Game on: Xbox 720 and PS4 go head to head with Microsoft set to launch console today

Expectations are high after Sony’s dispiriting launch of the new PS4

Tomorrow night Microsoft will unveil the latest generation of its Xbox console in Redmond, Washington.

Expectations are high after Sony’s dispiriting launch of the new PS4 back in February (a tweaked controller design was on display but little else), and although there seems to be a consensus regarding the hardware specifications, Xbox spokesman Major Nelson is still promising that the Tuesday release will “mark the beginning of a new generation of games, TV and entertainment”.

Most analysts agree that the new console will sport an eight-core CPU from AMD running at 1.6ghz. This will be supported by 8GB of DDR3 RAM, supplemented by 32MB of ‘ESRAM’ – specialised RAM connected directly to the graphics unit. A Blu-ray drive also seems a given, as well as USB 3.0 connections and a 500GB hard drive as standard. Oddly enough, the interesting point about these specs is how unremarkable they are.

The set-up is very similar to what’s known about the PS4 and it seems that the differences between the two consoles will be more focus on media services and extras, rather than raw processing power.

Potential names for the new console have been varied, with each backed by credible-but-inconclusive proofs. ‘Xbox Fusion’ has been suggested after a slew of domain registrations; the codename ‘Project Durango’ was supported by an early leak last year, and ‘Xbox Now!’ (exclamation mark mandatory) has been the most recent suggestion.

The Now! moniker comes via an employee from Rare (a Microsoft owned games-studio) who posted the rumour on the online forum 4chan, with the name supposedly referring to the new console’s range of internet-enabled, always-on services.

The ‘Xbox Now!’ suggestion also supports the argument that the battle for supremacy amongst the new generation of consoles will be fought through media services.

A long-held rumour that the new Xbox would be ‘always-on’ has been quashed by the leak of an internal email, but no-one doubts that internet-based services will stand front-and-center tomorrow and Redmond.

Major Nelson’s promise of “TV and entertainment” suggests that Microsoft will be aiming to position the new console as a media-hub, most likely consolidating their current partnership with Netflix.

Sources at The Verge have also reported that the Xbox will receive a direct line-in for TV signals, allowing the console to overlay Xbox Live functionality during normal TV viewing.

Such a move would put Microsoft in a good position in the battle for our sitting rooms, as Google and Apple’s TV ‘solutions’ continue to stall. And all this speculation is without even considering possible games (though this will probably just be the march of the franchises – one definite reveal tomorrow will be the latest instalment of Call of Duty, ‘Ghosts’), which just shows how the console’s position in the entertainment industry has evolved, mirroring the development of the smartphone as a hardware solution absorbs different software functionality.

Click here for the Independent tech live blog on the new Xbox 720 launch

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