Tonight, Microsoft's Xbox Reveal presentation finally took the wraps off the company's vision for the future of home entertainment: the hardware, the services and a glimpse at the games. Earlier this month, we were invited to Microsoft's Redmond headquarters to see the machine and discuss it in detail.
In the course of a week, we spoke to innumerable key executives and hardware designers about the next gen Xbox, which is known as Xbox One, witnessed its core functions in action, and examined a number of Xbox One games, including several exclusives. Some of that information remains confidential - you'll find it in our next issue, on-sale June 11th - but there's an awful lot we can give away, and you'll find pretty much all of it in the following feature. Consider it the definitive briefing on the next 10 years of gaming. Welcome.
1. Exploring Microsoft's vision for the next generation of gaming
2. The Xbox One's specifications: inside Microsoft's new console
3. The Xbox One controller: improving on a quality design
4. High performance gaming and the Xbox One's ambitious new OS
5. Kinect 2.0: accuracy, reliability, intelligence
6. So, will it be always-online? And what's the price?
7. The Dark Side of Xbox Live: Xbox One's all-new Reputation system
8. How Microsoft's "super-charged" Xbox One's Achievements - Gamerscore 2.0, Game DVR and more
Summarising the new Xbox and what it bodes for gaming is difficult. Microsoft hasn't simply created an incredibly powerful and flexible piece of gaming hardware - eight times as powerful, we're told, as the Xbox 360, and able to run a vast array of games and applications at once thanks to ambitious operating system design. Nor has it settled for just upgrading Kinect, ramping up the device's precision and responsiveness to theoretically enable "instantaneous", friction-less entertainment browsing and new, compelling kinds of videogame (a claim you've heard before, of course, but one that's genuinely born out by what we've seen of the device in action). Microsoft's secret weapon, the lightning-in-a-bottle that could redefine everything, is the cloud.
Not cloud computing as we currently know it on Xbox 360 - a place to store relatively tiny amounts of profile and save data. But a data cloud whose vast resources actually absorb a chunk of the computational activity that occurs in a game, stretching that game's technical prowess far beyond what it could achieve using the box under the TV alone. Xbox One is not, despite the rumours, a console that requires you to be online all the time, but it's only when you fire up your connection that it truly comes into its own. And Microsoft's built its biggest ever first-party games lineup to prove it.
Thus the digested version. Flip the page to read about the core ideas and ambitions that have guided the design of the new Xbox, or quick-jump to other parts of the feature using the links above.