Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Next XBOX ...

What might be? In the few free moments between working and thinking about working and half-a-dozen other things, I've been thinking recently about what the next XBOX will look and feel like.

Name?

What's in a name? Well a lot. Microsoft partially chose "360" due to the number 3. They thought XBOX 2 against the PS3 would seem like they are a generation behind. So in a world where the PS4 is potentially on the horizon, where does that leave the XBOX? If you were to take a sample of XBOX Live gamers, solely based on their gamertag, maybe the XBOX 420 would work.

Since the other reason they chose the 360 was to illicit a response based on this is a complete turn around and new approach to gaming. How do you market that again once you've already made a 360? Another 360 puts you back where you were. In my opinion Microsoft will be dropping the number completely. They saw is didnt hurt the Wii and they have really no where to go from here. I look for the next XBOX to be the XBOX Quatro or something similar. They wont drop the "XBOX" name completely and appended it with some hip name.

CPU & GPU, RAM?

This is a simple estimation. Everything will be at least 3x stronger. If not, pack up and go home. And also hope that Sony doesnt come up with a more simple way to code for CELL processor and somehow magically unlock the power of it that they claim it has.

Drive?

Here are our options and the pros and cons of each:

No Drive:

Pros: No moving parts to die. Less chance of piracy (less not none). Delivery method is already in place with the Games On-Demand.

Cons: People arent totally sold on not holding something in their hand that they've bought. And the big one Gamestop, Walmart, etc will be SUPER pissed. If they dont have games to carry to drive customers into where your console is actually sold, you're going to have a problem. No drive is simply not an option.

DVD:

Pros: Current tech is well known. Manufacturing is cheap. Ubiquitous.

Cons: Too small. Some games now are feeling the pressure of even dual layer disks. And combined with XBOX Live arcade or Games On-Demand to help push thru smaller games that publishers dont want to press disks. Look for the DVD to go the way of the dodo.

Blu-ray:

Pros: HUGE storage compared to DVDs. Now industry standard for beyond DVD media. You get the added bonus of having a system that plays Blu-ray movies titles.

Cons: Not much here other than drive stability because of moving parts (like DVDs). Blu-rays will be around for a long while. The only real con here is Microsoft not wanting to pay fees to the Blu-ray group or losing face for taking so long to move to Blu-ray.

Solid State:

Pros: Less chance of common piracy. Speed across the bus. Could contain local caching. Can really be any size, small or large. No scratches, noise, and vibrations. And no moving parts which means less risk of system failure.

Cons: A reinvention of the mass production of game media. It could blow back in your face if people had to start blowing on the connectors to get the things to run ala the NES. A re-education of the masses as to how this option is better than disks will be needed. Memory prices will have to stay low and more stable or they could end up paying a lot of money for this.

Winner: Solid state. Safer, cheaper, less piracy, easier to market as new and
hip.

Hard Drive?

Microsoft needs to go big here or go home. Since they've proved that selling various versions of the console they will continue that plan but look for none of them to not contain some sort of storage. The boards will have up to a gig of memory on board for data storage. And I think the smallest drive you will see on the next system is a 120gig model.

Hopefully they will learn their lesson and allow users to buy their own, also a move to eSATA wouldnt be out of the question.

Controller?

There will always be controller fanboys and as many people that argue which console is better will argue which controller config is better. Microsoft did a great job with the current controller, so look for them to not push the limits much more in terms of design.

I think you'll see better attach points for accessories like a keyboard, or even a mini thumb drum kit for band games. We're talking mini-USB here.

Battery-wise, is where you'll really see the largest focus. Microsoft will be looking for some long strides here. Maybe they will even adapt to the new PowerMat tech and go that direction. I dont look for them to drop the snap-in piece that allows you to use AA's on your own. Plug-n-play was a big hit for them too, look for that to hang around.

Project NATAL? It will be there. Maybe not built in. Maybe only included on "elite" systems and while the concept will be a great add-on it will NOT be the next controller alone.

