More Always On Xbox Rumours, Capcom Loves The Idea And How The 720 Gets Backwards Compatibility

In an article pointing out the other side of the recent (and currently rather destructive) “always-on” discussion over on GI.biz – that it’s ultimately good for publishers – Capcom’s Senior Vice President has admitted that getting it right is essential, and that network based service models like always-on are “crucial to our business moving forward”.

“As an industry, we needed SimCity to get it right,” says Capcom’s Christian Svensson, suggesting that it might not be quite ready for primetime. “We needed Blizzard to get it right. And there are reasons that needed to happen for the sanctity of our revenue streams.”

“Network based service models are crucial to our business moving forward. If we cannot provide the level of service appropriate and we continuously disappoint, we create continued ill will from customers. Even when there’s a huge value to consumers – every single time, it’s going to be viewed with skepticism and waiting for people to get burnt.”

The issue is that whilst Microsoft are rumoured to be enforcing a system-wide always-on connection in order for games to even boot, Sony are remaining slightly vague on the matter. You can play offline on a PS4, but that doesn’t mean that all games will be free from the internet-based restrictions.

Meanwhile, more rumours are seeping out about Microsoft’s next Xbox. The Verge has dug up multiple unnamed sources to tell it that the race for control over the living room is the focus for Microsoft. That’s something that would, given the company’s Xbox strategy since Kinect launched, make a degree of sense. Microsoft has been unabashedly proud (and rightly so) of its more recent successes with streaming services to what it spent so long boasting was a core gaming machine.

The Verge’s sources talk about the “always on” aspect of the machine as it relates to our televisual habits. Basically, the console requires a constant internet connection because you’ll be pumping your cable box through it via HDMI pass-through. There will be an overlaid on-screen display but the control will be via your Xbox and the next generation of Kinect. Presumably the online component supplies the programme guide and unlocks for your subscription packages.

There’s no indication of what this might mean for the larger part of the globe that doesn’t run on the same TV systems as North America but if they want to advertise this feature in the UK and elsewhere, they’ll need to make it work with Freeview, Virgin Media and Sky – other European countries will have their own local providers too. In short, if not insular to US systems, this will be an incredibly fragmented service.

Further to these rumours is the suggestion that Microsoft might be readying a low-cost “Xbox TV” box. That’s something that might help to validate another source of rumours – VGLeaks. They’re reporting that there’s a cheap version of the Xbox 360 on the way.

This budget console, likened to the Wii Mini, ditches the disc drive completely although it will still allow users to play downloaded games.

It’s basically intended to compete with devices like Roku, Boxee and AppleTV in that it will enable you to use all the current streaming services through a cheap box that also happens to allow access to Xbox Live and downloaded games, including Games on Demand.

All of the media functions will apparently be present in the next Xbox (it would be silly to assume otherwise) but that will also have its beefed up hardware and more powerful games. The “Xbox Mini” is also intended for use as an add-on peripheral with the new Xbox. Similar to the ill-fated HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360, it will link up to the new console and enable backward compatibility.

With a rumoured event to show off their plans in little over a month, hopefully we can put some of this rumour-mongering to bed and start to build a clearer picture of how Microsoft intends to counteract Sony’s impressive plans for the PlayStation 4.

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18 Comments

  1. This is Microsoft starting to gain control of the story. Whatever The Verge says about Microsoft is true, Tom Warren is part of their PR circle and gets drip fed info to publish & promote, so if Verge says Xbox will work with Cable TV set top boxes and will provide an overlay to TV programming, then that’s exactly what will happen.

    I’m all for convergence under the TV but it’s highly unlikely Xbox will be able to do this to Sky+HD or Virgin Media boxes so it’s weird that the key USP of their next console should be so US biased with presumably the myriad of streaming services filling in around the world… However a TV Tuner & Freeview compatibility would be interesting in UK & obviously similar around Europe.

    • If it is, this is MS’s way of not officially responding, but using Verge to get their message out.

      • Yep, anything even slightly related to Microsoft from Tom Warren & his “sources inside Microsoft” is as good as from Microsoft PR themselves.

  2. of course capcom would be behind it, they’ve already used drm like that this gen.

    i prefer sony’s choice to leave any such draconian drm to individual publishers rather than doing it at a system level.
    that way consumers can, and hopefully will, avoid those games.
    let the public decide if they want to support such measures,

    i kinda like the sound of the Xbox mini though, as a second unit for my bedroom.

    i’ve been waiting for a way to play minecraft in bed for ages. ^_^

    • Couldn’t agree more. Also Svensson says above that the industry needed SimCity and Blizzard to get this always online thing right. Guess what they didn’t get it right…Hey Capcom what you gona do about it? Nothing?

