It’s that time again. The current generation of consoles have been available for roughly six years now. That means that the next generation is on its way, with Nintendo’s latest offering–the Wii U–already slated for a holiday 2012 release date.

Sony and Microsoft haven’t been as forthcoming, and Sony supposedly isn’t even worrying about a new console at the moment, citing a “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” attitude. On the Microsoft side, the “Xbox 720” is reportedly in the works, and there was even a rumor that it would be officially announced at this year’s CES. It wasn’t, sadly, but there’s always E3 in June. With the new console on everyone’s minds, the rumor mill has been steadily churning, giving us things to look forward to and something to start worrying about.

Fall 2013 Release Date

This isn’t surprising (or even that interesting, frankly), but IGN is reporting that Microsoft’s new console will be shipping to retailers in the Fall of 2013. With the Wii U set to release this holiday season, that gives Nintendo almost a year to captialize on the lack of next-generation competition, but it may also be a smart move, waiting for the Nintendo hysteria to die down.

Six Times More Powerful Than the Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 uses a triple-core IBM Xenon chip and an ATI Xenos GPU. It was originally reported that the 720 would use a new IBM chip called the Oban, as well as an ATI 7000-series Southern Island GPU. Newer reports say that the GPU will be closer to the ATI 6000 series. Now that all of that boring gibberish is out of the way, here’s the good part: rumor has it that the new Xbox will be six times more powerful than the 360. That’s a mighty fine upgrade.

Kinect 2

I’ve never used a Kinect, and while I’m not exactly dying to try it out, I do like the idea and I like where the technology is heading. Microsoft likes it too, so much so that there’s talk of the next Xbox coming with something of a sequel to the Kinect. This new version will reportedly contain an onboard processor, something that Microsoft wanted in the first Kinect. This would give the unit more power and increase its motion-detecting capabilities.

Blu-Ray Player

Remember when Nintendo insisted on still using cartridges when the competition had moved on to compact discs? This feels a little like that. Not only do Blu-Rays allow for bigger and better looking games, the ability to watch Blu-Ray films is also a huge plus. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a requirement, if Microsoft wants to keep pushing the Xbox as a media machine, the ability to play Blu-Rays is a pretty crucial element, regardless of how much streaming is taking off.

Won’t Play Used Games

Wha-wha-what?! While this doesn’t feel all that likely, the rumors are still out there and the gaming industry has been complaining about used games for quite some time now. There’s a lot of discussion regarding how Microsoft would implement such a feature (or a lack of a feature), and people are pointing to PC gaming as an example to follow, with the use of authentication keys and things of that nature. I have numerous problems with this idea that have been covered in various articles across the internet, but it all boils down to this: I can’t afford to spend $60 on every quality title that hits the shelves. And if this technology is implemented and prevents me from buying used, borrowing, or even renting a game, I just won’t be able to play all the games I want to anymore. It would become very difficult to be a gamer.

With the exception of the truly awful, awful idea of the Xbox 720 not playing used games, I’m very much looking forward to what Microsoft brings us, as long as it’s not actually called the Xbox 720. Technology increases exponentially by its very nature, and while that will eventually lead to the creation of Skynet and humanity’s complete and total destruction, in the meantime we get to reap the benefits. I’m very much looking forward to a console that will play top-notch games, act as the ultimate media machine, all while detecting my voice and motions. It’s a good time to be alive. But it won’t be for long, on account of the terminators.

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