Editorial

Editorial: If the next Xbox is a Windows 8 PC, it could be a boon for indie game developers

This is a concept for the next Xbox design that was published in the now cancelled Xbox World print magazine

It's now the middle of April and Microsoft still is not talking in an official capacity about what it has planned for the next version of its Xbox game console. Internet rumors now claim that the company will reveal the first details on May 21st, but Microsoft has apparently changed that reveal date at least once and it's possible it could just wait until June for a full reveal at E3 2013 in Los Angeles.

While there have been plenty of Internet rumors and leaks about what the next Xbox will be like over the past year or so, Microsoft may have offered up a few clues about what they have in mind for the successor to the Xbox 360 in their online job postings. A quick look at the Microsoft Careers website has uncovered some small but interesting morsels.

One job post is looking for a "Materials Research Engineer" to join the Xbox design team to help develop "innovative technologies, new materials and advanced manufacturing processes". That could mean that the company is looking to make the next Xbox with a manufacturing process and materials that are different than the current Xbox 360.

Another job listing, this time for an "Experience Developer" to join the Xbox team, says that the person who takes the job will help Microsoft "reinvent entertainment led from the living room, powered by the cloud, and available across multiple screens. That sounds an awful lot like an extension of what Microsoft is already doing with its Xbox SmartGlass apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8. We would not be surprised to see an "Xbox SmartGlass 2.0" effort that would be launched alongside the next Xbox.

All of the published rumors claim that inside the next Xbox, there will be a Radeon-based graphics chip from AMD. Microsoft is also reportedly going to have AMD create the actual CPU of the next Xbox. It's based on the x86 design that's been a part of Windows-based PCs for decades now, including processors that run on Windows 8.

Perhaps most importantly, other rumors about the console claim that the next Xbox will run a version of Windows 8 itself. By contrast, the operating systems on the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox were custom made for those consoles.

So what does this mean at the end of the day? If all these reports are true, then the next Xbox will in fact be a Windows 8 PC. This opens up a new slew of possibilities for the console. It could mean that all Modern Windows 8 apps could be made to run on the next Xbox. It could mean that game developers who want to release their titles on a game console could in fact do so just by uploading their game to the Windows Store and having it certified to run on the next Xbox.

That could be one of the reasons why Microsoft decided to discontinue its XNA game development tools a few months ago. The tools were supposed to be an easy way from small development teams to make downloadable Xbox 360 games and then upload them to the Xbox Live Indie Games channel. If the next Xbox is based on Windows 8, game developers only have to learn how to make Modern UI-based games to have them published for the console.

There's been a lot of talk lately about how Sony has been trying to court more independent game studios to make games for the PlayStation 4. An example is Jonathan Blow, who released Braid for the Xbox 360 first several years ago. However, his next game, The Witness, will make its console debut on the PS4. Many indie game developers feel that they have had a hard time dealing with Microsoft in the past few years in terms of publishing games on the Xbox 360.

However, if anyone can publish games for the next Xbox via the Windows Store, it might make things easier for indie games to make their mark on the console. It could also make it easier for those developers to promote their games if the next Xbox retains the Windows 8 Modern UI. That could allow Microsoft to put a better spotlight on those games than the current set up for Xbox Live Indie Games.

Bill Gates wants a Windows PC to be the hub of every home. He may get his wish.

Perhaps more importantly, having a Windows 8-based next Xbox would mean that Microsoft would help to fulfill a long time dream of its chairman Bill Gates when he wanted to see a Windows PC as the hub of a normal home. As far back as 2002 during Microsoft's keynote speech at CES, Gates talked about how he saw the Windows PC connecting to the television, the music player and other objects in the home. He stated at the time, "Everything in the home will be connected."

Fast forward to 2013. There are lots of homes with WiFi networks that connect to notebooks, desktops, tablets and smartphones. However, many homes use hardware and software from lots of different companies than just Microsoft. A household might use an iPad from Apple, a PC made by Dell or HP, a notebook made by Lenovo, a smartphone made by Samsung running on Android and a game console from Sony or Nintendo. Even many TVs can connect to a WiFi network on their own, streaming content from Netflix.

