Next Xbox 720 to launch in 2013-2015 according to Microsoft

Will the Xbox 720 design be similar to this original Xbox prototype?
While Sony already admitted to be thinking about the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo are no doubt developing a Wii 2… In an interview with the head of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business division, Peter Moore, EGM magazine asked him when their next video game console would come out, and also asked if they’d drop support for the Xbox 360 like they did with the original Xbox. He said that they were going to support it “as long as it sold.” Possibly because they saw the Xbox sell well into 2007 despite not producing the console after October 2005.

In March 2007 he said the production team from the Xbox 360 is working on the next Xbox 720 [our pet name], and their looking into what kind of CPUs will be available on the market in 2011-2012. That would put the Xbox 360 at a lifespan of 6 or 7 years, a far cry from the Xbox’s 4 years. After spending $1.26 billion in losses launching the Xbox 360, they’ll want to get the most out of the system by lengthening its lifespan. As the longer you get into the cycle, the more profit you can make due to stopping being a loss leader, analysts always remark.

Microsoft Xbox 360 consoleOn June 13th, 2008, Robbie Bach — the President of Entertainment & Devices Division at Microsoft — mentioned the next Xbox by saying: “Our view is we will be selling Xbox 360 for a long time. We are always working on new technologies. We have people working on those. People ask me how many people I have working on the next generation. On the one hand, it’s everybody. On the other, it’s nobody. People are continuously working on new technology.

We started thinking about the next generation before we shipped the Xbox 360. It doesn’t start with a date. It starts way upstream with silicon development. From that comes a series of data points. You start making early technology choices. It’s an evolving thing. Stuff doesn’t become concrete until you get inside a window of when you have to ship, more than 18 months or so out.”

TL;DR? Meg made an Xbox 720 News Roundup from the below text for you to listen to it all in one go! 🙂

In late 2008, The Inquirer newspaper reported on speculation from industry insiders that Intel is trying to get its high-performance, new architecture GPU Larrabee chipset into the next-gen Xbox 720… both of which are codenames…

Their sources claim that: “Intel has offered Microsoft a very sweet deal indeed in exchange for pushing AMD out of the running for Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox 720. Offering everything from chips to chassis, Intel is purportedly wooing the Vole right down to designing its thermals and pimping the Larrabee chipset out to Microsoft to subcontract out as it pleases. Needless to say, this gives the Vole some rather hefty bargaining power, and leaves both AMD and Nvidia quivering in their boots.

[…] in all likelihood, Larrabee version one will barely take off, but with the right console deal, Larabee Two — which should be making its first appearance somewhere around 2010 — could be a big player.”

As you may or may not know, the Xbox 360’s internals consist out of a PowerPC-based CPU from IBM and a GPU designed by ATI. So an Intel deal would definitely change things up, and aside from emulation, hardware backwards compatibility might be out of the picture as a result. Advantages of the Larrabee chipset are shown in this image:
Larrabee chipset advantage image
Click on the image for the full Larrabee convergence slide.

In May 2009 Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter claimed: “We do not expect the ‘next’ generation to begin before 2013, if at all. We remain convinced that the publishers will resist the introduction of any video game hardware technology that requires a refresh of software, as the publishers have as yet to capitalize on the immense investments made in being competitive in the current cycle.”

In June 2009 Shane Kim, corporate vice president for strategy and business development at Microsoft’s game division, was very outspoken about when the Xbox 720 would arrive at it’s earliest. To quote: “We firmly believe that the Xbox 360 has a life cycle through 2015 (10 years after the launch). Project Natal is a great innovation. It will work with every Xbox 360 sold. It’s not about pushing more pixels on the screen. It’s about how to break down barriers that stop people from playing games.”

At around the same time claimed: “The only thing I’m going to say about everything I heard regarding the next Xbox is that it won’t launch until a certain type of television becomes more widespread because in addition to built-in Natal tech, a key feature of the next Xbox would be full HD stereoscopic 3D visuals similar to 3D movie theatres.”

In October 2009 industry sources claimed: AMD / ATI has already won the GPU deal for Microsoft’s next generation Xbox console. They also created the current Xbox 360 Xeon GPU, suggesting compatibility with legacy games. The report also states that the new console won’t be released before 2012, since the current economic recession is preventing an originally planned 2010 release.

