Microsoft introduced its next-generation video game system, called Xbox One, during an announcement Tuesday, and true to its promise, the console is designed to be the center of your home entertainment system.
"We have an ambitious vision for Xbox One — to become the all-in-one system for every living room," said Xbox division president Dan Mattrick. The system will be released later this year, although no price was announced.
The console will be integrated with cable and satellite television systems, and is designed to allow users to change channels and switch between TV movies and games by voice commands.
In fact, voice commands will play a larger role in the new Xbox One over its predecessor, the Xbox 360, and users will even be able turn on the system by just talking to it.
The console also will come equipped with a new, more powerful Kinect accessory for motion control and voice recognition. The Kinect, a bar that sits in front of the television and reads the movements of the players, will have a better camera and be capable of more refined voice control. "This is rocket-level science stuff," said Microsoft’s Marc Whitten.
The box will continue to use a more traditional gamepad controller similar to the one that comes with the Xbox 360.
The Xbox One will be made up of traditional PC parts and is expected to wield the same processing power as the recently announced PlayStation 4, the Xbox’s main competitor. Sony’s console also is expected to be released later this year.
Although Microsoft’s new entry in the next-generation console wars is geared for all-around entertainment services, its focus is still gaming.
Xbox executives introduced several games for the system, including a new Forza Motorsport racing game and the latest entry in the popular "Call of Duty" franchise, "Call of Duty: Ghosts." Electronic Arts also announced that new versions of "Madden Football," "FIFA Soccer," "NBA Live" and a UFC fighting game would be coming to the XBox One.
Mattrick announced that 15 games exclusive to the Xbox One would be released in the system’s first year, and eight of those are titles based on new properties that are not sequels. A more complete lineup of games for the system is expected to be announced during the E3 video game trade show next month in Los Angeles.
On another front, Nancy Tellum, former head of CBS who now directs digital entertainment for Microsoft, said the company would produce a new "Halo" television series based on the popular Xbox science fiction game. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg will produce the series. A release date was not announced.
Microsoft’s announcement Tuesday officially ignites a new console war among the Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Wii U, which was released in stores last December. So far, sales of the Wii U, which is technically more on par with the older Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 than the newer boxes, have been below expectations.
Console video game sales have been dropping for more than a year, largely because sales of games for mobile devices have been eating into the market and also because it has been seven years since the last models of consoles were introduced.
Sales of gaming hardware fell 27 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to the NPD Group, while sales of game discs fell 23 percent.
But Brent Fox, co-owner of Orem-based Wahoo Studios, which makes downloadable games for the Xbox 360, is excited about the Xbox One’s potential.
"The Xbox 360 market has slowed the last couple of years, so for us this is a new opportunity and a chance for our market to be revitalized and get people excited again," he said.
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