Cometh the hour cometh the console. Following months of rumours, speculation and some megaton non-announcements that set the internet alight, we're now just one day away from the next-generation Xbox reveal, and learning exactly what Microsoft's new device has to offer.
Soon, dear reader, we can start to discuss facts rather than rumours, but there's no denying that many of us will be wondering which of the conflicting reports will come to pass, and which will be thoroughly debunked. So here, for your convenience, is a list of the most plausible, far-fetched and inflammatory rumours that have made headlines over the last few months. Get ready to tick them off from 18:00 GMT tomorrow...
There'll Be Some Components In A Plastic Box
Exactly what components, and how powerful they are, has been the subject of many a futile debate. Bear with me, because the insane deluge of contradictory and conflicting rumours has become utterly baffling.
The Durango dev kit is more powerful than the PlayStation 4, or not. It had four gigs of RAM, perhaps, but now it has eight, though this might be slower DDR3 memory compared to the PS4's speedy DDR5. Then again, it might have a speed-enhancing 'blitter' chip. And a Radeon GPU. Not to mention an X64 8-core processor. Or should that be X86? My brain hurts.
Who cares? Powerful specs have never equated to sales domination in any console generation. For now, though, perhaps the most interesting comment comes from Ubisoft who suggests that the specifications are 'aligned' with the PS4. We can probably expect PC-like architecture along with a Blu-Ray drive.
Games make or break consoles, and The Verge gave us an interesting insight into what Microsoft plans to roll out at launch. The perennially-delayed Ryse may well finally break cover, providing Kinect-enabled third person hack & slash combat in a dark medieval universe, while a new Forza title is heavily tipped to act as a graphical showcase with "super life-like visuals", following the registration of a new 'Forzavista' trademark.
We may also see the first game from Respawn Entertainment getting the exclusive treatment.
The used games market has become public enemy number one over the last few years, with publishers falling over themselves to find increasingly inconvenient ways to shut retailers out of the loop. However, several reports - notably from usual suspect Kotaku - claim that the next Xbox will force players to sync game disks with their profile and install the majority of it to the hard drive, thus robbing them of any aftermarket value. If such a system exists, we suspect that it will be optional and allow publishers to implement it on their own terms.
Controller To Have "No New Features"
The DualShock 4 may be dripping with new tech, but Kotaku allege that Microsoft are basically just honing the existing Xbox 360 controller for a next-generation debut. Apparently it will share the same thumbstick position, buttons, triggers and central home button, but might be slightly smaller.
This makes sense, partly since the Xbox 360 controller is one of the most practical and comfortable peripherals ever made , but also because...
Get Used To With Kinect 2.0
Numerous reports (as far back as the June 2012 road map document) suggest that a significantly upgraded Kinect sensor will be bundled with every console, and thus become a core part of the next Xbox experience. VGLeaks claims that the new sensor will pack an improved depth of field, higher resolution and greater accuracy, perhaps finally allowing the fun yet patently pointless gimmick to become a fully-fledged input device. Though many developers will likely focus on voice recognition, we fully expect a bigger push for the device and a custom-designed Metro dashboard to take advantage of it.
Could IllumiRoom, a tabletop projector that turns your lounge into an extension of the play space, also become a product rather than an R&D pet project? Paul Thurrott seems to think so. In fact, speak of the devil...
Two Pricing Models, Subscription, Out Before Christmas?
Prolific tech blogger Paul Thurrott correctly predicted/leaked the May 21st reveal event date, cementing his reputation as a trustworthy source. Which, of course, makes some of his more fanciful claims that much more intriguing.
Thurrott purports that the next-gen Xbox will launch with two distinct pricing models: a $499 one-off payment or a subsidized programme that lets you pick up the console for $299 if you sign up to a two-year Xbox Live subscription at $10-$20 per month. Microsoft has already experimented with a similar service for the Xbox 360 in the States, so this isn't necessarily too far-fetched.
He also predicts that the console will launch in the holiday season, which is probably a no-brainer.
Microsoft Points On The Way Out
We've heard rumours that Microsoft plan to ditch their proprietary online currency for years, but most pundits now believe that the next-gen Xbox will use real-money purchases instead.
Personally, I've saved so much money by bulk-buying cheap Microsoft Points cards that I'd be sad to see them go, but having a useless leftover balance is always annoying.
Infinity, Fusion Or Just Xbox ?
The next-gen Xbox dev kit is called Durango, a hot-blooded and passionate latin name that sounds like a Bond villain or Inigo Montoya's least favourite son. However, the actual console's name is anybody's guess (everyone will probably just call it the "Xbox" regardless).
Currently there are three front runners. International Business Times (it's business time?) suggests that it could be called Xbox Infinity, though I was astonished to see the obviously fake artwork being taken as scripture by bigger sites who should know better. Xbox Fusion domains have been acquired (this sounds more like a gaming service to us), and despite a fake report designed to trip hacks up, simply naming the console "Xbox" wouldn't be a bad idea.
Either way, chances are we'll get to see what it looks like.
This is the big one, even since the first rumours sneaked out in 2012. VGleaks dropped the bomb. #dealwithit happened. Francis got mad, as did retailers. The idea that the next Xbox will require us to maintain a constant internet connection to play games, not just cache updates and background content, has become so toxic that Microsoft was in serious danger of tarnishing their brand before even revealing the console. A very conveniently-leaked email from Stave Ballmer tried to control the damage a couple of weeks ago.
Personally, we're not entirely convinced that Microsoft would be stupid enough to implement this. Dev kits may require users to log into the network so Microsoft can monitor exactly who's using them (and cutting down on potential for leaks), or the console might well require a one-time online validation for new games.
Or, perhaps, Microsoft originally wanted to use "always-connected" as a selling point, and there's an entire warehouse of "always-on" T shirts, banners and branded merchandise burning to the ground somewhere. Some suggest that Microsoft were wrong-footed by Sony not implementing a similar service themselves, and have been furiously retroactively removing the functionality before the reveal.
Either way, I daresay that many of us will be waiting for Microsoft to officially confirm or deny this one out of hand. We can't wait to see how they deal with it.