Xbox 720 Release Date Nears: GameStop CEO Mark Raines Hails Next-Gen Console A 'Compelling Device' As Retail Stores' Future Is Uncertain

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on April 04 2013 11:51 AM

Buzz is building for the next Xbox console, which probably will be purchased primarily through GameStop's retail stores around the country later this year. The retailer's CEO, Mark Raines, recently spoke with Games Industry and teased the public with his take on Microsoft’s upcoming endeavors.

"We've been spending a lot of time with Microsoft, but we have to let them take the lead on this; it will be a very hot, compelling device," he said. "They are doing some really cool stuff, and I'm eager to hear them start their announcements because I think the world is going to stand up and take notice."

Details about this “compelling device” remain largely in the realm of rumors, as even its name is not certain. Though Microsoft refers to the project in-house as "Durango," most consumers refer to it as the "Xbox 720," following the number trend with the previous Xbox 360.  

What Does the Xbox 720 Mean For GameStop?

The most discerning rumor about the Xbox 720 is that the device will play install-only games, effectively doing away with disks and cartridges and revamping the rules of gameplay.

Recent reports have considered that the releases of the Xbox 720 and Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4, which may also feature install-only games, both have equal chances of greatly helping or hindering GameStop’s influence in the gaming industry.

Even those on GameStop’s payroll have considered advances in next-generation consoles could spell the end of the retail gaming giant that currently brings in $2 billion per year. The concept of install-only games would render old games completely incompatible with these new systems, and GameStop notably garners the majority of its revenue from selling old and used games.

Last week a GameStop manager held a Reddit AMA and expressed concern that it’s only a matter of time before the gaming retailer becomes obsolete.

“I don’t think GameStop will die with this console generation, but I think it’s very possible it will with the one afterward. That or the company will be less of a GameStop and more of an Electronics Boutique again,” the manager said.

The source, however, does note that GameStop has started to delve into the realm of digital sales as it offers a number of titles from the online gaming platform Steam and has also started selling iOS devices, which are app heavy. There’s no way to know how GameStop will fare in the long run, but Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia similarly considers that the company will see significant growth within the next two years, mainly in the console industry, while investors remain skeptical about the long term.

GameStop: Keeping Up With The Times

GameStop’s CEO seems more excited than worried about its prospects, despite being coy. Perhaps he has hinted that Microsoft’s developments have at least found a balance between bringing forth new developments in gaming and keeping distributors relevant. Raines insists that contrary to popular belief, the digital industry is not yet developed enough to overtake retail.  

"People will come to our store and buy BioShock and then they'll also buy season pass DLC or a Steam download, or they might go play on Kongregate," he told Games Industry. “We think there's a place for both, and one of the things that's important to recognize is technology is important but chronology is also important, and consumers just aren't ready to go massively digital yet."

Xbox vs. PlayStation 4: Matching Up Spec for Spec?

Regardless of the future of gaming, one thing that is certain: Consumers are ready for the fierce competition between the Xbox 720 and the PlayStation 4. Reports suggest that Microsoft is working on beefing up its system as per cues from Sony. The company unveiled its PlayStation 4 in February, releasing details about the console but kept its design a secret. With this position, Microsoft has ample opportunity to tweak its system to be PS4’s perfect adversary.

Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat confirmed to Eurogamer that Microsoft’s console is “aligned with what Sony announced.”

“It’s going to be connected. It’s going to be social. It’s going to be immersive. It’s going to be interactive,” he said.

Mallat’s tip suggests that another rumor surrounding the Xbox could be true -- that it will feature “always-on” capabilities, meaning the console will have to be constantly connected to the Internet. While this connectivity has been heavily criticized in other games and platforms, it does seem to be one of the innovations that will usher in the newest age of gaming.

Rumors also suggest that Microsoft has retained the Xbox 360 controller design for its next-generation device, which could be one way in which the company is differentiating its console from the PlayStation 4. Sony notably introduced its DualShock 4 controller at its February event. Gaming website Kotaku says four industry sources have revealed that the Xbox 720’s console and controller are covered with stripes.

Xbox 720: When Will This Thing Come Out?

There is still no unveiling date for the Xbox 720; however, suggestions include a launch at a “one-off media event” in April or Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June. Robert W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian recently proposed that Microsoft will announce its console in May.

Microsoft has remained tight-lipped when it comes to rumors or any information about the Xbox 720. In February, the company told GameSpot, "We do not comment on rumors or speculation. We are always thinking about what is next for our platform, but we don't have anything further to share at this time," and reiterated the sentiment to the Inquirer in April. Microsoft has given no further comment.

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