As expected, Microsoft has unveiled its next-generation gaming console, the Xbox One.
The updated gaming and entertainment device will debut "later this year," Xbox chief Don Mattrick said during a launch event at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. Pricing was not discussed.
The Xbox One will come with a revamped controller and Kinect sensor, which Microsoft said "is now an essential and integrated part of the platform."
Unlike its rival, Sony, Microsoft actually showed off the new Xbox One at its press event. Some joked on Twitter that it looks like a VCR.
Mattrick talked up the Xbox One as not just a game console, but an "all-in-one entertainment system." To that end, he brought out Yusuf Mehdi, senior VP of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, to demo some of the new features coming to the non-gaming Xbox experience.
Using your voice, for example, the Xbox One will let you switch between games, live TV, and music as fast as you might switch the channels on the TV. With Snap Mode for Xbox One, you can also multi-task and do two things at once, like watch Star Trek on one side of the screen and surf the Web on another.
No more remembering channels. With the revamped Guide, just tell the Xbox One which channel to switch to and it will. Not sure what to watch? Xbox Trending will show you what is most popular on live TV, as well as top on-demand choices.
Sports played a big role in the launch event. Now, if you're a fantasy sports fan, fantasy stats will pop up on screen while you're watching live games. Tap into Snap Mode to see more fantasy stats as the game progresses. Microsoft has also partnered with the NFL for some exclusive football content, only on Xbox One.
Andrew Wilson from Electronic Arts was on hand, meanwhile, to announce that EA is launching four games for Xbox One in the next year: FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA Live and UFC. FIFA 14 will come to the Xbox One and Sony PS4, but the Xbox One will get some exclusive content, Wilson said.
Phil Spencer, general manager of Microsoft Studios, also said that Forza Motorsports 5 will be available at launch. Microsoft Studios will have 15 exclusive games in the first year of Xbox One, eight of which are brand-new franchises, he said.
On the Halo front, Bonnie Ross from 343 Industries announced a live-action Halo TV series on Xbox, which will be produced in conjunction with Steven Spielberg.
Xbox One Specs
On the specs front, the Xbox One includes an 8-core CPU, 8GB of system memory, and a 500GB hard disc drive. There's also the much-requested Blu-ray drive, 802.11 wireless with Wi-Fi Direct, HDMI in/out, and USB 3.0.
Marc Whitten, Xbox general manager, championed the revamped Kinect sensor, which understands "the slightest rotation of a wrist or shoulder," as well as balance, and your heartbeat when you exercise.
Together, the "Kinect, Controller, Smart Glass [are] innovative, familiar devices to control your experience, your way," Whitten said.
Whitten also announced a revamped Xbox Live, which will be more powerful, personal and intelligent, he said. Back in 2002, Xbox Live was powered by 500 servers, he said, which jumped to 3,000 with the launch of the Xbox 360 and 15,000 with the modern Xbox Live experience. With the Xbox One, however, there will be more than 300,000 servers this year, according to Whitten.
In its Xbox One FAQ, Microsoft addressed the "always on" controversy.
"We're designing Xbox One to be your all-in-one entertainment system that is connected to the cloud and always ready," Microsoft said. "We are also designing it so you can play games and watch Blu-ray movies and live TV if you lose your connection."
Redmond argued that having a connection to the cloud makes "makes every experience better and more accessible." That includes automatic updates, game and content synching across multiple devices, multi-player action, and a customised experience.
Unfortunately, Xbox One hardware will not be compatible with Xbox 360 games. "We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games — games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud," Microsoft said. "We care very much about the investment you have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future."
Players will, however, be able to trade in and resell games.
Microsoft promised more details about the Xbox One at the E3 gaming conference next month in Los Angeles. Redmond is hosting a press conference on 10 June.