Microsoft Corp gave the world a first look at its new Xbox One on Tuesday, announcing that its first gaming console in eight years will come with exclusive video and software content, including a “Halo” series produced by Steven Spielberg.
The Xbox One, which will be available later this year at a price to be announced, will also be the first platform to release the next installment in Activision Blizzard Inc's blockbuster shooter franchise, “Call of Duty.”
Microsoft hopes its third-generation console will attract video game fans who are increasingly sampling games on mobile devices, while also becoming a hub for living room entertainment.
The console took four years to develop and will launch worldwide “later this year,” games unit chief Don Mattrick told reporters at an event at the software company's campus near Seattle, without providing details on timing or pricing.
The device's launch came after months of intense speculation on industry blogs about what new features it might sport.
The new device interacts with a television, responds to voice and gesture commands, and includes Skype video calling, 15 exclusive game titles and original programming content.
The Xbox One will chiefly compete with Nintendo Co's new Wii U and Sony Corp's forthcoming PlayStation 4 for a bigger slice of the $65 billion-a-year computer game market.
Console gaming still takes the lion's share of a growing gaming market — about 42 percent of the $65 billion world market, according to Microsoft. But playing games on smartphones and tablets, or as an offshoot to online social networks, is gaining ground fast.
The world's largest software company also sees the Xbox One as a broader strategic piece in the battle with Apple Inc , Google Inc and others to control consumer entertainment in the age of tablets and smartphones.
To that end, Microsoft presented the new box as more than just a video game console.
Acclaimed movie maker Steven Spielberg will be executive-producing a television series based on Microsoft's blockbuster sci-fi game “Halo” for the Xbox One, the company said.
The new console will offer exclusive National Football League content and eight new game franchises, executives said.
Activision Blizzard Inc will launch “Call of Duty: Ghosts” later in 2013, first for the Xbox.
The device will have 8 gigabytes of memory, with an updated controller and new-generation Kinect sensor that communicates a user's voice and gesture commands to the console. The technology is built on the Xbox operating system and the kernel of Windows software to handle Internet-based content.
Moreover, the device will let users store entertainment content, including movies, games and music, on cloud servers, the company said.
Despite its strong brand and 'cool' factor, the Xbox itself is not a key financial factor for the world's largest software maker. Its Entertainment & Devices unit is set to break $10 billion in sales for the first time this year, but that's half the sales of its Windows unit, and a lot less profitable, averaging less than 15 percent margin compared to 60 percent or higher for Windows or Office.
The company has more than 46 million members who subscribe to its online gaming and digital entertainment service Xbox Live, but that's still a fraction of the people who pay for its software.
Microsoft's stock was up slightly at $35.02 in afternoon trading on Nasdaq.