Microsoft and Sony are keeping quiet about their next-gen games machines - or are they? We look at the next-gen console features hiding right out in the open.
We know the Xbox 720 and Sony PS4 are on the way - as well as some serious console competition from gaming newcomers. At this point, it’s just Microsoft and Sony themselves who aren’t admitting it, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find their plans for next-gen systems might not be so hush-hush after all.
In the last year, both companies have shown off bleeding edge tech all but certain to make the cut in their new consoles, from a next-gen Kinect and a whole-room projector on Microsoft's part to cross-platform gaming and online streaming on Sony's. Here’s the future kit coming up in the next round of consoles that's already right in front of us.
Illumiroom: the world’s largest projector in your living room
Microsoft brought the house down in Vegas this month at the Consumer Electronic Show, showing off its new IllumiRoom tech that combines Xbox Kinect with a projector to turn your whole room into one giant gaming level. Turn it on, and suddenly the entire wall in front of you becomes part of the game. Want to play Halo with scenery that goes right up to your ceiling? Soon you won’t need to fork out for an absurdly-sized flatscreen to do just that. Right now IllumiRoom is just a proof-of-concept, but the seriously polished demo video in the year of a new Xbox suggests this will likely play a big part.
The eerily accurate future of Xbox Kinect
The current motion-control Kinect camera’s delivered some seriously addictive games, but it’s still not very precise. Expect that to change: leaked documents have shown that Microsoft is planning a new Kinect with the next Xbox, and this trailer above may show what you’ll be able to do with it.
While this official video from Microsoft’s just meant to show off the incredible things Kinect hackers can do, it also hints at something more. For one, Kinect’s not nearly sensitive enough to track your individual finger movements - that looks set to change. Kinect 2 will almost certainly be able the feed the next Xbox a lot more information and sharper images: while it can track your body now, the next-gen version could do anything from read your lips to track your individual finger tips and even see when you're getting angry at a game and suggest another one for you.
PlayStation 3 and PS Vita Crossplay
Nintendo’s not the only company that lets you stream your console games to a smaller screen: Sony’s Crossplay tech for the PS3 and its PS Vita handheld already take the concept even further. With the right games (like Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale), you can use your Vita as a gamepad, play at home and pick up on the go, and even play Vita gamers on your PlayStation 3 and vice versa.
The strange thing about Sony’s Crossplay is that it’s been around in some form since 2006: you could play some PS3 games on your PSP handheld over the web using Remote Play, but Sony’s never really pushed the concept or enforced it on developers. The next-gen PlayStation could take the tech mainstream: imagine taking your game of Metal Gear Solid on the road and then continuing right on the big screen when you get home.
Sony’s streaming future
You might have heard of OnLive, the service that lets you stream entire, top notch PC games to your low-power netbook, tablet or even phone, but you’ve probably not heard of its rival, Gaikai, which Sony snapped up last year. We imagine Sony’s planning to beam down games straight to the next-gen PS4 via your broadband, but it could also have some other neat tricks in minds. Instead of a lengthy download and install process for demos, imagine just pressing play to see what a game is really like - or how about being able to stream multiplayer portions of full games for a fraction of the cost to play against friends? While you're at it, why not put PlayStation games on every Sony web TV, saving the need for a PS4 at all? It's time to ditch that Xbox Live Gold subscription, at any rate.
Microsoft’s been hard at work making your Xbox play nice with your phone and your tablet in the last year, rolling out SmartGlass an app for iPhone, Android or Windows Phone that lets you control your 360 right from a touchscreen. It also serves up extra info for the game you’re playing, like a map of where you're driving in Forza Horizon or your multiplayer stats for Halo 4, but there’s potential for much more besides.
If Microsoft pushes SmartGlass harder, the next-gen Xbox could let you use a tablet as an actual controller, or double up as a second interactive screen, Wii U style. Co-op Gears Of War without having to fork out for another pricey gamepad? The future’s looking bright indeed.