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What to expect from the 'New Generation Xbox' announcement

It's incredible to think what has happened since the Xbox 360 was launched. In the same year it debuted a little site called YouTube was launched, Facebook was but 18 months old and had a mere 5 million or so users and Twitter was but a glint in the eye of Jack Dorsey. But, more importantly in the time since then Nintendo has released the Wii, the Wii U, the DS Lite, the DSi and the 3DS meanwhile Sony has released the PS3, countless versions of the PSP and the PS Vita.

All of which means the new Xbox makes for quite a significant moment in the history of console gaming, to put it mildly. Moreover, if Microsoft is to achieve anything like the same longevity for this console it's going to need to get a great many things right.

So, with the launch mere hours away, we're going to take one last look at just what to expect from Microsoft's big announcement tonight.

What to expect from the 'New Generation Xbox' announcement

Hardware Specs
Where we have most certainty about the upcoming next generation Xbox is in what hardware it will sport. It is strongly expected the console will, like the Sony PS4, use an AMD APU with an 8-core 1.6GHz CPU and 800MHz GPU, backed by 8GB of DDR3 RAM. This would roughly would put it on a par with the PS4, though that console uses GDDR5 memory that has a very high bandwidth of 176 GB/s - some 16x faster than on the PS3 - that could give it the advantage.

Elsewhere there will be a Blu-ray drive and a high-capacity hard drive as well some form Live TV connection. Whether the latter is simply a pass-through in the form of an HDMI input or a more active connection is not yet known.

There has also been talk of a scalable, modular hardware system that would allow for multiple versions of the console, depending on price. Whether this goes beyond simply having different size hard drives seems unlikely as developers will be reliant on the core hardware being consistent. Perhaps this could also account for whether Kinect is included.

Backwards compatibility is unlikely as the next Xbox is switching to an x86 architecture, but it's still possible Microsoft has come up with some workaround.

As for whether we will actually see the console tonight, it's a tough one to call. It could one-up Microsoft against Sony if it reveals the look of its console, but equally this would give it less to talk about further down the line. There is talk of some hands-on like experiences at the launch but we suspect these will be with the consoles locked firmly away.

Controllers
While we know a fair amount about the core hardware of the new Xbox, next to nothing has been revealed about the new controllers. There is talk of a touch panel of some description, and presumably there will be some form of motion tracking - beyond the visual tracking of Kinect - but beyond that there have been few clues.

In terms of ergonomics, it seems likely that the new controller will be largely the same design as existing Xbox controllers. Who knows, though, maybe there will be a Share button! Unlike the main console, we expect to find out all about the new controller at today's event.

As for Kinect, a new version is expected to accompany the new console and it is to sport increased resolution both in terms of depth and motion tracking and in terms of its cameras, plus it will track up to six players at once. Contrary to what we said early about different hardware specs of the new Xbox, it is expected that the new Kinect will be supplied, and required, with every new console. However, it may be the case that it's only required for certain features to work.

Software
Just as Sony hasn't yet revealed much of the software side of its new console, so we expect Microsoft to steer clear of the interface and extra features of its new console and instead focus on the core gameplaying abilities. As such, we expect to see a number of game demos focussing on the graphical abilities of the hardware. We'll maybe see the new core interface but we're not expecting to see how the new Live TV feature works, for instance.

In terms of games, we're expecting to see the bulk of the new titles revealed at E3, but we suspect at least a few shots of a new Halo to be shown tonight. Further suggesting there will be little time for software features, today's presentation is supposed to be only an hour long, leaving little time for those extras.

The Name
Surprisingly the jury is still out on exactly what the new console will be called. For a long time the rumour mills were using Xbox 720 but this now appears to be out of favour. Instead simply 'Xbox' or 'Xbox Infinity' are looking the most likely candidates. Ultimately, it's about the least important thing about the console, just so long as Microsoft doesn't stick with the device's codename, Durango.

Release Date and Price
It's a pretty good bet we won't be seeing any mention of exactly when the new Xbox will be arriving nor how much it will cost at tonight's presentation. In the world of drip feed marketing we live in today it's extremely likely Microsoft will save such details for later announcements, either at E3 or even later.

That said, it's a dead cert that the release date will be in time for Thanksgiving and well in time for Christmas, at least in the US. The rest of the world may well have more of a wait on their hands.

The only counter to these ascertains is that Microsoft will be looking to one-up Sony, with the Japanese company already having got a several month headstart on revealing some details of its new console. As such Microsoft may choose to reveal just that bit more at this early stage.

As for price, we're left to speculate and, in fact, rumours are still wildly varied. Frankly, there are too many variables to really pin this down any further - the device could be subsidised, it could loss lead or Microsoft could go all out and ask for a premium for early adopters. The most likely scenario that we've heard about is that the console will be released at two price points - $499 (£330) and $299 (£200) - with the cheaper option including a fixed two-year Xbox Live Gold subscription.

So there we have it, our final thoughts on Microsoft's new console before it is finally revealed. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Just think, after tonight we can be rid of next generation console rumours for at least, what, a year?

You can watch the unveiling live on Xbox.com.

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