Gates and Microsoft know that a living room PC would evolve into a true electronics hub for any household. A game console or a set top box is an intermediate step towards that goal. A game console that's also a Windows 8 PC would be an even greater step towards that milestone and it might also encourage others to buy, for example, a Surface tablet or a Windows Phone-based smartphone to link to that next Xbox more easily.

Long time Microsoft-themed journalist Paul Thurrott claims via his own sources that the next Xbox will cost $500, or $300 with some kind of contract to sign up for Xbox Live. While paying $500 for a game console might seem expensive, paying that much money for what is basically a Windows 8 PC is a bit more reasonable.

The big question: Could this Windows 8-based next Xbox (if indeed that is what Microsoft has in mind) also be used as a true PC, complete with access to the Windows 8 desktop UI? We doubt that Microsoft would give owners of the next Xbox fast access to the desktop interface, especially since new rumors claim that the console will basically take over the UI of the television it is hooked into. But we bet that a bunch of modders will waste no time in changing things up to make the next Xbox a desktop computer.

Microsoft has been making hardware for a long time, with its own keyboards, mice and controllers, and then moving up to the Xbox console, the Zune media player and most recently the Surface. Even the leader of the Surface team, Panos Panay, has admitted that the Surface Pro, running on Windows 8 Pro, should be considered a PC. It's not that much of a stretch to say that the next Xbox could also be a Windows 8 desktop PC, even if Microsoft doesn't actually call it by that term. Hopefully we won't have to wait much long to learn what's really inside the next Xbox.

Images via Future Publishing, VGLeaks and Microsoft

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dagamer34 said,
I challenge you to build a competent gaming PC for $400 that will last for 5+ years.

when you factor in how much you will pay for XBox live over 5+ years, and all of the costs involved with peripherals, you will be able to build a pc that competes!

who gives a **** about indie games. people buy consoles for the triple A titles, not some ****ty indie games.

Indie games are often cheap. <5bucks and some still give me hours of entertainment. While I have full priced games I have played less hours and are 10 times more expensive.

Indie devs will avoid this like the plague! MS has been EXTREMELY difficult to work with on the 360, and I don't see that improving with "Durango", or Windows 8 and RT for that matter. You still have to go through their obtuse and opaque approvals process, and you still have to pay exorbitant amounts to release even a simple patch! EPIC INDIE FAIL here...nothing to see..move along.

No, Sony has a good history of supporting indie devs... wait no they don't.
They only changed this attitude slowly over the past several years. And they say they have improved for the PS4, but we'll see.

indie developers are best served developing on the PC. Then they don't need to get corporate approval for their projects and they can sell it in whatever manner they wish. They also get full control over their own updates and patches.

I have been saying all along, I see the technology race as another tortoise and hare situation. Apple and Google are the hares and MS is the tortoise. Look at it like this, MS has so many irons in the fire right now:
Office
Windows 8
Windows phone
Xbox
Surface

Basic math tells you that all they need is to hit one out of the park and the rest, because there connected by software will follow.

Whatever it is, I am surely buying it. My Xbox 360 is the best investment I made in computer hardware in the past 10 years. It earned itself back more than double I paid for it. Where I live I don't have access to subsidized phones and other hardware, so $399 for the console was cheaper the $699 for my Lumia 920. Yes, some people had blue-ring problems, but so did other high-end hardware, yet MS problem is the one that everyone remembers. I run a full Microsoft-only environment at both home and work, that means WP8(4) phones (Lumia 920, 620 & 720, HTC 8x) , Surface Pro, Surface RT, Win7 & Win8 Laptops, Win8 All-in-one and an Xbox 360. And I see how they all are coming together slowly but certainly. Especially with Office 365 Home Premium, Xbox family pack and a Microsoft Family account, managing the family and its devices has never been easier.

