Next-Gen Fact and Fiction
GameSpot rounds up everything we know--and everything we think we know--about the Wii U, the PlayStation 4, and the Next Xbox.
This feature was updated on Wednesday, March 28 with new additions
New consoles from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are coming. But the form they take, the capabilities they boast, and their prices all remain to be seen. Rumors about each console have been flaring up for years, but they seem to be reaching critical mass as of late.
We've heard lots of scuttlebutt about the next wave of consoles. These rumors include the seemingly wild (the Next Xbox blocking used games) to the certainly plausible (Wii U allowing two-tablet support).
Collected here is a highlighted catalog of rumors concerning the next-generation consoles from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.
Xbox 720…Next Xbox…Loop
The most prolific next-gen buzz has been focused on Microsoft's next console, and this is hardly surprising, given the system has already outlasted the shelf life of its baby brother, the Xbox.
Speculation has run rampant about what the Xbox 360 successor might be called, what games it will play, what disc drive it will support, and more. It's a lot to consider, and Microsoft has offered little in the way of official details concerning the system.
Job listings and Personnel
Back in March 2011, Microsoft opened several positions for next-generation Xbox developers at its headquarters. Microsoft was forming a team "responsible for defining and delivering next generation console architectures from conception through implementation." What they are specifically working on is unknown.
One of the staffers involved with Microsoft's next Xbox is none other than Windows NT designer Dave Cutler. (Windows NT is the basis of following Windows systems, including Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. ) It's unclear what Cutler will be working on in regards to the Next Xbox, but a source speaking with GameSpot sister site ZDNET says he's been brought on to extend the Xbox beyond its status as purely a gaming platform.
Like Nintendo's Wii U, rumor has it that a tablet component figures heavily into the design of the Next Xbox. What form will it take? Some suggest the new platform will be akin to a tablet PC that wirelessly connects to a base station, which in turn plugs into your TV.
If this is the case, a premium Next Xbox setup could feasibly include a base station, a tablet, a conventional controller of some kind, and the recently discussed high-def evolution of the Kinect.
What's more, an even newer rumor says that Microsoft is presently experimenting with a touch-screen tablet controller. This controller will reportedly boast a high-def screen, as well as "traditional [Xbox 360] buttons and sticks" to manipulate.
Multiple sources say the Xbox 360 successor is currently in development under the working title Durango. Sound familiar? Durango is the name of a city in Colorado, as well as a state in Mexico.
The Durango name was further solidified in late February when a Crytek developer posted it on his Twitter account in reference to a conference of next-gen developers.
Blu-rays (yes) and Used Games (no)
A recent high-profile rumor suggested the Next Xbox would play Blu-rays and block gamers from playing used titles. Blu-ray support would mean no more pesky disk swapping and you wouldn't be forced to use a different device to play your Blu-ray movies.
As for the second half of that rumor, the source in question didn't say Microsoft would go about blocking users from playing used games, if indeed they wish to do so. For now, this is shaky speculation at best.
No More Microsoft Points?
The latest hearsay is that Microsoft is planning to phase out its Microsoft points virtual currency entirely by the end of the year. This means that when the Next Xbox rolls out, it will be based entirely on real-world currency. This would, in theory, make purchases through Xbox Live simpler.
The rumor mill is divided on this one, but an official Microsoft representative recently commented on the matter. Last week, a Microsoft France marketing man said there won't be a new Xbox to purchase in 2012. This runs against rumors that the system would be on store shelves this holiday season.
Though Microsoft doesn't appear to be bringing a new console to retail this year, it may show the Next Xbox off for the first time at the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo. In fact, a rumor from January claimed that Microsoft would bring its Next Xbox to the show. We'll all have an answer this June when Microsoft holds its annual presentation.
If rumors are to be believed, the Next Xbox could boast a price tag of upward of $500. Take this one with a hefty grain of salt, though; we're quite far from having a final price locked down.
No disc drive?
If a source is to be believed, the next Xbox will not have a disc drive. To replace the disc drive, the console will supposedly offer "some sort of interchangeable solid-state card storage." It was not made clear whether or not it will be proprietary or a common format like SD.
