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What’s ahead for the Xbox One?

Microsoft has always marketed the Xbox One as a gaming machine that can enhance your living room.  This has played out very well for the Xbox One but recently has faltered in the light of the Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) being a more powerful machine.   This has given customers the idea that the Xbox One is a less capable gaming machine which costs $100 more than the PS4.  The last week and a half brought a couple news items to leave gamers and Xbox One owners scratching their heads.
XBox OneDirectX 12 revealed
Last week at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) Microsoft announced a new version of Direct X (Direct X 12), their 3D graphics framework.  The focus of Direct X 12 is to create a more efficient API which allows developers to get closer to the hardware than ever before.  This essentially allows developers to target a variety of different hardware variations with a single API; distributing the workload across multiple cores and squeezing every last drop of power out of the respective hardware.  This approach is very similar to what happens when developing on a console.  The main difference is consoles have a single hardware configuration where PC’s can have a nearly infinite configuration.  
Direct X 12 being introduced in the very beginning of the new console generation is extremely beneficial for Microsoft and the Xbox.  Essentially any benchmark differential the Xbox One has with the PS4 can potentially be eliminated through software if game developers are using Direct X 12.  This is also great news for PC gamers.  The Xbox One essentially runs Windows 8.1; a game written for the Xbox using Direct X 12 can be ported to the PC version of Windows with few coding changes.  When Microsoft completes the API consolidation across the Windows platform in 2015, deploying to Xbox and any other Windows device will be as simple as selecting your target and press ‘Build’.
Facebook buys Oculus Rift for 2 billion dollars
Oculus Rift got its initial investment from a Kickstarter campaign and has become the leader in virtual reality technology.  At GDC Oculus revealed the second iteration of its developer kit along with initial plans to begin selling their virtual reality headset to consumers later this year.  This consumer device works with PC’s and developers can specifically target the device in order to create compelling virtual reality environments for their games.   Sony also revealed their own virtual reality technology to compete with Oculus.  Sony’s virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus,  is positioned to be an add-on for the PS4.  Strangely, Microsoft was not involved in any discussions revolving around virtual reality technology.  In a shocking move shortly after GDC, Facebook announced it would be purchasing Oculus Rift for approximately $2 billion.
One has to ask, where was Microsoft during this?  They were quick to release the Kinect after Nintendo popularized motion based gaming but have remained strangely quiet in regards to virtual reality.  Do they have a plan regarding virtual reality technology for the Xbox One or do they see it as a passing fad?  Microsoft may indeed have some Xbox news at next week’s Build conference as the Xbox One OS is due for a large update.

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Brian ODonnell

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