Microsoft To Reveal New Xbox Features
May 20, 2013

Microsoft To Reveal New Xbox Features

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Video game sales this year have not exactly been setting records. In fact the year started off quite slow, with hardware sales down 38 percent.

Things have been looking up in recent months, however, with Microsoft currently sitting in the top spot of video game console sales for the 28th consecutive month according to retail tracking firm NPD Group. Total retail spending for the Xbox 360 platform in April -- which included hardware, software and accessories -- topped $208 million dollar. However, the company is already looking ahead to the next generation.

“Looking forward to next week, May 21 will mark the beginning of a new generation of games, TV and entertainment. On that day, Microsoft will hold a special press event on the Xbox Campus at 10 a.m. PT and we invite you to join us via the live global stream that will be available on Xbox LIVE, and Spike TV in the U.S. and Canada,” posted Jeff Meisner, editor of The Official Microsoft Blog last week.

Thus, while the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is still three weeks away, Microsoft isn´t waiting until the annual video game tradeshow to unveil some key features for its next generation console system. Rumors circulated following Meisner´s post that Microsoft´s new Xbox dashboard update could enter a public beta in late June or early July, with changes and updates in preparation for the launch of the next system. The final update could be made available in August, depending of course on how the public beta pans out.

The Verge reported on Monday that Microsoft is looking to ensure that current Xbox 360 users will be able to make the transition over to the still-to-be-officially-unveiled next generation system, and interact with existing 360 users using messaging, beacons and achievements. Microsoft will reportedly phase out the use of its current points system with this dashboard update and may instead replace it with currency and gift card options.

What exactly the new Xbox might -- or even might not -- have is still just speculation at this point, but according to various sources this system will likely be packed with computing power.

“There is no question it will have a big hard drive, a DVD/Blu-ray drive, a fast processor, and tons of memory,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told Cnet. “Microsoft has all the network support it needs to ensure a stellar multiplayer experience. What´s left is software, non-game functions, and form factor.”

Given that retail game sales have been on the decline as consumers have increased options to play on smartphones, tablets and other devices, Microsoft could be hedging its bets to ensure that the next generation system is a lot more than just another game machine. Those non-gaming entertainment features that Pachter referenced will likely make up the centerpiece of Tuesday´s media event.

This could include an emphasis on features that are already available with the Xbox 360, which include connectivity to Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu. Microsoft already has partnerships with Major League Baseball, and the UFC for pay-per-view events.

It is rumored that at its E3 press conference Microsoft will focus on specific game titles and look to appeal to hardcore gamers.