martes, 8 de marzo de 2011

Microsoft job postings hint at (eventual) next-generation Xbox

So, when's the next-generation Xbox coming? Microsoft says it's already here thanks to the motion-sensing Kinect camera, but a trio of new job postings suggest that Redmond may be gearing up for a true next-gen Xbox console—albeit one that's still years away from release.

Eurogamer found the three help-wanted ads, with job titles such as Graphics Hardware Architect, Senior Architect and Performance Engineer, and Senior Hardware Design Verification Engineer, posted on LinkedIn. The job descriptions themselves are well-nigh indecipherable for those of us not in the game development business. Among the responsibilities for the Graphic Hardware Architect, according to Eurogamer: "architecture analysis, key technology selection, architecture specification, communication and collaboration with extended Microsoft teams and partner companies." Huh.

The money quote, however, is right here: "Responsible for defining and delivering next-generation console architectures from conception through implementation." Next-generation console? Now we're talking.

Eurogamer notes that the new job postings represent the first concrete evidence that Microsoft is working on—or at least thinking about—a successor to the Xbox 360.

Of course, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was talking about the "next generation of the Xbox 360" as recently as last October—but he was referring to Kinect, the new motion-sensing camera accessory for the Xbox that landed in stores over the holidays.

Meanwhile, the original, noisy, and glitch-prone Xbox console got a makeover last summer with the Xbox 360 "slim," which boasts a smaller, glossy black shell, "whisper-quiet" cooling fans, touch-sensitive controls, and built-in Wi-Fi.

So, what features could we expect in a true next-generation Xbox? Usual suspects on the wish list include items like a Blu-ray drive (probably more for game storage than for video, given Microsoft's investments in 1080p video streaming through Xbox Live) and native 3D gaming support, for starters.

But the biggest new feature would lurk under the hood: a vastly improved graphics processor, capable of cranking out visuals that would make the graphics abilities of the nearly six-year-old Xbox 360 platform look … well, painfully last generation. (For a glimpse at the future of gaming visuals, check out Kotaku's reports on last week's Game Developers Conference game engine demos from Epic and Crytek.)

Exciting stuff, but don't hold your breath. Eurogamer notes that based on the newly posted job descriptions, Microsoft appears to be "early on in production" of the next Xbox—indeed, "far earlier than many had expected," with the new console "so early in development that the graphics hardware at the very least hasn't been locked down."