|A war is breaking out, a struggle for
your time, your loyalty, and, most importantly, your money. The next-generation console
battle is raging and the battles about to get hotter.
It should be common knowledge by
now that Microsoft has tossed its hat into the console ring, but how much do you know
about the ominously named Xbox? New details have finally been released, so here's the
lowdown on Bill Gates' new toy.
Show Me What You Got
Heres what the Xbox has under the hood:
DirectX API game development tools
Intel Pentium III 733MHz processor technology with Streaming SIMD Extensions
250MHz custom-designed X-Chip, developed by Microsoft and nVidia
64 MB of RAM (unified memory architecture)
Custom 3-D audio processor
10GB hard drive
8 MB Memory card (optional)
2-5X DVD drive with movie playback
Four front USB ports (modified) to serve as game controller ports
Proprietary A/V connector
10/100 MBps Ethernet
Modem enabled (optional)
You might have noticed that these specifications sound like something that belongs more
in an office building than in your entertainment center. Despite the very PC description,
this is a dedicated gaming machine. Lets see what the components could mean to your
- Supposedly, this graphics chip is
several generations ahead of anything nVidia has on the market now. If this is true, then
the Xbox will have the greatest potential for the greatest graphics.
Hard Drive - Certainly, this is the most intriguing
thing about the Xbox. Microsoft has said that they plan to have multiple uses for this
device including as a saving device (a big ol memory card), a place to download
playable demos and it even can be used to add extra levels and other goodies to Xbox
Memory Card - You would think that an 8-gigabyte hard
drive would make this obsolete, but the Xbox will support a custom-made memory card.
DVD Drive - Of course with this you can play DVD movies
on the Xbox, but the most exciting implication of this is the 4 gigabytes of storage that
DVDs offer. Developers will have more room to do whatever they want in the game and can
even throw in extras similar to the ones available on movie DVDs.
USB Ports - No, you can't plug in your favorite PC
joystick into the Xbox. The controllers will all be proprietory.
Broadband Connection - Microsoft is being mighty
presumptuous by assuming that Xbox owners will have DSL or Cable connections in their
homes by the time Fall 2001 rolls around. They will sell a modem separately but no one
likes to buy extra equipment that should be standard on the console. Well see if
this gambit pays off.
- DirectX API (Application Programming Interfaces) -- Chances
are the last PC game you played used DirectX, Microsofts own creation that allows
easy programming of games from graphics to music. Using DirectX 8, the most powerful
version yet, developers can easily create games for the console.
- Pentium III - 733 MHz is screamingly fast for a console
but the catch is the Pentium III, while modified, isnt custom designed for the Xbox
like processors for other consoles. The speed should more than make up for the lost in
Peripherals coming for the Xbox will be determined by the games released on the system.
Thrustmaster, a game accessories maker, has been licensed by Microsoft to produce various
peripherals. Microsoft insists that it will not support a mouse and keyboard as possible
add-ons. A noble attempt to try and distance yourself away from the computer market,
Microsoft, but even Sega and Sony have mice and keyboards available for their systems.
has shown the world what the Xbox's controller will look like. Certainly, it's an unusual
looking creation, as if the controllers of the Dreamcast and Playstation got together,
mated, infused the Microsoft Sidewinder into their offspring, and added a green bubble for
looks. By the way, the bubble serves no purpose other than to look stupid; at least,
that's what I think. It doesn't light up or display images like the DC's memory card. And,
it's neon green! Good God, they made it neon green! It better glow in the dark or
Anyway, the controller sports eight analog buttons (six on the
front, two triggers in the back), two analog sticks, and a directional pad. Pretty
standard fair for a controller now days. Interesting, though, that they went with six
buttons on the face of the controller rather than the typical four used by all other
consoles. Perhaps, there trying to make the controller Street Fighter friendly? By
the way, "analog" simply means that the buttons are pressure sensitve. For
instance, if button A was used as the accelerater in a racing sim, then the pressure
applied to button A would determine how fast you would go.
disappointingly, the Xbox itself is rather... square. It looks like a bulky, rectangular
black block with an "X" on the top of it. In fact, it's the exact same shape as
a Sega Saturn. But, forget the blocky look, it's what's under the hood that counts.