The PlayStation 4
If rumors and speculation on the next-generation of consoles were water, the Xbox 720 would be a lake next to the PlayStation 4's puddle. That said, there's still some talk about Sony's new system.
Perhaps the most solid information concerning the PS4 came from Sony chief financial officer Masaru Kato, who confirmed in May 2011 that a PlayStation 3 successor was in development. He spilled the beans in a post-earnings report conference call.
When explaining why Research and Development costs were so high, he said, "The PS3 still has a product life, but this is a platform business, so for the future platform--when we'll be introducing what product I cannot discuss that--but our development work is already under way, so the costs are incurred there." (Emphasis added.)
Two months later, rumors indicated Sony was readying the PS4 for release as early as 2012. The news came from Taiwan-based component makers, who only said the system will allow for motion control in some manner; the Move 2 perhaps?
And in September of that year, new word cropped up saying the PS4 was being readied for 2013. However, it wasn't clear if that rumor was related to when Sony will announce the console, or when it will release it.
Software Development Already Under Way?
An even more recent rumor suggested game development on the PS4 was already happening. A source said several Sony-owned studios were completing "preliminary work" on PS4 games. No studios or games were listed, but a rumor that arrived just a month later claimed the very same thing: Sony was already at work on games for the PS4.
E3 2012 Unveil?
More reports have suggested Sony would be bringing the PS4 to E3 2012. The "third-party publishing sources" in question had little else to share, saying only that the system would have its coming-out party at the annual trade show, which runs June 5-7, 2012, in Los Angeles.
No. Never Mind. No E3 2012 Unveil.
That rumor was short-lived, however. During CES 2012, Sony's Kaz Hirai shot down the speculation, saying the technology giant has "no plans" to make any PS4 announcements at E3 2012. The Sony executive also reiterated the company's belief that the PS3 will enjoy a 10-year life cycle and that there is "no reason to rush it with a new system."
Sony Will Be Last, Says Sony.
Lastly, early last week, Sony said it expects to be the last of the Big Three to announce its next console. With Nintendo already having unveiled its next-gen tech--the Wii U--that leaves the competition to be last as a bout between Microsoft and Sony.
Will There Be a PlayStation 4 at All?
Following the release of the PlayStation 3 in 2006 and immediately after Kaz Hirai was promoted to president of SCEI, one analyst predicted Sony would move away from hardware to instead focus its attention on software.
"The appointment of Hirai could be the start of a shift from hardware to software," said Nomura Securities' Yuta Sakurai at the time. "I cannot now imagine a PlayStation 4."
If Hirai weren't in a position to make the rumored hardware-to-software shift in 2006, he is now. Hirai has been promoted to president and CEO of Sony, making him the top man at the Japanese technology giant. If such a directional shift is to occur, Hirai now has the power to do it.
Naughty Dog Is Onboard, but What Is It Building?
A recent job listing at the Santa Monica, California-based Uncharted shop indicates the studio is at work on next-generation games, and as a wholly owned Sony studio, you can expect the "next-gen" to be in reference to the PS4.
The studio's current project is The Last of Us, but that's a PlayStation 3 game. Whatever the case, the next-gen game(s) in development at Naughty Dog are going to be mighty advanced pieces of digital art it seems. The job description asks for someone to create characters with 1 million polygons, which is well above Uncharted 2's 80,000 per-character polygon count.
Will it be powered by AMD?
Former AMD employees say the PlayStation 4 will run on an AMD processor. This would be a departure from the PlayStation 3, which sports a graphics processing unit made by major competitor Nvidia.
The PS4 won't use the Sony Cell processor?
Industry sources say the PS4 will not make use of Sony's Cell processor, or any advancement of the technology. The Sony Cell processor was introduced with the PlayStation 3, before Sony abandoned future Cell development based on its high cost.
The PS4 is actually called the Orbis? And it will lock out used games and not be backwards compatible?
This is a heavy one. A tipster told Kotaku that the PlayStation 4 will be called the Orbis. It's not clear if that's a working title or the actual name of the forthcoming system. On top of that, the source said the system will feature a system that locks out used games. And on top of that, the Orbis will reportedly not offer any kind of backwards compatibility.
