Directly on the heels of discovering an internal Microsoft video showing WGX's vision for ubiquitous gaming across platforms(Xbox, Windows, Windows Phone et al), I have now stumbled upon an incredibly tiny-though-significant morsel from a designer Microsoft has brought on-board to collaborate with their IEB (Interactive Entertainment Business) Design group to investigate future user experience scenarios and hardware for the Xbox circa 2015.
Posted just yesterday (3/20/2011) on the Web portfolio of one Ben Peterson, here is a screen shot of the noted confidential project as it currently resides (click the image to see it at full size):
Microsoft Xbox: Confidential / Collaboration with Microsoft's IEB Design group investigating future user experiences and hardware for 2015. *Work samples only permissible in person.* (March 2011)
We can glean from the noted March 2011 date above that this is a completely new project just getting underway. As for the black devices we see, obviously he did not want to disclose more than a huge tease. The top half looks like a stand of some sort with something attached to the top if it while the bottom half looks like a zoomed-in section of a Kinect-shaped device, but that's merely guess work on my behalf, of course.
The main question currently burning in my mind is if Microsoft is simply aiming to utilize the Xbox 360 platform in 2015 and just keep introducing new devices, or if they're going to go big and release a whole new console with a game-changing user experience accompanying it. Personally, I'm thinking the latter. One reason I say this is because 2015 is 4 years away. That would put the Xbox 360 at almost 10 yearson the market. I can't see the Xbox 360 platform lasting beyond another 4 years.
Also, consider the Nintendo 3DS, if you will. It's a device that gives us a completely new gaming experience by being the first to utilize built-in 3D technology like it does. Be it visually, interactively, or otherwise, I think Microsoft is going to shoot for a similar approach via the implementation of technology based on innovation achieved by in-house research and development; not simply create a product encompassing the familiar.
Unlike the Nintendo 3DS, though, I'm not sure that Microsoft will take the 3D route. If they do, I have no doubt they are working on addressing the issues that all but secure the death of 3D as it's currently implemented in cinemaand elsewhere. Not to mention the headaches, eye strain, and other adverse effects many people experience when spending time immersed in current 3D technologies.
Whatever the case may be, the 2015 time frame is one that gives Microsoft considerable time for R&D, prototyping, production, and marketing planning, so I don't see this as being too far off the mark from Microsoft planning a big release. Personally, I'm still a PC gamer, so I wouldn't know where to begin with suggestions or recommendations for Microsoft's projections for 2015. With that in mind, I'm relying on all of you console gamers out there to provide some feedback in this space!
What kind of advancements would YOUlike to see on the next generation of Xbox hardware? Do you think a more powerful console is in need at this point or are you satisfied with how games currently look and perform? Also, how about user experience? Has your Kinect enhanced your gaming experience or do you feel Microsoft fell short of the mark?
Let us hear from you in the comments below!
3/22/2011 Update: Fellow CBSi blog GameSpot picked up on this story yesterday and sought to find out what they could from either Microsoft or Ben Peterson. Their update included a comment from Eurogamer who heard from Ben: "I'm a student designer, it's not real." There is additional evidence to suggest that Mr. Peterson hasn't been completely honest with other work he claims he has been a part of in his portfolio, as you can read here.
Well, I'm still not sure which side to believe. Personally, I couldn't care less about the actual date or release of a new Xbox release because I'm still a steadfast PC gamer. With that said, I did a little bit of URL hacking back when I first discovered this guy's profile and ran across the following image (which I didn't post because I didn't find it relevant to at the time):
To note, the original URL that image was tied to was also discovered by someone after this story went live yesterday as you can see here, although it is now currently a dead link. At any rate, WWU ID? A quick Google search revealed Western Washington University: Industrial Design. The school has an address of 516 High St. Bellingham, WA 98225 and it's no secret that Microsoft (located in Redmond, WA) loves to utilize local talent for their design projects. After finding that bit of information, I decided to see if Ben Peterson was listed anywhere on WWU's site via the following Google query: site:wwu.edu "Ben Peterson"
Lo and behold, he is located hereon a WWU "Staff Information" page under a section titled "technology assistants," about 1/4 down the page. His noted programs of expertise? Illustrator, Photoshop, and Premiere -- all programs that would make one capable of taking part in such a project.
So, at the very least, the conclusion I'm drawing is that I don't quite buy his explanation that this was simply a fake on his behalf -- especially now that we have evidence suggesting that it is/was his university that likely has/had the partnership with Microsoft IEB; not just him. This may also explain the inconsistencies GameSpot pointed out in their article. Lastly, if this was all just one big fake/hoax, then why did he remove it from his site when the story spread like wildfire?
Again, I have no motives for wanting to believe that this really is just something more than a fake, but I still see compelling evidence to the contrary. For the time being, at least.