a true collapse caused by Western publisher "blockbuster syndrome" and gamers demanding all games take full advantage of the top tech available on any platform.

This unhealthy behavior is really an example of why consoles need to emulate PC more. On PC multiple levels of development are successful from studios big and small. High tech isn't necessary, and pricing is completely flexible, from F2P to $20 to $60, almost anything can be successful. This race to max out graphics (and in turn budgets) on consoles will only narrow the games that console gamers like us get to play, albeit making them prettier in the process.

I know on an enthusiast and industry site like this I'm hugely outnumbered by the people who want consoles to push tech, but I think it's more important for consoles to be around at all than it is for them to be the prettiest they can be.

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,020 1,467 1.4
@ Dan Ironically PC is much less hassle than consoles these days. How often have you had to install updates on a console game before you could play online? Some of which take 10+ minutes to install? How often have PS3 owners filled their hard drives due to massive game installs? How often do you have to swap discs on an Xbox 360 game, especially a JRPG, to complete it? How often have you put in a highly anticipated console game only to find that technical issues like framerate drops give it huge problems (looking at you, Dark Souls!). None of these are issues on PC anymore.

I haven't upgraded my computer in 3 years and it continues to run greatly superior graphics to my PS3 and 360 (and don't kid yourself; the gap is quite huge in a game like Battlefield 3, Crysis, or The Witcher 2). Steam keeps my games up to date. I never have to put in a disc. I play from my couch with a wireless KB&M or a wireless Xbox 360 controller. All my games run in 3D. I have dozens of options of free games, with new great F2P experiences coming out every year. Heck, even the mods are easy to use now. Just click "subscribe" on the Steam Workshop and bam! Four more hours of Skyrim quests and new locations are waiting for you when you boot the game.

The main reason I still play my consoles and handhelds so much is because of the exclusive games (specifically Japanese ones), but if you give me the choice on where to play them, the PC experience is often smoother. Even brand new PC games like Diablo 3 can run on weak old laptops. That "is my PC strong enough to run XXX" question really never comes up anymore. Instead it's consoles where you have to worry about updates, installs, long loading times, slowdown, bugs, and slow patches on those bugs (looking at you Skyrim). Not to mention higher pricing on software in general, and a complete lack of F2P options. Consoles are incredibly far behind PC these days, and it's not the graphics that are their biggest problem.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 18th June 2012 5:01pm

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
@Nicholas

You make some good points there, but I have to say that none of the 'problems' you list for consoles in that opening paragraph are actual problems.

"How often have you had to install updates on a console game before you could play online?"
Once, maybe twice in a game's lifetime. Takes about 8 seconds.

"Some of which take 10+ minutes to install?"
I have never experienced this on an Xbox 360. 20 seconds was about the biggest.

"How often have PS3 owners filled their hard drives due to massive game installs?"
You tell me. I never filled my HDD and I still have a 60GB model.

"How often do you have to swap discs on an Xbox 360 game, especially a JRPG, to complete it?"
Once in 50-60 hours, usually.

"How often have you put in a highly anticipated console game only to find that technical issues like framerate drops give it huge problems (looking at you, Dark Souls!)"
Never. Dark Souls ran fine on Xbox 360.

Other than that, some good points.

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,020 1,467 1.4
@ Dan there's no way you've only been booted from Xbox Live to update twice per game on Xbox 360. Gears of War 3 alone has had 5 such updates, and yes, most of them take a minute or so, but it's still an extra hassle, and they are often longer on PS3. I've had to upgrade my 120GB PS3 HDD because of it being full, largely due to 5GB+ game installs (some are more like 10GB). I had to swap discs three times in Mass Effect 3, twice in Lost Odyssey, over eight times in Star Ocean, four times in LA Noire. There are others but those come to the top of my head. Dark Souls has sub 15fps framerate drops on Xbox 360, a couple of which happen during major boss fights, and I regularly have to install my discs onto my 360 hard drive to prevent pretty insane loading times.

I'm not saying all those issues affect all people all the time, but all those issues exist and affect some people. Consoles have become more of a hassle to use, rather than less.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 18th June 2012 6:45pm

Posted:2 years ago

#22

robert troughton
UK General Manager

221 93 0.4
@Nicholas: Thinking back over the recent years on PS2, Xbox, PS3 and Xbox 360, I've noticed that the majority of art resource time is spent optimising assets to fit onto those systems.. reducing polygon counts, merging textures together, streamlining material pipelines, etc. With better hardware, and with DX11, much of that work is no longer necessary - or, at the very least, it's much less important. Rather than merging vertices together one by one an artist can now adjust a slider in their chosen editor (Unreal Engine 4, for instance) to alter how a model will tessellate on hardware (if they want it to differ from the default). Third party tools, such as Simplygon, will also simplify the task of asset optimisation by making the work mathematical and much, much easier/faster.