In January 2010 David Hufford, senior director of Xbox product management, said in a briefing at the Consumer Electronics Show 2010 in Las Vegas that there’s no need for an Xbox 720 yet.

To quote: “I think it’s important to say that the Xbox 360 is the console of the long future for us. There is no need to launch a new console, because we’re able to give this console new life either with software upgrades or hardware upgrades like Project Natal. The Xbox 360 was designed for a long life, and I don’t even know if we’re at the midpoint yet.”

In June 2010 Chris Lewis, Microsoft’s European boss, told
I think 2010 will be a very big year for us, it is in many ways for us mid-lifecycle. What you’ve seen is with this new sleek design and Kinect for Xbox 360 we’ve got at least another five years of this generation [until 2015] where we continue to offer great experiences for people.

We continue to attach more games than competitive platforms and we have the healthiest ecosystem with 25 million people connected through Xbox Live. So we are uniquely placed to continue to do really, really well in this business and enjoy ongoing momentum.”

In January 2011 THQ claimed that “it would be horrible” if Microsoft released a new console within three years. With the company’s executive vice president of core games, Danny Bilson, saying to Eurogamer: “But I think they all know our model’s broken anyway. It still costs us a fortune to make games on this platform. If they’re going to up the scale, up the art, up the content, I don’t know how to make that and sell it to anybody for under $100 a game. Who wants to do that? It’s bad for everybody.

Stability of technology allows for the fruition and the growth of creative. We’re not having to invest all of our focus, and, oh my god, how are we going to deal with that new technology? We understand it. We still have guys trying to squeeze it to do cooler stuff, but it puts the weight of the mission under creative, which ultimately should get us more interesting and more creative stuff. That’s the trick. We’re not going to get beat by another hardware upgrade like every five years like it was before. There will be little things. It’s up to us to compete in graphics and creativity. Sometimes I hope good creativity and style will be able to be more important. It is more important.

As long as we’re creatively satisfied as gamers by what we’re getting, I’m really satisfied. I still see cooler stuff, better stuff. So much is in the software engineering and working with the technology. I look at games and I go, wow, how did they get such great characters?”

In February 2011 the potential graphics on the Xbox 720 were revealed. For an idea what the graphics on the next Xbox console might look like, we can look at the Game Developers Conference 2011 for two amazing future tech demos.

1. Epic Games showed off the new features of the Unreal Engine 3 in an Samaritan Tech Demo. — Company co-founder Mark Rein said: “I’m not in a huge hurry for [the next generation of consoles]. I’d rather wait until they can bring out hardware that can do Samaritan affordably than bring out something super high-priced and the market adopts it slowly as they wait for a price drop. Either way I’m confident we’ll have great a great game engine for it thanks to the efforts we’ve already got underway like Samaritan. – I think we’re a few years away from that kind of hardware being available at a price consumers would embrace.”

See the coming games generation right now! But know that the footage was powered by three Nvidia GTX 580 GPU’s:

2. Crytek showed off an impressive Crysis 2 Tech Demo running on the CryEngine 3. — The company’s lead programmer Mark Tully claims it’s ready for next generation game development now, because “CryEngine 3 is aimed at both the consoles and the high-end PCs, it means we can add in new features on the high end PCs as we go along, and then when the console becomes available, we’ll be able to actually pick a level and set it up there and things should work – although it’s never 100 per cent that simple.”

This video shows the engine running real-time footage:

As you can see, developers are working hard to overcome the current generation’s hardware limitations with improved game engines. Other examples include Electronic Arts’ Frostbite 2.0 which will debut in Battlefield 3, and Bethesda’s Creation Engine which will debut in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

In March 2011 Microsoft job listings have been spotted on LinkedIn looking for candidates for engineering positions, which refer to Microsoft’s “next generation console”, indicating development on the Xbox 720’s systems is only just underway.

According to the Beyond3D forums, the postings were for positions in the Interactive Entertainment Business division, that includes the Xbox division. Apparently Microsoft are looking to hire new Xbox Console Architecture team members. The job description reads: “The team is responsible for defining and delivering next generation console architectures from conception through implementation.” The job titles were: “VLSI Graphics Architect-IEB-Xbox Hardware”, “Hardware Verification Engineer,Senior-IEB-Xbox Console”, and “VLSI Performance Architect, Senior-IEB-Xbox Hardware”.