As much as I hate the "ModernUI" on a desktop I can see how it would work on an Xbox. However it seems unlikely to me that Microsoft will put a full OS on the next xbox

Javik said,
As much as I hate the "ModernUI" on a desktop I can see how it would work on an Xbox. However it seems unlikely to me that Microsoft will put a full OS on the next xbox

but the xbox 360 already has the moden ui, it's been there for a few dashboard versions now, just in a modified form and not as flat

This article....

first of XNA wasn't just a way to make xbox games easily.... it was basically an entire game framework that made writing games easy in .NET, that could easily be ported from windows to the xbox and to zune (yes zune)... It was basically the replacement for managed directx which MS discontinued in favor of XNA... now we have no real managed directx interface sponsored by MS....

and as for windows 8 on the next xbox... of course it will be, XBOX always ran a variant of the latest windows NT kernel / OS... we already know the next system is using the 6.2 kernel, we had indications of that since windows 8 was in beta having all the xbox strings in the kernel...

does this mean it will have a "start screen".. um well yes, the xbox 360 already has that...

so will this make it easier for devs? no not really, they will still have to port to different API's... MS relies on directx not opengl if you go between PS4 and XBOX would have to change a little bit there on the DX/OGL front... run x86-64 code? sure might make it easier to port base code, and keep engines the same across systems and desktops...

but don't expect to see anything like touch screen game consoles in your living room....

neufuse said,
...now we have no real managed directx interface sponsored by MS....

This line made me so sad...as now I have to go back to C++ for independent game development instead of C# which was so much easier. *sigh*

Well, after I finish my current xna game for xblig first.

Zedox said,

This line made me so sad...as now I have to go back to C++ for independent game development instead of C# which was so much easier. *sigh*

Well, after I finish my current xna game for xblig first.

I liked XNA, it just made writing small games easy as heck, they gave you the sprite engine already working, fonts where easy to make, 3D was easy, they had a lot of the game backend already setup for you... organized nicely in visual studio... it was a definite step up from Managed DirectX..... now... nothing... thanks Microsoft..

neufuse said,

I liked XNA, it just made writing small games easy as heck, they gave you the sprite engine already working, fonts where easy to make, 3D was easy, they had a lot of the game backend already setup for you... organized nicely in visual studio... it was a definite step up from Managed DirectX..... now... nothing... thanks Microsoft..

Look up SharpDX. It is a managed wrapper around that DirectX that is 10 times faster than XNA and features a similar Game API to XNA. I've used it for my games on WinRT and Windows Phone 8 and its been great. However, no support for Xbox

I have ZERO faith in microsoft after the FAIL of MILLIONS of Over heating bacon cooking pieces of $%^@ they released .

No Reason in the world you would release hardware without any Cooling at all.
I would be very very very careful next gen.

if its more powerful then it will prob run way hotter and do you really trust microsoft knows what its doing after the RROD i do not think so.

most people have no idea how many Revisions the 360 had under the hood to try and fix cooling .

I have over ( 13 ) Heatsinks with and without heatpipes and fans from all revisions .
( Hint Repair Shop )

i will be Wii U and ps4 only be careful

Edited by TurboShrimp, Apr 12 2013, 11:25am :

i think thats the reason why i would trust microsoft, after learning the hard way you can be sure that they won't have this problem again and they will make the console a lot better in terms of heat dissipation.

u serious? not all xbox360's failed i still have my fat 360 from over 6 years ago never heated never rrod never nothing and its still copping a hammering from me, to me ive had nothign but good experences with xbox

TurboShrimp said,
I have ZERO faith in microsoft after the FAIL of MILLIONS of Over heating bacon cooking pieces of $%^@ they released .

No Reason in the world you would release hardware without any Cooling at all.
I would be very very very careful next gen.

if its more powerful then it will prob run way hotter and do you really trust microsoft knows what its doing after the RROD i do not think so.

most people have no idea how many Revisions the 360 had under the hood to try and fix cooling .

