On Sunday the Wall Street Journal wrote a long piece about Microsoft and the prototypes it created for the next Xbox console after the current Xbox 360 launched in 2005. However, the resulting Xbox Infinity (codenamed Durango), which will be partially revealed on May 21, 2013, will heavily battle Sony's PlayStation 4 in the cloud gaming arena. Sony purchased cloud streaming backbone Gaikai in July 2012.
According to several sources, Xbox Infinity will establish a connection to Microsoft's own farm of game streaming servers, thus providing a smooth high-definition experience similar to what OnLive offers customers and monthly subscribers. This will also allow the new console to play games based on the Xbox 360 and the original console without the need for additional, costly embedded hardware.
Of course, cloud gaming will depend on an Internet connection. It's possible that customers may have an option of purchasing a physical copy with a streaming version for an additional cost, and a standalone streaming version for gamers who prefer not to clutter shelves with discs. Sources said Microsoft was originally cautious about jumping into the game streaming business, but the popularity of Netflix and OnLive – along with Sony's purchase of Gaikai – may have helped push the feature into Xbox Infinity.
Competitor Sony will reportedly use Gaikai to stream PlayStation 3 games to the upcoming PlayStation 4. It will also be used to allow customers to play their game instantly after a digital game has been purchased, aka "Play As You Download." Demos will also be offered through Gaikai so that customers aren't cramming the console's internal storage. Gaikai even allows customers to share with friends and allow those friends to help out by temporarily taking over the game.
Sources told The Wall Street Journal that Microsoft has tested a number of streaming services for the Xbox Infinity including streaming games from far-away servers, sending videos from the console directly to the Web (live coverage?), and "various television technologies." The company has also pushed to expand the Xbox's ecosystem of devices and functions including Kinect 2.0 and specialized glasses designed to compete with other 3D gaming glasses. These specs may even have augmented reality aspects, blending the real world with gaming elements similar to what Nintendo is doing on the 3DS.
The report goes on to talk about Xbox Infinity serving as a set-top-box, allowing customers to plug their satellite or cable TV feed directly to the console. The goal, according to one source, is to make the device connect games more tightly to normal television watching. Thus, if someone is watching an episode of Hannibal on NBC, a message from a friend could pop up, challenging him/her to a game of Call of Duty.
Sources told the paper that Microsoft has produced "multiple prototypes for a new console" and has "experimented with different technologies for it" since 2005. We shall see what Microsoft finally brewed up on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 during the company's live "A New Generation Revealed" event at 10am PDT / 1pm EST right here (opens in new tab).