It's one of the most bizarre next-gen console leaks yet - a story so strange we still struggle to believe there's any truth to it whatsoever. When a Microsoft Durango devkit appeared on an obscure developer forum - for sale at $10,000 no less - nobody quite knew for certain what on earth was going on. The shots depict an anonymous-looking PC tower case, attached to a cheap display and running Matrix-style datastream graphics over an unconvincing debug launcher. The obvious conclusion drawn by many was that it was an unambiguous fake. Intrigued, Digital Foundry reached out to the source of the leak, and followed up the story with multiple developers working on next-gen projects. The uniform response was startling: apparently, these shots are the real deal.
The devkit itself is an anonymous-looking black box, said by one next-gen developer to contain parts that have much in common with a modern "standard gaming PC". The shots depict a dashboard reminiscent of the current Xbox 360 test kit launcher, featuring a basic compiled program, dubbed "D3D11Game1" along with "NuiView" - which on 360 at least is a simple tool for rendering camera views and data from an attached Kinect peripheral. No next-gen Kinect hardware photos have yet to surface, but it is said to be considerably revised from the existing Xbox 360/PC peripheral.Beyond that, further information is sketchy and unreliable. DaE reckons that the current devkits were dispatched to studios in February, and feature Intel CPUs and a graphics card that carries the NVIDIA brand - but he doesn't identify either part more specifically. He also claims that the Durango kit features more than 8GB of memory (other sources have suggested 12GB), and that it is 64-bit in nature - at this point it's worth bearing in mind that dev hardware typically features double the RAM of retail kit in order to accommodate debugging tools and other systems. DaE also says that Microsoft is targeting an eight-core CPU for the final retail hardware - if true, this must surely be based around Atom architecture to fit inside the thermal envelope.Read the full articles at Eurogamer and PC Perspective.It is entirely possible that Microsoft could be positioning the Xbox platform closer to the PC. Perhaps there are plans for cross-compatibility in exchange for closing the platform around certification and licensing fees?
Moving the Xbox platform closer to the PC in hardware specifications could renew their attempts to close the platform as has failed with their Games for Windows Live initiative. What makes the PC platform great is the lack of oversight about what can be created for it and the ridiculous time span for compatibility for what has been produced for it.
It might be no coincidence that the two companies who are complaining about Windows 8 are the two companies who design their games to be sold and supported for decades after launch.
And if the worst does happen, PC gaming has been a stable platform despite repetitive claims of its death – but could the user base be stable enough to handle a shift to Linux? I doubt that most would even understand the implications of proprietary platforms on art to even consider it. What about Adobe and the other software and hardware tool companies who have yet to even consider Linux as a viable platform?
The dark tunnel might have just gotten longer.