Microsoft unveiled its new console today at a news event broadcast live from the company's campus in Redmond, Wash. There were video appearances by Roger Goodell, Lionel Messi, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams and RGIII. You can watch the entire reveal here (scroll ahead to the 39:20 mark) or read ahead for the CliffsNotes reason of what we learned.
1. It's called Xbox One.
Not "Durango", the widely-known code name. Not the iterative "Xbox 720", which had emerged the hottest search term for intel on the system. Not "Xbox Infinity", "Xbox Fusion" or "Xbox 8". In the end, simplicity reigned.
2. It will be out worldwide this year.
No official date (or price) was given, but Microsoft said it's latest entrant in the console wars will be released "around the world later this year," surely in time to join the Sony PlayStation 4 in stores this holiday season—most likely before Thanksgiving.
3. The hardware is ample.
The system will include a 1080p HD RGB camera, 30 FPS Color, Time of Flight (TOF) Technology, Microphone Arrays, a Blu-ray Drive, Kinect 2.0 and Interactive TV, in addition to 8GB RAM, an 8-core CPU, a 500GB hard drive, both HDMI in and out and a USB 3.0 port. All that might not mean much to casual gamers, but it puts it roughly on a par with the announced specs for Sony's forthcoming console.
4. You'll be able to have a "relationship" with your TV.
Xbox One is a TV tuner and cable box, making little secret of Microsoft's plan to take over your living room. The early segments of Tuesday's announcement dealt heavily with the various gestures and voice controls players can use to interact with the console (e.g. "Xbox, on" to start up or "Xbox, watch TV" to switch on the television). The simple set of commands will enable users to switch between music, videos, apps, OS and games nearly instantaneously, an innovation known as Snap Mode. As the just-released Xbox Anthem vid puts it: It's going to recognize your name, your voice, your friends, your family, your movies. You. Kind of creepy, actually, but cool just the same.
5. Xbox has partnered with the NFL.
A new deal with the NFL -- Roger Goodell even made a cameo -- seems like a win for sports fans. Players will be able to watch NFL games, track their fantasy team and taunt their friends via Skype all on one screen.
6. Much more for sports fans.
The emphasis on sports may have unnerved some gaming writers, but it was hard not to get excited for the announcement of EA Sports Ignite, a game engine designed specifically for high-end sports titles that promises to improve the current animation depth and detail tenfold. Four games powered by the engine will be released in the next year: FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA Live and UFC. The publisher even enlisted a handful of top-flight athletes -- including Lionel Messi, Kyrie Irving, Robert Griffin III and Jon Jones -- for a short promotional video showcasing the new technology.
The non-EA Sports title Forza Motorsports 5 is also coming exclusively to Xbox One and will be available at launch.
7. There's a live-action Halo TV series and Steven Spielberg is involved.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker has signed on as an executive producer for an original series based on the Xbox-exclusive first-person shooter.
The surprise announcement came from Nancy Tellum, Microsoft's entertainment and digital media president, who said the forthcoming project will marge "the storytelling magic of television with the interactive innovation of Xbox One."
8. They mentioned actual video games, too.
Many dedicated gamers and industry pundits were concerned Microsoft would use Tuesday's announcement to hawk the console's media features rather than show, you know, actual video games. The company announced that it would be releasing 15 exclusive titles, eight of which are new properties, in the first year of launch. Chief among them was an exclusive deal with Activision for Call of Duty: Ghosts, but this trailer for Quantum Break (which seems to be a live-action TV show that will blend with the game) is being touted as a "revolutionary gaming experience."
9. It won't be always-online, but it will restrict used games.
Xbox One won't require an Internet connection at all times to function, assuaging the fears of some gamers. All titles will have to be installed on the hard drive, however, meaning used games will likely require a fee to be activated.
10. It won't be backwards-compatible with Xbox 360 games.
This wasn't mentioned in the Xbox presentation, but Polygon reported it today.
11. Same controller, new features.
Microsoft said the Xbox One controller features 40 new design features, including impulse triggers, Wi-Fi direct radio stack and a precision directional pad.
12. Xbox Live is getting an upgrade.
A total of 500 servers powered Xbox Live for the original Xbox, with 15,000 for Xbox 360. That number will soar to 300,000 for Xbox One.