Beyond that, the tools are maturing. Epic showed recently how they're pioneering production-focused editor features, features that are designed from the ground up to make game development as easy as possible while still be incredibly flexible.

I have no doubt that Activision and EA will spend $100million on their next Call of Duty and Medal of Honour games... but the fact is that studios won't NEED to spend that much this time around... they probably will - but that's not the hardware or tool providers' fault, it's the fault of game developers and publishers that always wish to push the envelope and to one-up their nearest competitor.

Posted:2 years ago

#23

James Verity

132 25 0.2
a better question would have been "How often have you had to install a game update on a console before you could play the game on day of purchase?" - btw: nearly every bloody time!

Posted:2 years ago

#24

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,020 1,467 1.4
@Robert Sure, Unreal 4 is going to add some great new tools to speed things up, but how much more are you going to have to pay to license those tools compared to Unreal 3? You're right, everyone doesn't HAVE to maximize technology, but western developers in general seem to be sucked into "blockbuster syndrome," where if you aren't maxing out the console it's not worth making. This is fueled by the consumers themselves, as seen in this thread, that aren't happy with "just" 6 times the power of the 360.

I mean, could they even sell a game like Star Wars 1313 or Sleeping Dogs on next gen consoles if they didn't look like that, and instead looked like PS360 games? I don't think they could. I think they would be derided by an audience of entitled gamers who believe that that doesn't constitute putting in enough effort for them. It's different with Japanese publishers, who learned long ago not to push tech in every game, and it's different on handhelds, but if Xbox 720 and Playstation 4 try to make a tech leap to the top, that's what gamers will demand for those publishers to sell their products, and I'm not sure many of them will survive that.

Certainly a lot will leave console development in favor of cheaper waters...

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Jason Sartor
Copy editor/Videographer

104 33 0.3
So the next Microsoft system is a PS3?
Sure the 802.11n is an upgrade from the 802.11g in the PS3, and obviously USB 3.0 would be used (upgraded tech to be used for sure, but only minor), but the PS3 already comes standard with WiFi, BluRay, USB ports, upgradable 2.5 SATA hard drive and could use flash storage.

@Dan Howdle:
I upgraded my PS3 hard drive from 60GB to 500GB because 60GB is incredibly easy to fill. Devil May Cry 3 has more than a 5GB install as does GTA IV, Madden, Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Those five games alone take more than 26GB of space. Add in DLC and digital-only PSN content and it took no time at all to max out the space. You can fill up 60GB on 7-10 games - and for a console that has been out for six years, that is not an excessive amount of games that only a handful of people would reach, most PS3 owners will have at least that many games in their library.
On my 360, Forza 4 takes up 10.4GB. 60GB is an incredibly small amount of space when it comes to gaming and video - especially with far more digital content coming in the future.

Posted:2 years ago

#26

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
@Jason

I can only say that Nicholas' list of console 'problems' as an argument for why they should be more like PCs is unconvincing. I have not experienced any problems swapping the odd disc or uninstalling games I no longer play. You can say this game or that game takes 10gb here and there, but me personally, I play games, finish them, uninstall them. Done. So for me, these aren't problems.

The 'problems' Nicholas has listed are the same ones reeled out time and again by exponents of PC gaming, while ignoring the multitude of far more real and serious issues inherent in gaming on PC. Now I am not saying either is perfect, but my initial point was that the advantage of consoles is that they are far more hassle-free than PCs. That's just a fact.

Game updates, like I say, take seconds on 360. Graphics driver updates, by contrast take an age and often throw out brand new bugs requiring hotfixes and so on. And what about the time I have to spend pulling s,liders up and down to find a happy compromise so my PC games don't sail along at 100FPS for most of the time, then dip to 10FPS when 10 things attack me at once?

The issues with PC gaming are far more bothersome to me, which is why if the next Xbox is more a PC than a console, if it can be expanded and thus inherit these particualar PC issues, I'm out.

Posted:2 years ago

#27

Richard Pygott
Level Designer

40 13 0.3
With all the notices going to out to different websites asking for the documents to be removed, it looks like there is a good chance that this is genuine.

However it saddens me that people are just concerned with power, I love games that have amazing levels of detail, extra shader techniques etc. But first and foremost I am a gamer that loves gameplay regardless of graphics.

I think the comments and others similar to it around the internet about the power levels are an indication that gameplay is secondary these days it seems.

I would like enhanced ways to play, different ways, better AI & physics. To use Call of Duty as an example, I like the game its not bad, but I hope the next generation isnt just filled with COD with higher resolution textures and graphics & thats it.

Graphics should compliment the gamplay, as Gameplay will always be king!

Posted:2 years ago

#28

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