Were you doing something fun yesterday evening? Good on ya. We were stuck watching the launch of the new Xbox, which went on a bit. Handily, we've boiled down the essential details into an executive summary, with minimal opinion or bullshit. We've even turned off the cutting sarcasm.
There's a new Xbox, and it's called the One. It looks like an old VHS player. Every One comes with a new Kinect, and you'll need said Kinect for it to work. The controller is basically the same. Inside, the hardware is an 8-core CPU, 8GB of RAM, 500GB non-removable harddrive, Blu-ray drive (!), and Wi-Fi.
You turn it on by saying "Xbox On", and it resumes whatever you were doing last. A sleep mode, for consoles. Oh, and it recognises individual users. The Kinect does the recognising, and it's been completely redesigned. It does the same stuff as before, but now it's super-accurate (and 1080p). It works in the dark and can pick up your heartbeat, which is kinda awesome.
There's TV integration. You plug your existing set-top box in, and then you can control TV channels with voice control. That saves switching inputs on your TV. The TV stuff will also leverage Xbox Live to give you recommendations, because injecting social media into stuff is good apparently.
You can also have the TV or movie take up 2/3rds of the screen, with an app like Skype 'snapped' to the side like in Windows 8. Oh yeah, there's Skype integration. Wow. More usefully, you can snap game walkthroughs or IMDB while doing the main thing on the big screen. Nifty. Also on the social side, Surface Glass gets a tonne of new upgrades.
On the social gaming perspective front, there's now increased ability to share clips of your awesome gameplay, improved matchmaking, and more geographical reach for said matchmaking. The One will not require an internet connection to play single-player games, with the exception of games that are programmed to use Microsoft's cloud computing platform, Azure, to do some of the heavy processing for the game on the server (thus saving power on the machine itself). Finally, Xbox Live is getting a massive overhaul as well. It currently runs on 15,000 servers, but it's going to go to 300,000 this year. Insane. You'll be able to access your movies, music, games, and saves from anywhere.
Ok, so the nitty-gritty: gaming. EA have debuted a new game engine, EA Sports Live. It makes stuff a bit more realistic, like most new game engines. FIFA 14, Madden and UFC are all coming to the Xbox, with some features (like FIFA's Ultimate Team mode) exclusive to the One. Of course, there are exclusive games from Microsoft Studios too -- a promised 15 new titles in the first year. We saw a Max Payne one, which looked pretty neat (but pre-rendered footage always does). Call of Duty will also be on the One, and as always, DLC will be available there first. We also got a look at the previously-announced new CoD, Call of Duty Ghosts. The graphics look great as ever, but more importantly you get your very own pet war dog.
The HALO news wasn't a new game, but rather a 'premium' HALO TV series directed by Stephen Spielberg. So, y'know. Holy crap.
The really important stuff, price and release, was left 'till E3, but it'll almost certainly be out late this year. You can pre-order the pre-order now if you're that desperate.