The Wii U
Of the three next-generation consoles, by far the most is known about Nintendo's, the Wii U. Announced at E3 2011, the console is due out by the end of the year worldwide and is a follow-up to the Wii, which launched in 2006 and arguably changed the landscape of the games industry forever.
The Wii U will sport an updated graphics processor, capable of rendering higher-res images, finally ushering Nintendo into the HD era. However, it won't play DVDs or Blu-ray discs, as Nintendo believes the ubiquity of DVD and Blu-ray playback devices render this feature useless.
Wii U? Maybe Not.
Last week, the rumor mill churned out word that in the face of consumer confusion, Nintendo was considering renaming the Wii U. No mention was made as to what Nintendo was planning to call it instead. Whereas Microsoft (Xbox, Xbox 360) and Sony (PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3) have held on to their console names generation to generation, Nintendo has not been as consistent, with the Nintendo 64 giving way to the GameCube, which then yielded to the Wii.
Will the Nintendo Network…work?
During an investor presentation last week, Nintendo announced the Nintendo Network without offering much in the way of detail. The new online system for the Wii U and 3DS will give gamers matchmaking support, "personal accounts," the potential for downloadable content, and even full-game downloads.
It's no secret that Nintendo has lagged behind Microsoft and Sony in regards to network functionality and usability. And it appears the Nintendo Network is the company's first true step in that direction. However, its competitors--Microsoft and Sony--are already years ahead of Nintendo here, which puts all the more pressure on Nintendo to succeed.
Nintendo caused quite a stir at its E3 2011 presentation when it displayed a sizzle reel of games like Darksiders II, Metro: Last Light, and Dirt as if they were running on the Wii U. However, Nintendo of American president Reggie Fils-Aime later confirmed the footage was actually derived from the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions of the games.
That said, Nintendo confirmed these titles and more were in fact coming to the Wii U. Among the third-party titles confirmed for Wii U are THQ's Darksiders II and Metro: Last Light, Namco Bandai's Tekken, Codemasters' Dirt, Ubisoft's Ghost Recon Online and Killer Freaks From Outer Space, Warner Bros.' Batman: Arkham City, Lego City Stories, and Tecmo Koei's Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. (Tecmo Koei confirmed that Razor's Edge on the Wii U is different from Ninja Gaiden 3 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.)
A high-def 3D tablet?
Nintendo's Wii U patent documents recently surfaced, and the filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office reveal the Mario maker has the right to develop tablet controllers for the system that run in high-definition and boast 3D support. To date, Nintendo has not confirmed that the tablet will run in HD or support 3D, but if Nintendo wants to add these features, it has the means.
Tech Demos to Become Full Games?
When Nintendo showed off the Wii U for the first time at E3 2011, it brought along "tech demos" called Chase Mii, Battle Mii, and Shield Pose. Nintendo noted these were only tech demos and not full games, but that doesn't mean they won't become them some time. Wii Sports was once a tech demo, and now, it's one of the best-selling games of all time.
The Wii U was shown off with support for a single tablet only. However, that might not be a finalized configuration option. Speculation from November from a "trusted game development executive" said Nintendo was planning to add two-tablet support. Beyond that, the source was mum.
Nintendo has confirmed that the Wii U will boast Near Field Communication (NFC) support. This technology was most recently used in Activision's Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, allowing players to use real-world objects to manipulate the in-game world. How this technology will be employed on the Wii U remains to be seen, but the options are nearly endless.
First-Party Software Lineup?
Nintendo has a deep stable of solid franchises, and the company said at E3 2011 that it is planning to bring many of these to the Wii U. At its presentation, the House of Mario said new Super Smash Bros., Super Mario Bros., and Legend of Zelda games were all coming to the Wii U.
But outside of acknowledging their existence, Nintendo has not said if any of these titles will launch with the console this holiday season. Launching the 3DS with a dearth of hot properties hurt Nintendo badly, so it's unlikely the company will make the same mistake twice.'
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