Personally I think Microsoft could make some GREAT games by replacing the right thumb-stick with a laser trackball. While this could still act as a "stick", it has the resolution and movement concept that could emulate a mouse pointer. A mouse pointer could lead to the system adapting to flash-based games and opening up a lot more potential to keep users on the system for things like Facebook, etc.

Bluetooth?

Nope. Microsoft will further refine its 2.4ghz wireless tech and maybe drop the licensing fees down to expand 3rd party's to come up with new accessories. Also look for them to keep the IR port for a remote control.

External power supply.

Yep. Bet on it. It's staying. The 360's heat issues will not be risked on the new system, so ALL sources of heat will be kept very far away.

XBOX Live?

Expect Gold to turn Silver and current Gold to turn "Platinum". What the hell is involved in a Platinum service? I dont know but Microsoft is going to have to push to make it great to keep it a pay service. Especially as other current gen systems are eroding XBOX Live with free offerings of cross-game chat, Netflix streaming, etc. XBOX Live in the next gen has the most pressure on it to change and renew itself. XBOX Live needs to explode with something big or it needs to
go free.

Microsoft skirts a fine line with XBOX Live, they need to make sure that the paid people feel the value of the service, but at the same time allow the free users to feel "connected" enough to anchor them more to the console and process and hopefully later turn them into paid users. Paid users will need to be given a lot more of a chance to receive free benefits, little to no-ads, first in line for certain offers, etc.

A grand-slam would be bigger, better, faster and FREE. Also look for the next XBOX to include an internal wireless networking.

Other thoughts:

Microsoft needs to be really careful with their console development vs. their Windows platforms. Driving more gamers from the PC and onto your console could eventually erode your Operating System support from manufacturers. And this would be bad at a time when Apple, Google and various Linux distro's are banging at the gates (no pun intended).

Microsoft needs to stay away from cheap gimmicks. No smell-o-vision or 3D gaming. They need tried and true hardware with accessible and an easy programming interface to keep developers happy.

Look for Microsoft to attempt to shore up exclusivity deals with major league sports franchises with live HD streaming of games via XBOX Live.

Look for more games to feature "Pro" interactions. Microsoft will push to get actual Indy drivers to play the game or map out their best races and allow you to match against their ghosts sessions.

Unfortunately I look for Microsoft to invest again in their own "social networking" (if you could call it that) with Windows Live and start delivering more interactive communication between it and the 360 and the Zune.

Expect better 360 and Zune interaction. Syncing a Zune on a 360 or plugging a Zune and receiving super special 360 only content, etc.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

I have a penny in my shoe.

You might think this post title is some vague and obscure reference, but it's not. I actually have a penny in my left shoe.

The other day in the car I was putting change in my change holder built into the dash. And a penny slipped out of my hand and slid down a fold in my jeans and went right into my shoe.

Normally a bulge on my sock, or a stone in my shoe would drive me insane, but I gotta say the penny didnt bother me at all. So I left it in there. Today is day 4 with the penny bouncing around in my shoe.

I'm not sure why I havent bothered to take it out yet.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A dark day.

Havent posted on my blog in awhile, been mini-updating via Twitter and Facebook instead of here.

Although you might actually be reading this on Facebook right now since it's been importing my posts here from my RSS feed.

At any rate ... I'm remiss to say that finally, after long last and much consideration ... I have finally thrown out the half-drank bottle of orange juice in my refrigerator tonight.

I bought it March of 2007. It had a long good run, and with a tear in my eye, I now say goodbye. I was with it from the very beginning when it was just a doe-eyed youth at Kroger. It's troubling teen years when it tasted just a little funny. Then on into maturity when the portions of the juice began congealing and the water separating. And it's twilight years when the molecular structure of it had begun breaking down to the point where at the bottom was a true mass of orange. Not the fruit mind you, but the actual color. It was a lump of the purest orange that I have ever laid eyes on.

Goodnight sweet fruit juice and may a flight of angels sing they to they rest. That is if I remember to put the garbage on the curb this week.

Here's a picture of it from a previous post back in June 2008. It's in the far back corner on the right.