Even though the Xbox 360 has just added two of the highest-rated games to its catalog — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 — the rumor mill is turning about the next generation of the Xbox gaming console.
That next Microsoft gaming system, currently referred to as Xbox 720 or Xbox Loop, is expected to make huge strides in the company's entertainment and gaming strategy. Earlier this year, Forbes reported that Xbox has about 20 percent market share in the gaming industry, but the Xbox & Zune (Microsoft's iPod competitor) only made up for two percent of Microsoft's stock. This distribution could change if Microsoft shifts its business strategy with its next generation gaming system.
While it's far too early to believe most of the rumors floating around at this stage, there are a few reports that seem to have substantial evidence or extrapolate technological trends to deduce reasonable conclusions.
The first comes from an Examiner report that quotes a spokesman from AMD, the company that supplies graphics hardware to the Xbox 360. The report says that Xbox 720 (Xbox Loop) will have graphics with as much detail as those from the popular movie Avatar.
Of course, claims like this have been made before with other consoles: Avatar simply represents the pinnacle of graphics animation to most people, and spokespeople want to give a strong indication of how much improvement people will see.
Still, in accordance with Moore's law, the idea that the number of transistors that can be placed in an integrated circuit board doubles approximately every two years, thus doubling processing power every two years, the spokesman from AMD might not be far off.
The Xbox 360 currently runs on a triple core 3.2 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and has a 500 MHz ATI Xenos graphics card. Though this hardware is good enough to host most games available on today's market, at the forefront of the computing industry are ultra-high powered processors, such as the Intel i5 and i7, which have become a staple among high-end computers and run anywhere from 2.6-3.3 GHz on 4 CPU cores. In essence, computing power has continued to expand exponentially since the Xbox 360s launch in Nov. 2005. Moore's law has held relatively true, and the Xbox 720 (Xbox Loop) will benefit from that.
Whenever the official announcement of the Xbox 720 is made, one thing is certain: the new device will have an incredible amount of computing power.
The next rumor that doesn't seem far-fetched was received from a video that leaked from Microsoft internally. The Windows Gaming Experience (WGX) team released a video emphasizing the importance of social identity in the future. That means there will be more integration with Facebook and Twitter and even companies like Zynga, the producer of Farmville on Microsoft's future gaming pursuits.
According to ZDNet, who quotes text from a job ad that's since been removed, Microsoft will be trying to integrate Xbox Live with its Windows desktop experience. This isn't much different from one of the TV ads they've recently run.
We are at the early stages of defining and architecting and developing excitement around gaming in Windows and the Web. We have a highly visible company-wide charter to promote gaming and empower game developers to create compelling, immersive, rich experiences in Windows and on the Web, says the text in the job ad.
While the rumor mill continues to turn and more information continues to leak, it's safe to assume two things: the next generation of the Xbox gaming system-the Xbox 720-will be insanely powerful and much more social than the current system is. Expect update from us as they're revealed.