In April 2011 analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities told Kotaku his updated statement about the Xbox 720 console: “I don’t think either Sony or Microsoft are interested in a new console till they can advance the technology, and they certainly don’t want to launch at a $600 price point. It may take till 2014 to get 2TB hard drives, uber fast CPUs and state-of-the art graphics and sell at $400.

M2 Research senior analyst Billy Pidgeon agreed with Pachter… saying to NowGamer that, while he expects a Wii 2 to surface by 2012, he’s “not expecting a next generation Xbox before Q4 2014.”

In May 2011 Billy Pidgeon went on to tell IndustryGamers that: “While Xbox 360 has peaked in some respects, particularly in North America, the system is still selling strongly and penetration potential remains – in Europe overall, and in the young end of enthusiasts as well as the mass market for an extended back half of this cycle.

It’s in a vendor’s best interests to maintain a system’s viability as long as possible. On the other hand, should Xbox 360 hardware sales begin to drop off dramatically in Q4, or early in 2012 Microsoft will likely announce launch of a new system at E3 next year.

In June 2011 a source stated Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division plans to unveil their next-generation Xbox console at E3 2012, whose pre-E3 press conference falls on June 11, 2012. The Xbox 720 is said to have been in development since 2006.

A more public man-in-the-know, id Software’s lead programmer John Carmack, stated earlier that month that we should expect Microsoft to announce their next Xbox console at E3 2012, with the new system becoming available in 2013. He told that “The next-generation will be here soon, a couple of years.”
He added that “It’ll be another ten times as powerful as this [PS3 & Xbox 360 generation]. I’d be surprised if that doesn’t last over a decade before people wind up saying, well, we’ve really tapped out everything you could possibly do on there.”

In July 2011 Official Xbox Magazine quoted Neal Robison, the director of ISV relationships at AMD, as saying that the Xbox 720 will launch with a graphical level of detail so far only seen in James Cameron’s computer generated Avatar movie!

Apparently the hardware “will allow for every pedestrian in a game such as Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row to have a totally individual mentality, meaning when you shoot a gun or run someone over they don’t all just do the same thing. There will be no more mob mentality, where everyone just screams and runs away; every NPC will actually be an individual character.” — AMD claims the next Xbox has a lot for gamers to be excited about, but he wouldn’t confirm they were working on it for Microsoft. Microsoft has yet to announce official plans for an Xbox 360 successor.

The amount of detail possible with the new Graphics Processing Unit much be enormous for AMD to say that, as they are one of the world’s largest suppliers of microprocessors and graphics processing units. Just look at how much detail can be seen on the characters and environments in this extended movie trailer for Avatar:

In August 2011 a GamesCom 2010 interview by GameCentral with the – once again outspoken Chris Lewis – boss of Microsoft’s European Xbox division. He was asked about the June 2011 rumors of the Xbox 720 being announced at E3 2012. He declined such a notion as he still believes in the 10 year life cycle of the Xbox 360 in this seventh generation of video game consoles. Then he clarified by saying: “We think we’re more than halfway through [the Xbox 360’s 10 year life cycle] but given we are still growing, we think we’re at a healthy part in the life cycle still because we’ve pumped this adrenaline into the arm of the business with Kinect and the scope and scale of what that means for publishers and developers I think is huge. And indeed with Xbox Live which does truly stand us apart from everybody else. So we think we’re a little over halfway with the life cycle of the console, but that’s not to say there won’t be an overlap…”

When asked if he believes the Xbox 720 will be released before 2015, he mentions there might be overlap between the two consoles. To quote: “Could possibly be the case. I’m not going to announce specifically or talk about timing. But you could imagine there could be overlap, it depends. We’re not being specific about the next generation at this stage. We’re very fixated on what we’re doing right now and the success we’re enjoying.”

