For console gamers who want to feel like they have the latest and greatest hardware, now may not be the best time to buy. It is a time of transition for Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony - with a 4K update to the PlayStation 4 almost certainly on the horizon, Nintendo confirming a March 2017 release date for the NX, and Microsoft likely to follow suit with an update to its own home console hardware.
The big question is what Microsoft will bring to the table with the next iteration of the Xbox One. For Sony, the push seems to be toward the aforementioned 4K graphical capabilities as well as a processing power boost to, we presume, help facilitate their VR ambitions. Unless they pull something completely out of left field, though, Microsoft's next Xbox One will likely be a bit more modest. While Microsoft has yet to even confirm a hardware refresh, new evidence suggests it might be coming in the near future.
Shacknews points to a post on the NeoGAF forums in which a translated screenshot supposedly indicates mass production of an "Xbox One II" started back in February of this year. Shacknews theorizes that the Xbox One II is actually the rumored Xbox One Slim, a revised version of the hardware with, as one might expect, a smaller form factor the current Xbox One.
Microsoft did something similar with the Xbox 360, eventually replacing the bulky original with a more svelte version that came with the option of substantially more storage. The time frame of the new unit's production would mean that a substantial quantity would be available just in time for E3 2016 in June, which would be the perfect time for Microsoft to unveil the new hardware to the gaming public.
But would Microsoft be content to release a newer version of the hardware where the only real upgrade is a slimmer design? Not according to Xbox head Phil Spencer, who previously stated, "I’m not a big fan of Xbox One and a half... I want it to be a really substantial change for people–an upgrade." So what other features could the "Xbox One II" offer? It will almost certainly not be a bundled revision of the failed Kinect peripheral. Microsoft's conscious uncoupling of that unpopular device from the Xbox One was one of the more popular decisions they've made in regards to the console. It could be a move to make the 1TB hard drive standard, rather than as part of a premium bundle. That would help the push toward downloadable content, particularly with more apps becoming available as part of the unified Windows 10 platform.
A bigger hard drive does not seem like much of a "substantial change" either, though. If there really is a newer Xbox One on the way, then Microsoft may still have a trick up its sleeve that miraculously has not leaked to the press. If so, there's a good chance we will find out when E3 hits in mid-June. And the other big question - will they have VR offerings of their own? The HoloLens (which is augmented reality tech and not VR) is a long ways away but Microsoft does have a partnership with Oculus VR where Xbox One controllers come bundled with the Oculus Rift. Perhaps we'll see that come to Xbox One?