There’s been a few fun reports on Microsoft patents, like the one where they describe a method for silencing a mobile device by whacking it off. Or this one, where they project a wilderness throughout your entire living room (yeah, great, as if my cats aren’t psychotic enough).
But this supposed Xbox 720 one is the most interesting, because it ties into things I actually care about: the one where they mention two separate partitions on the system, each with a separate CPU and possibly GPU.
Yes, I know this news broke in July. I live in Texas, we spend July trying to not burst into flames. Shut up.
Anyway, the easy explanation is exactly as stated: scalable resources to support all kinds of applications over a long console cycle.
That’s boring. Know what isn’t boring? Speculation!
A big barrier to integrating heavy multimedia features into games is the processing load. To make a really pretty game with awesome physics, devs squeeze as much power as possible out of a console’s CPU, GPU, PPU, STU, and WTFU.
I may have made some of those up.
But a segregated CPU/GPU design opens the door to layering software on top of games. Want to capture your gameplay? Conveniently, there’s a Microsoft app for that. Live streaming? Oh look, Twitch.tv’s partnership with hardware manufacturers to the rescue!
A recent game capture review I read mentioned “your Xbox doesn’t have a Record button.” Well, now it could.
And if we take this one step further, this could also be a roundabout way to support more stringent DRM without killing the huge community that’s sprung up around game capture, streaming, and shoutcasting. Microsoft is clearly vying for the Xbox to be your one and only living room entertainment source – hell, they even say exactly that in this press release about the production studio they’re starting specifically for Xbox content:
In addition to running the production studio, she will help spearhead the company’s efforts to turn Xbox into a destination where consumers can enjoy all their entertainment in one place.
Know what’s really important to winning the war for the living room? Good content. And while making your own is nice, you’re going to have to deliver other people’s content too. Right now, the Xbox 360 only turns on HDCP for video playback and not for games. But what if the Xbox 720 has Blu-ray? Blu-ray players have much more stringent requirements for HDCP – namely, that it always has to be on.
So in one fell swoop, Microsoft could please content providers with increased content protection, while at the same time taking complete ownership of the amateur gameplay ecosystem.
…that’s actually pretty terrifying. I don’t think that would happen – I’m just saying it could.