I have over ( 13 ) Heatsinks with and without heatpipes and fans from all revisions .
( Hint Repair Shop )

i will be Wii U and ps4 only be careful

The 360 had cooling. Cooling wasn't the issue, it never ran "too hot". This is a misunderstanding of the actual issue that caused those 360's to fail. The problem wasn't a lack of cooling, it was a design flaw that caused solder joints to fail after repeated heating and cooling. Believe it or not, the PS3 had a similar issue, just not on the same scale as the 360.

In any case, saying "it's more powerful, so it'll be hotter" is naive at best. Supercomputers from the 1970's ran seriously hot, requiring liquid nitrogen to cool them. That same power can now be found inside your phone, in your pocket. Your pocket hasn't burst into flames recently, has it? And I presume you don't carry around a vat of liquid nitrogen to keep it cool, either.

Cyborg_X said,
Wii U ? Really?

Yes wiiu is a very good console and I love it . It may not be next gen to you but it is more powerfull then this gen so it is next gen understand ?

Google will help your facts before you post or / Troll next time

You do realize that you're the only one that ever brings up the Wii U in threads/articles that have NOTHING to do with the Wii U, right? Also, I'm not sure how you can criticize others at this point for their "hatred" of the Wii U, when you can't stop posting about how the Xbox sucks at every turn.

Give it a rest already.

Kushan said,

The 360 had cooling. Cooling wasn't the issue, it never ran "too hot". This is a misunderstanding of the actual issue that caused those 360's to fail. The problem wasn't a lack of cooling, it was a design flaw that caused solder joints to fail after repeated heating and cooling. Believe it or not, the PS3 had a similar issue, just not on the same scale as the 360.

In any case, saying "it's more powerful, so it'll be hotter" is naive at best. Supercomputers from the 1970's ran seriously hot, requiring liquid nitrogen to cool them. That same power can now be found inside your phone, in your pocket. Your pocket hasn't burst into flames recently, has it? And I presume you don't carry around a vat of liquid nitrogen to keep it cool, either.

Exactly and it's certainly not limited to Microsoft, BGA joint failures kill many other devices. Laptop graphics chips are particularly prone to it. The boards flex a bit as they heat up and cool and it eventually breaks the chip's connections loose.

I really hate BGA by the way, hope someone comes up with a better design someday.

dead.cell said,
You do realize that you're the only one that ever brings up the Wii U in threads/articles that have NOTHING to do with the Wii U, right? Also, I'm not sure how you can criticize others at this point for their "hatred" of the Wii U, when you can't stop posting about how the Xbox sucks at every turn.

Give it a rest already.

Not all of us are Microsoft fanboys I only speak the truth some people just don't like to hear it. And the 360 does not suck it just took them years to release a stable console more then 3/4 into its life span . So for that reason I have a ton of problems with Xbox .

I will also praise the Wii u every second I can because it deserves it. Again it's ok if yo do not.

Well if the next xbox is essentially a PC then they had better make it come with some truly spectacular exclusive games and international rollout of content, otherwise why buy one? If all I want is PC games, I'd get a PC (and better graphics to boot) and if I want quirky indie games, PS4 so far seems to be the console that will have them.

Waiting eagerly for the Xbox announcement to see what MS brings.

Astra.Xtreme said,

That would be the troll of the millennium.

Only ones MS would be trolling is themselves since many people are ignoring Windows 8 due to the forced, default, user-hostile interface environment.

MVD said,

Only ones MS would be trolling is themselves since many people are ignoring Windows 8 due to the forced, default, user-hostile interface environment.

Okay smart mouth, tell me please what is so frigging hostile about this:
http://r-p-m.eu/images/uploads/windows8hostilehuh.png

I use no 3rd party apps to change the looks, i'm just using what came with Windows.... I don't see why on earth you gotta hate except for having hate.
But nono, Windows 8 doesn't look like Windows 7! It misses an ugly moving orb, the rounded corners and the distracting seethrough top part of separate windows.... NONO THE HORROR THE ABSOLUTE HORROR.

But enjoy your dark and bitter world mate.