The same interview poses him a very interesting question relating to the increase in downloadable games. Will the next generation have different hardware or even use physical media? He answered: “It could well be [download focussed], I think it’s a little early to call. Again I wouldn’t want to use Gamescom as any kind of announcement platform, all I would reinforce is that as you would imagine we’re exploring all sorts of different options. We’re listening intently to what our consumers want. We’re looking at were the roadmaps heading for infrastructure, broadband being a key part of that. The beauty for us is the Xbox has always had online architecture at its heart and it’s kind of the way it operates.
We’re good at the service provision side of things. We can completely update the user interface without forcing people down a new hardware path, which I think also plays to the point of, ‘We’re not really that far through the lifecycle’. Because we can just completely refresh things without forcing people down a different path. Others can’t do that.”

Chris Lewis, vice president of Interactive Entertainment Business for Microsoft Europe, adds to the discussion that “We’re not talking about any additional or new generations of hardware at the moment.” But when asked if Microsoft is doing Xbox 720 Research & Development, he replies: “Sure. As you can imagine, of course we’re working on all sorts of different things. We do that all the time. Frankly, in all aspects of Microsoft, not just what we do with Xbox, our R&D investment is second to none. But to your point about life cycle timing, we’re in pretty good shape.”

In PSM3 magazine Bethesda Softworks’ Todd Howard, game director on Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, tells readers that there will be no Xbox 720 or PS4 before 2014. To quote: “I think it’s going to be a while still, I really do. I think consumers are happy with the current ones, there’s a lot you can do with them.”

Developer Square-Enix has the opposite approach of Bethesda. The studio is already anticipating the Xbox 720, and other next-gen consoles, by announcing plans to open up a second Canadian development studio by 2012. To quote, the General Manager Eidos-Montréal (a Square-Enix company), Stéphane d’Astous: “The new consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will require more attention and more staff. We want to prepare ourselves.”

In the October 2011 edition of 360 Magazine UK they state their belief that “Microsoft’s next-generation console will utilize the [operating system] successor to Windows 8, with the launch window purportedly stretching closer to 2015.” This comes after Microsoft’s Andy Lee mentioned an interesting tidbit at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. He said: “We won’t have an ecosystem for PCs, one for phones and one for tablets, they’ll all come together as a single ecosystem.” – That coincides with the company’s mid-September announcement they’ll be bringing Xbox LIVE to the PC with Xbox LIVE on Windows 8, which is expected to have a release date in Fall 2012.

The magazine also says that “Kinect will play a much bigger role in Xbox Next, with the popular motion peripheral rumored to be heavily incorporated into the cross platform features of the next-generation console.”

And although that would only give Windows 8 a three-year life cycle, they conclude “So what does this mean for the Xbox? The unified operating system will open up huge opportunities for studios, as cross-platform development covering all Microsoft devices becomes cheaper and easier. It’s set to emulate a system similar to Apple’s, where iPhones and other mobile Apple devices can communicate and share information seamlessly with one another. For a major game software and hardware publisher like Microsoft, this kind of interaction could lead to some very interesting gaming innovations in the future.”

Just think Kinect motion controls for fluid system browsing, opposed to the touch controls shown in this Windows 8 demo video. Of course controller button shortcuts could move you around the system menus just as well. That said, the Windows 8 simplified user experience could work well on a console don’t you think?

Xbox 720 Launch Games?: Next, we have Xbox World Magazine’s October 2011 issue #109 with some juicy rumors. The magazine claims that the Xbox 720 launch games will include Gears of War 4 and Forza Motorsport 5! Their “The Insider” column reads: “what are id Software doing now that Rage is about to ship? Doom 4, that’s what. Don’t expect it for this gen, though. It’ll be Xbox Next for sure. And what of Xbox Next? Well, the Insider hears suits at Microsoft are already lining up the launch games – and they include two monsters: Gears of War 4 and Forza 5.” CVG adds: “We hear a number of Microsoft-friendly developers are hard at work on prepping next gen games as we speak. Could this be the reason why Remedy are so quiet about Alan Wake 2? (Yes). Rare, Lionhead (Fable 4?) and Turn 10 all have teams in place too. Rare, we hear, are even prototyping ideas for a new mature title.”

All large publishers and developers really need is the target specs of the next-generation console to get game development started. If those rumors are true, you have to wonder what exciting games we’ll see on Xbox 720…

This video shows Xbox 720 console mockup pictures unofficially made by Xbox fans.

Thanks to salernoking for the video.

What do you want from the Xbox 720?