  3. Well that shows they are concentrating more on media than games again, therefore….Im oooooot! Seriously though, drop feeding info like that is silly, they need to come out and show people what they are looking to do with the next console asap. Otherwise people will think that’s all they want the box to do. I can watch TV without an Xbox, so what is the point of me buying one just for that?

    • Don’t forget the Xbox Live subscription to access that media through the cable TV box you already own and could use without the MS subscription…
      genius.jpg

  4. I still don’t see the real benefit to an always on console (from a consumer’s eyes) and their article didn’t make that clear, either…
    I don’t have a cable TV box and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything here in Germany, either so any focus on that aspect of the console actually puts me off even more. This will be a core feature for US customers but I can already see MS letting European customers down by not locking down region specific deals.
    Microsoft is shifting their Xbox focus to become a jack of all trades, master of none. They’re not winning me over…

    • Also, buying a new “mini 360” to enable backwards compatibility must be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Microsoft must feel so clever for coming up with something like that…

      I still don’t buy their always on crap. If they come out and tell us it is required for media access, then why would it be required to play games (if this turns out to be the case) when I’m not watching TV? Can someone explain that to me?
      Wow, just thinking about the stupid PR crap that comes out of Microsoft’s camp (through unnamed sources) pisses me off…

    • ‘Xbox’ is an incredibly important brand to someone like Microsoft who is often seen as being for boring things like enterprise or something your mum & dad used to use.

      This is why things like Xbox Music are in Windows 8.

      The danger here is the Xbox itself loses its raison d’etre & just becomes a service as part of something wider, or the name Xbox gets wheeled out by Microsoft every time they have something they want to make seem cool.

      We’ve always known Xbox is Microsoft’s play for the living room, but TV and not gaming being the console’s unique selling point isn’t ideal for gamers.

      Of course we’ll no doubt get Bf4 & maybe the next Halo or whatever shown off at the Xbox reveal, but it seems to be becoming clear where the focus lies.

      • I’m finding the way that both M$ and Sony seem to be repositioning themselves in the gaming landscape absolutely fascinating.

        This generation’s Playstation brand seemed to be a technological marvel, but an insular and divisive one, resulting in some very special first party games but mediocre third party conversions, all wrapped in an ill thought out UI and some very poor network code. The revised strategy of essentially making the PS4 the new home of core gaming, tremendous support for indie devs and deeply integrated social networking features seems like a true revelation and something that might elevate Playstation to be the preferred machine for real ‘gamers’.

        Microsoft’s rumoured repositioning of the Xbox brand from this generation’s core gaming console (in my opinion) towards a media machine that also plays games is baffling, but might make financial sense in the long run. Trying to tie everybody with a TV into the Xbox brand, rather than just the gaming community, could be a revelation – similar to what Apple have done for mobile gaming with the iPhone – although I would be sad to see the demise of another source of pure gaming pleasure.

  5. i had a thought, this always on drm thing.

    it’s like they want a cloud network, but want us to pay for the hardware.

    mind you that’s been their policy since the launch of the 360 hasn’t it?
    pay them for the network, then have the hardware we paid for doing most of the work.
    their servers just point our hardware at other hardware and letting them talk to each other and do all the work.

  6. Possibility MS is planning companion boxes for various regions, like Sony’s Play TV.

  7. the overlay of a box via HDMI is not that far fetched, could be as simple as an icon on your Xbox dash which receives the signal from the HDMI channel, allowing the Xbox to use whatever in game overlay they go with to be skinned over the top via the Xbox button.
    Anything more than this and i fear it would require us to upgrade our current cable / satellite boxes to something compatible.
    If it goes with the first idea then it could allow a feed through of any HDMI device.
    I like the idea of a plugin box that allows full backwards compatibility, Sony should listen to that idea, if they could make a stripped down attachment to the ps4 that conveniently plugs in and allows the backwards compatibility that it cant natively build in i would buy it (if the price was right) same for xbox.

  8. You seem to have forgotten the most interesting part of the “leak”, that the xbox720 (not the mini 360) will allow you to play offline and wont block used games.

  9. I actually think having an optional box for backwards compatibility is a good idea. That way people that want it can pay the extra for it and ones that don’t, don’t. It’ll keep manufacturing costs down as well. Currently theres no way I’d get the next Xbox if it wasn’t BC. (and I don’t have room or the spare sockets for both to be plugged in)

  10. The whole reason i got rid of our Xbox was because you cant use any of the streaming services unless you pay M$ for a gold sub. I pay for netflix, why should i also pay M$ for the priviledge of watching it on a console i paid for. If they doe the same thing with the nextbox, which they will i wont be buying.

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