You ignoring Metro underlines my point, ace. If its so great you wouldn't have to ignore it. And if it was so great Microsoft wouldn't be afraid to give us an uninstall option so those of us on non touch devices dont have to have it sitting there running resident in memory and popping up at inopportune times when we brush the windows key accidentally.

Also, if the start button and start menu were supposedly so useless before, why make it full screen now? None of this makes sense, stop trying to rationalize tablet design forced onto their desktop users.

MVD said,
You ignoring Metro underlines my point, ace. If its so great you wouldn't have to ignore it. And if it was so great Microsoft wouldn't be afraid to give us an uninstall option so those of us on non touch devices dont have to have it sitting there running resident in memory and popping up at inopportune times when we brush the windows key accidentally.

Also, if the start button and start menu were supposedly so useless before, why make it full screen now? None of this makes sense, stop trying to rationalize tablet design forced onto their desktop users.


Metro is optional. The only thing "Forced" is the start screen. Which is gone with 1 click of a button and not to be seen again until the next reboot.
You do not have to use Metro mate.. If you don't like it... don't use it. I don't like it and i'm not using it as you see. Without 3rd party addons. And I do not have the need or urge to spread my word of "I HATE METRO" all around everywhere all the time.

Or do you see me using Metro in the screenshot... Or do you see me using Windows 8 like I would've used Windows 7? Grow up please.

Shadowzz said,

Metro is optional. The only thing "Forced" is the start screen. Which is gone with 1 click of a button and not to be seen again until the next reboot.
You do not have to use Metro mate.. If you don't like it... don't use it. I don't like it and i'm not using it as you see. Without 3rd party addons. And I do not have the need or urge to spread my word of "I HATE METRO" all around everywhere all the time.

Or do you see me using Metro in the screenshot... Or do you see me using Windows 8 like I would've used Windows 7? Grow up please.

Well unless your desktop is plastered with shortcuts for every program you have installed, you constantly have to switch back and forth between Metro. It gets old really fast.

togermano said,
will that mean my PC should be able to play xbox games

No, but you should be able to install and play the same XBLA and XBLIG if the developers target both platforms (we already see this with a few games that can be played on the 360, Windows 8 and Windows Phone). The same for apps to, if they go that far and have a full store in it. As for the big games, no, but that's a different story.

togermano said,
will that mean my PC should be able to play xbox games
No, but this would make it easy to port games between Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone.

It should eventually just be a case of the dev making a Windows 8 app and it working on the next Xbox and Windows Phone too, with little to no changes made to the app. Which is what MS are aiming for with Win 8/RT and WP apps in the Blue updates to both platforms.

So theres no reason why they can't also do this with the next Xbox if it's running a modified Win 8. All it has to do is have the same API's, which rumours suggest it does.

GP007 said,
As for the big games, no, but that's a different story.

If the 'big games' aren't playable then none of the rest of the $hit really matters, who careesa if some flash game quality crap is playable on both PC and Xbox. They shouldn't be trying to brand stuff Xbox on the PC version of Win8 if the meaningful content is still stuck on one box. Thats a fail.

MVD said,

If the 'big games' aren't playable then none of the rest of the $hit really matters, who careesa if some flash game quality crap is playable on both PC and Xbox. They shouldn't be trying to brand stuff Xbox on the PC version of Win8 if the meaningful content is still stuck on one box. Thats a fail.

That's not the same thing, what you want is the ability to buy a AAA Xbox game on a bd disc and expect it to play on your PC, why would that ever be a option? Those have their own PC versions/ports that you can get from other places. We're talking about games sold specifically through MSs Live service, that's XBL Arcade games and people also expect the same for indie games plus apps to. From the moment those games use the BXL service as it's backend then it doesn't matter if it's on the PC or the Phone or the Xbox, they'll get the branding.

It would be nice but no. Same with the original Xbox, is was as vanilla a PC as you could get but the software for it was not Windows compatible and because of the encryption they used there are still no Xbox emulators to this day despite there being very little to actually emulate. Even if the new one ran plain old Windows 8 I'm sure they would never allow the games to run on PCs. The games are how they make a profit on the consoles.

