You know the drill by now. Unconfirmed sources, might well be a load of old bollocks, but we might as well trot it all out for your perusal and consideration so that we can all speculate on how it might all turn out. Because even if though we'll forget all of the untrue rumours the second the real machine is announced, at least we'll have filled half an hour on an otherwise uneventful Thursday morning, right?
New Xbox rumour of the day? The next-gen Xbox 720 (or whatever MS decides to call it) will have a Blu-ray drive (sensible), will launch Kinect 2 (probable, but unappealing), and block the playing of used games (and Dave did duck below his desk, for a torrent of flame did burst across the horizon like tumultulous flatulence of a meat-hungry dragon).
Above: They do look good together...
So, analysis and speculation time? Oh go on then. Blu-ray, surely, is mandatory at this stage. Forget the argument about DVDs not being big enough for modern games. This isn't even about that. Despite Microsoft's bitching and moaning, and the delaying tactic of pretending to launch HD-DVD as a competitor while it worked on getting all of its Xbox Live video streaming tech and service provider deals off the ground (because let's face it, HD-DVD was probably only ever really a decoy), Blu-ray is a new mainstream media format and the world is picking it up in droves. Angling the new Xbox towards being a media centre and not giving it a Blu-ray drive out of petty rivalry is akin to a supermarket refusing to stock bread, milk and cheese because the shop down the road also sells them.
Kinect 2? Yeah, probably. Though if the idea of Kinect being integrated into the 720 is correct, it'll have to be ready for launch. No-one's going to want to upgrade their whole machine for a new peripheral. And even if a separate device, to release an upgraded Kinect (current word is that it will contain the accuracy-boosting onboard processor that the original unit lost during development) part-way through the new Xbox's lifespan would split the market and make things hard for developers.
Above: However it works out, we'll be getting a whole lot more of this
Blocking used games? I'm not sure how this would techically work (probably an Online Pass type system built into the console as standard, requiring a box-bundled code to even boot the game. Or maybe some on-disc code that binds to your Xbox Live account upon first load), but it's likely to kick up one hell of a stink between gamers, publishers and retail.
Big publishers will love having a console which gives them anti-trade-in functionality as standard across the board. Brick-and-mortar will hate the attack on their second-hand business (the biggest money-spinner for any high street games vendor), probably leading to some serious platform-holder/retailer friction. Remember when EB Games Australia boycotted Capcom's Resident Evil: Mercenaries due to the perceived attack on used game sales made by its lack of rewritable save files?). And if the system does follow the online pass model, and passes can be bought as vouchers at retail, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see shops selling the required codes off far cheaper than RRP in order to maintain their used sales. Or even bundling them free with used games.
Above: Artist's impression
And at this point the whole technical execution of the system falls apart. You see there's no way that MS or third-party publishers would allow retail to do that. So the passes would have to be bought and activated online, through Xbox Live, or UPlay or whatever. And that would block offline console gamers from playing used games at all. And that would send gamers fleeing from Microsoft and into the loving arms of Sony. Because while Sony now has a policy of installing an Online Pass system into all of its first-party games, it only affects online play, meaning that if your machine isn't internet-enabled, the system doesn't cause you to miss out on anything you weren't already missing.
Even if the new Xbox used some kind of randomised, on-disc code to bond a disc to an Xbox Live account, with game discs (presumably) not rewritable, the only way to determine whether a particular disc had been used before would be through - yes - checking of an online register. So unless MS is planning on using some manner of crazy new, high-falutin sci-fi system I've never before dreamed off, this rumour is probably dead in the water.
And let's face it, the hackers would see it in the same way that an already-angry bull sees a red flag emblazoned with "Hey, you're a knob-head, bull".