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Next Xbox to feature 'Avatar'-like graphics?

The next version of the console could boast a dramatically improved graphical experience, according to an interview in Official Xbox Magazine with an executive at AMD, which has been heavily involved in Xbox graphics hardware.

Will the next Xbox have "Avatar"-like graphics?
Will the next Xbox have "Avatar"-like graphics?

The next Xbox could boast a dramatically improved graphical experience, AMD's director of ISV relationship management, Neal Robison, told Official Xbox Magazine in an interview published yesterday.

According to Robison, whose company has been heavily involved in Xbox graphics hardware, the next iteration in Microsoft's console line will come "pretty darn close" to offering the graphical sophistication of 2009 megahit "Avatar." The movie set new standards in computer-generated graphics, and was celebrated by critics and graphical technicians alike for its breathtaking visuals.

Even better for those who want more-realistic gameplay experiences, Robison says artificial intelligence will be markedly better in the next Xbox. He told Official Xbox Magazine that the upcoming console will have the power to assign "individual personalities" to pedestrians on a crowded, in-game city street, thus making them act more human-like. In most Xbox games today, pedestrians can only do one thing, such as walk, run away from something that supposedly scares them, or say something with the game's character.

Developers will likely benefit most from the improvements Robison claims are coming to the next Xbox. He told the magazine that "right now, the higher-end game developers are really maxing out what the 360 is capable of doing," which means a refresh might be in order.

Of course, when that refresh will actually happen remains to be seen. Earlier this year, video game blog Kotaku cited "industry sources" that claimed both Microsoft and Sony would be launching follow-ups to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2014.

But debate rages over whether new consoles are really needed in today's marketplace. As Electronic Arts CFO Eric Brown pointed out last year, there aren't any good reasons for Microsoft or Sony to release new consoles anytime soon.

"Today we have two of the three consoles that operate in full high-definition and are running games at 60 frames per second," Brown said. "If you step back and say if it's a multibillion capital dollar investment for the next generation, the question I would ask is 'if you were to produce that then what would you display it on?' There's really nothing in terms of broadly available consumer viewing technology other than 1080p flat panel televisions. And so you could upgrade in theory, but you wouldn't get the obvious graphical benefit that we saw really drove the sharp transitions in the prior cycle."

Nintendo, on the other hand, is planning to launch a follow-up to its Wii console next year. That device, called the Wii U, will feature a 6.2-inch touch-screen-equipped controller and offer improved graphical capabilities.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to request for comment on its next console.