Instead of its CD drive being top-loaded, it utilizes a tray mechanism similar to the ones
use on most computers. Underneath the tray are the four controller ports spread out evenly
over the front of the box. In the center, is the omnipotent power switch and a disc-eject
button. In the back, there's the ethernet and USB port plus a relatively massive cooling
exhaust. In fact, the various angles I've looked at the system seem to indicate that the
entire box is rather large. There are no published dimensions for the system yet, though.
So Its a
What about the Games?
Impressive hardware or not, a system has got to have the games to make you want to
play it. With over 150 developers on the Xbox train, the system shouldnt be short of
games. Check the complete list here
and see if your favorite company is on there.
The list of expected games is small but its continuing to grow. Microsoft expects
to have 20 games ready for the launch of the system. Here's a list of some announced
NFL Fever 2002
Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding
Knockout Kings (EA)
SSX Snowboarding (EA)
Metal Gear Solid X (Konami)
Futurama (Unique Development Studios)
The Druid King (Sidhe Interactive)
Warzone (Paradox Entertainment)
Blade Of Darkness 2 (Rebel Act)
Crash Bandicoot X (Konami)
Silent Hill X (Konami)
Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee (Oddworld
Tyco R/C Game (Mattel)
The Thing (Konami)
Armada 2 (Metro3D)
Mass Driver (Amazing Games)
Dragon's Lair (Capcom)
The Devil Inside (Cryo)
X-Isle (Crytek Studios)
Brute Force (Digital Anvil)
Tomb Raider (Eidos)
VIP (Ubi Soft)
F1 World Grand Prix 3 (Video System)
Last Ninja: The Return (Studio 3)
Jurassic Park X (Konami)
Desert Storm (Pivotal Games)
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X (Activision)
WWF Raw is War (THQ)
Madden Football (EA)
Some games to keep your eyes peeled for are Metal Gear Solid X, Halo, Unreal Tournament
and even Crash Bandicoot X (wha
?). Oddworld Inhabitants much anticipated
Munchs Odyssey should be a flagship title when the system is released in Fall 2001.
As most gamers know by now, Sega has stopped producing their console system, the
Dreamcast. However, Sega is now a freelance publisher of games for any console willing to
have the best games ever! Sega will produce 11 games for the Xbox including Xbox sequels
to Sega GT, Panzer Dragoon, and Jet Grind Radio. Check out GamesFirst! for more news.
Will the Xbox Even Have a Chance?
How should the Xbox do against the other established consoles? Well, hands-down
Xbox has the most impressive specs of any system in consideration, but lets take a
closer look at the differences:
- Dreamcast With the discontinuation of this system and the new
partnership between Microsoft and Sega, a system comparison is mute. The Dreamcast has
ceased to be competition for the Xbox (though it was a freakin cool system).
- Playstation 2 - Hopefully, PS2s will be plentiful in about a year so
the system could have a strong dominance by Xboxs roll out date. However, the Xbox
should easily match PS2s games in graphics and should have as many launch games as
the PS2 did at its launch. Most of the developers of PS2 games are also developing Xbox
games, so the exclusivity of games that the original PlayStation enjoyed will not reoccur
for the PlayStation 2.
- Gamecube - Good ol Nintendos newest console, the Gamecube,
was just announced a few months ago and details on it are even more sketchy than the Xbox.
While its specs arent as beefy as the Xboxs, its the only system that is
considered the equal of Microsofts venture. Its interesting to note that the
Xbox uses a modified Pentium III chip while the Gamecube uses a custom designed Power PC
processor, essentially making this battle comparable to a PC against a Macintosh. Of
course, Nintendo has the star power of literally hundreds of mascots and access to some of
the most brilliant minds in electronic entertainment. Perhaps Nintendo is the true foe of
Microsoft in the upcoming rumble.
Wrap it up, I got Things to
Ultimately, the jury is still out on the Xboxs success, but it is well on its way
to the homes of gamers and rapidly gaining a following. Details are coming regularly and
well be sure to keep you posted.