Porting from XB to Windows (or even from XB360 to Windows) is easily among the *easiest* of ports - the other consoles, surprisingly, aren't much harder. The bigger issue is designing games that don't look or act like they are *alien* to a platform - not encryption so much.

TheLegendOfMart said,
Xbox and Xbox 360 used a modified Windows 2000 Kernel, the new Xbox won't run Windows 8, but it will probably have Windows 8 Kernel.

It probably won't run Windows 8 as a whole, it doesn't have to, it has to run enough of the OS and the WinRT APIs to let developers code games and apps for it just as they would for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. That's what they mean really.

JustAnotherTechie said,
Sorry to disappoint... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_NT#32-bit_platforms
"According to Microsoft, it is a common misconception that the Xbox and Xbox 360 use a modified Windows 2000 kernel. They claim that the Xbox operating system was built from scratch but implements a subset of Windows APIs. The idea that it does, indeed, run a modified copy of the Windows kernel still persists in the community."

Something can't be built from scratch and yet "implement a subset of Windows APIs".

I've watched projects progress that started in a "from scratch" mentality that ended up pulling in code from another project(s) to cut down on time. At the end of the day, those "from scratch" projects ended up looking a lot like the pre-existing systems they borrowed from.

Condere said,

Something can't be built from scratch and yet "implement a subset of Windows APIs".

I've watched projects progress that started in a "from scratch" mentality that ended up pulling in code from another project(s) to cut down on time. At the end of the day, those "from scratch" projects ended up looking a lot like the pre-existing systems they borrowed from.

of course you can. that's like libraries in C++

JustAnotherTechie said,
Sorry to disappoint... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_NT#32-bit_platforms
"According to Microsoft, it is a common misconception that the Xbox and Xbox 360 use a modified Windows 2000 kernel. They claim that the Xbox operating system was built from scratch but implements a subset of Windows APIs. The idea that it does, indeed, run a modified copy of the Windows kernel still persists in the community."

It uses the NT kernel.
It uses a modified DirectX. The Windows 7 improvements in DirectX come mainly from the Xbox project.

Condere said,

Something can't be built from scratch and yet "implement a subset of Windows APIs".

I've watched projects progress that started in a "from scratch" mentality that ended up pulling in code from another project(s) to cut down on time. At the end of the day, those "from scratch" projects ended up looking a lot like the pre-existing systems they borrowed from.


Vista was written from scratch. They reset the whole Longhorn project and started out with nothing and build it from the ground up.
But it doesn't make it any less of a Windows then XP or 7 does it.

Xbox uses a variety of Windows. The NT kernel is in there for sure and the Windows API's required are ported over (and more over time I believe to become a multimedia console).
Anyone who truly things its a complete new and unique Kernel not related to NT is out of his damn mind.
Even Azure runs NT.

JustAnotherTechie said,
Sorry to disappoint... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_NT#32-bit_platforms
"According to Microsoft, it is a common misconception that the Xbox and Xbox 360 use a modified Windows 2000 kernel. They claim that the Xbox operating system was built from scratch but implements a subset of Windows APIs. The idea that it does, indeed, run a modified copy of the Windows kernel still persists in the community."

I don't think anyone there really knows either. The fact is that it uses the NT kernel and a completely object oriented OS which has access to many DirectX and standard Windows APIs.

Shadowzz said,

Vista was written from scratch. They reset the whole Longhorn project and started out with nothing and build it from the ground up.

Vista was absolutely not written from scratch. They did start over but they didn't start from nothing, they actually moved forward to the current NT kernel at the time (Server 2003 I think if I remember correctly) and started from it.

Both writes of Vista were technically from scratch - however, Longhorn (the first one) was based on the Windows XP kernel - while Vista the shipped product was based on the Server 2003 kernel. In other words, the NTWS kernel (as existed since NT4WS) died with XP except for niche usage (such as Xbox). Every desktop OS from Vista out shares a LOT of code with the server OS released alongside it (enough that Server 2012 was originally called Windows 8 Server).