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Xbox One: what we don't know

There are still quite a few unanswered questions about the next-generation console offering from Microsoft.

Sure, Microsoft may have had an actual console on display at its launch and maybe even some second generation Kinect units for people to play with, but it still left a lot of questions to be answered.

(Credit: Microsoft)

We've had a look at what we learned from this morning's Xbox One launch event, now let's see what we don't know.

What features will be available at launch in Australia?

When first revealed, it looked as if the Xbox One was replacing a US-style cable box when showing Live TV. As we found out later, that's not the case — it's just receiving the signal from an external source. You'll still need a set-top box of some sort plugged in via HDMI.

In the US, that's a fairly simple proposition — there's a host of cable TV companies all around the country and they're reasonably common. It's estimated that 84.4 per cent of American homes have pay TV subscriptions.

In Australia that number is 29 per cent, all of it Foxtel. And of that approximately 2.3 million people, less than 75 per cent are using a Foxtel iQ box, the rest accessing the service via other means such as a T-Box, a Smart TV or set-top box app.

That makes it a very different environment for Microsoft to be able to offer the full range of functionality we saw, such as the personalised EPG. So they're not going to offer those functions (at least not initially) outside of the US.

Microsoft Australia has told us that Live TV is an important component of the Xbox One experience and it's dedicated to bringing it to every market no matter how the TV content is delivered.

It's just not going to be a launch feature and we don't have a date for it.

The same goes for the new natural language for Kinect. The original Kinect wasn't capable of launch commands when it first launched in Australia, and Microsoft hasn't confirmed or denied whether the so-called Kinect 2 will suffer from the same problems.

And what other features might not be present? The Xbox One press release has the following line: "save and store your personalised profile, games and entertainment in the cloud to access them anytime, from any Xbox One console". However, it adds the footnote: "Subject to geographical content restrictions."

Is it an always on device?

It is categorically not an always on device... unless, apparently, you want all of the features you've paid for.

It's not just your save data and account info that's cloud-based — it's game-based content and even some of the processing power that will run you games, should the devs choose to integrate those functions into a title.

So, no — you may not need to have it net connected constantly, but quite it's possible that games might play very differently (or maybe even not at all) if your ISP connection goes down.

What games and features might be affected or even disabled by a lack of a net connection? We'll have to wait and see.

Will you need a paid Xbox Live subscription?

At the moment, an Xbox Live Gold account costs AU$79.95 a year and is required for a lot of what some people might see as core functionality for the Xbox 360. Foxtel on Xbox 360, multiplayer, Internet Explorer access and much more all need the Gold subscription.

The question now is how many of the new features that Microsoft showed off this morning will also be dependent on a paid Live subscription?

Also, given that Microsoft has rebuilt the operating software to accommodate the new X86 chipset, will it change the pricing or even how the subscription tiers operate?

Microsoft has said that Gold subscriptions will carry over, but will new or renewing subscribers find a new pricing arrangement waiting for them?

It's something that we hope will be answered come E3.

How much will it cost and when will we get it?

Beyond the "later this year", there has been no information on timing or pricing for the Xbox One. Over at the EB Games Australia site, it was listing the price as AU$899 on a placeholder page, but that's since been removed.

The pricing question is tied in to the model question — will the Xbox come in differently priced versions (usually with different storage capacities) or will Microsoft take this opportunity to put its foot down and offer just a single device with a single set of specs?

The smart money would be on Microsoft launching the Xbox One in the US for no more than US$499, but what that will translate to when the One arrives down under is anyone's guess.