Next Xbox may require Kinect, auto-install games

As the current generation of game consoles winds down, we keep seeing more and more rumors about the next Xbox. The latest of which comes from Kotaku, which claims that Microsoft's next game console, codenamed “Durango,” will require its Kinect motion sensor to operate at all times, and will automatically install disc-based games onto its built-in 500 GB hard drive.

Like all rumors, this one should be taken with a dose of skepticism. After all, some publications did recently get pranked by someone who intentionally sent out bogus tips.

However, as Kotaku notes, the person behind the latest leak has a bit of a history. This individual, who goes by SuperDaE, had previously tried to sell a Durango development kit on eBay, and had also supplied Kotaku with supposed documentation on Sony's next PlayStation console. Kotaku says some of the details also line up with reports from its own trusted sources and elsewhere. But even if the details are accurate today, anything can change before launch.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I think the notion of mandatory Kinect is the shakiest part of this leak. Reportedly, the next Xbox will not even function unless Kinect is plugged in and calibrated, perhaps so developers would be encouraged to program for the motion controller as an integral feature.

Still, some rooms – such as college dorms – aren't big enough to support Kinect as it stands today, and the sensor doesn't function well in low lighting. Though the idea of Kinect playing a bigger role in the next Xbox seems plausible, making it mandatory could be a logistical nightmare for some users unless Microsoft greatly improves the sensors. (Even then, there are privacy implications for a motion-sensing camera that's always watching.)

Other aspects of the report seem more believable. For instance, disc-based games would automatically install themselves in “sections,” Kotaku claims, so users could start playing from the disc and then benefit from performance improvements once the game is installed.

Microsoft's next Xbox will also reportedly support multitasking between games and apps. Game developers would be able to create “suspend” and “constrained” states, so players could swap to another app such as the Web browser, or even to another game, then return to their original game without losing progress. Given that smartphones and tablets have offered this kind of experience for years, it makes sense that game consoles would catch up.

Previous rumors about the console have claimed that it will have a Blu-ray player, an enhanced version of Kinect and possibly augmented reality glasses down the road. A recent report by Edge claimed that the console would prevent people from playing used games, as all titles would require a one-time activation code to run. SuperDaE didn't have any more details on that front, but Kotaku said another one of its sources verified the idea of restrictions on used games.

Microsoft hasn't said anything about its next Xbox, or even officially acknowledged its existence, but last month the company did start a countdown to the E3 tradeshow in June, fueling speculation about a big reveal. Sony, meanwhile, is expected to announce its next game console on February 20.

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