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Xbox 720 could see Blu-ray and Skype support

New details regarding the Xbox 720, Microsoft's next-generation gaming console, have leaked out ahead of an expected unveiling at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) event later this year - including the presence of a Blu-ray drive.

According to unnamed sources speaking to specialist site The Next Xbox, the next-generation Xbox 360 will include a Blu-ray drive - joining the PlayStation 3 from Sony, currently the only games console to include such a feature - in order to address the growing issue of game asset sizes. With some Xbox 360 games, which come on DVDs that can hold as little as a fifth to a tenth the data available on Blu-ray disc, content is being spread around three or four discs - as with BioWare's popular Mass Effect series, and Rockstar's animation-heavy L.A. Noire. The result is the need to swap discs part-way through playing the game - a sure-fire immersion killer.

The same games on the PlayStation 3, meanwhile, come on a single disc, taking advantage of the format's increased capacity. That's something that Microsoft is reportedly keen to duplicate with its Xbox 720 - although the site further claims that the Xbox 720 will be unable to play Blu-ray films, restricting the use of the drive to games as Microsoft looks to further push its Xbox Video streaming and download service instead.

Meanwhile, CVG reports that another anonymous source is claiming that the Xbox 720 will launch with Skype as its default communications platform in place of the standard Xbox Live chat system and Messenger service. The move makes sense from Microsoft's perspective, as it would enable new features like multi-party video chat as well as making use of the company's multi-billion dollar acquisition of Skype back in 2011.

Finally, Microsoft has confirmed that it plans to consolidate the PC, tablets and games consoles with Microsoft Play. Designed to extend the appeal of Xbox Live Arcade titles, Microsoft Play provides - as this demo shows - a means for accessing the titles on Xbox 360, Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Windows RT devices. This multi-format support will naturally extend to the Xbox 720 when it finally launches later this year.

Microsoft has not provided comment on any of the currently-spreading rumours regarding its next-generation gaming platform.

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