After Sony fired the first salvo back in February with the announcement of the PS4, Microsoft have finally responded with their own and it’s called the Xbox One. Wow where do I start with this one…. Microsoft finally pulled the curtain off their new next generation game console, The Xbox One. Right from the start, they didn’t waste time by going straight to the guts of the system. It is almost identical specs wise to the PS4, it has an APU with an eight x86 core, 8Gb of memory( 3Gb is reserved for OS and apps), blu ray drive as well as a 500Gb Storage Drive. Each new Xbox One comes with a new and improved Kinect which features better motion capturing with the introduction of a 1080p camera and other improvements the software. With this , Kinect features such as voice commands and motion controls will be deeply integrated into the system. The ever popular and wonderful Xbox 360 controller has had an upgrade as well. Microsoft seems to be playing it safe by keeping the form factor relatively similar to the current Xbox 360 controller but it has a new rumble feature which Microsoft calls “Impulse triggers”. But if it ain’t broken don’t fix it and I agree with that decision, the Xbox 360 controller was one of the more ergonomically pleasing controller and there is no reason to change it drastically.
Microsoft then went into more TV features involving sports channels which unfortunately for us Singaporeans, probably will never get to try. EA sports rolled in next showcasing their new engine “Ignite” which will power all their next generation games and showed a pre-rendered trailer which was disappointing. Then came the first(maybe only) big news of the night in my opinion, and that is that a Halo TV series would be coming and it will be produced by non other than Steven Spielberg himself. Microsoft then announced a new IP by Remedy studios titled “Quantum Break” and showed off a short trailer featuring live-action and bits of in-game footage I believe. And of course, Microsoft had to close off their event with the newest Call of Duty, “Call of Duty : Ghosts”. And that’s it, so what was my reaction?
Saying I was disappointed is a severe understatement, I was quite literally dumbfounded. Watching with my friends on Skype, we all went “That’s it?”. Microsoft went into length about how the integrated kinect features will improve your tv watching experience. Microsoft talked about how you could while watching a movie, open up Bing and search up movie tickets for the sequel because you can’t wait for the movie to end to simply book the tickets online. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!?! Alright before I go on a rant of no return, let’s look at the aftermath of the whole reveal and what direction they seem to be going with this generation.
Not just a games console
Right from the start, it seems apparent that Microsoft is treating the Xbox One as more than just a games console, they are positioning the Xbox One as the all in one entertainment system hence the One in the name presumably. They want to be that central connecting point of your living room’s entertainment; Music? Checked. Movies? Checked. Games, Internet,TV? Checked,checked and checked. It’s great it can do all these but how exactly are they improving the “experience”? Being able to do everything at once does not make it a good experience. Shrinking your movie screen so you can search something on the internet is not enhancing movie watching experience. Using voice commands to turn on your system or TV is not enhancing your TV watching experience. No matter how much Microsoft tries to spin the tale, it’s not doing anything different at all; it’s just jamming everything into one system and while impressive is not ground breaking.
Biting off more than they can chew?
Now that Microsoft has decided to make the Xbox One an all in one entertainment system, it opens up a whole new portion of consumers for them to try and capture but this also means more competition. With the direction Microsoft is taking with this system, it is not only in direct competition with Sony and Nintendo on the gaming front but they are competing with every other cable operator in the US as well as Apple TV and Google TV. Are they capable of effectively competing on all fronts? Unlikely.
Where are the games?
Ok never mind that Microsoft is going all TV on us as long as they have the games right? Other than showing off an EA sports montage, a short teaser of a new IP and development video of the next Call of duty with next gen fish AI and dog animations, nothing was worth mentioning on the gaming front for Microsoft. To be fair Microsoft did mention that they would be releasing 15 games 8 of which would be brand new IPs in the first year of launch (End of 2013 to end of 2014). While this is good and all, the skeptic in me wonders just how many of those end up being Kinect games. When questioned shortly after the event where the games were, Microsoft said that all will be revealed at E3 and it will be an absolutely mind blowing line up. Let’s hope it is.
Backwards compatibility,used games and online
While it can be forgiven if Microsoft had an absolute stinker of an event, what followed after that was what created probably the worst PR day I’ve seen in a while for an entertainment device. Well before the event, there have been ugly rumours floating about that the Xbox One would have to be constantly connected to the internet for it to work. The fact that Microsoft didn’t come right out to quash this rumour made fans worried that it might hold some validity and it turned out somewhat true. Microsoft’s official statement regarding this is that the Xbox One doesn’t require to be always online but it does require to be connected once every 24 hours. Why the need to connect every 24 hours is still unknown as Microsoft have not been clear about anything regarding this connection requirement.
One thing they were clear about though is their stance on backwards compatibility, the Xbox One would not play any Xbox or Xbox360 games. The reason according to Don Mattrick?
For someone who’s been in the business for so long to come out and say that just reeks of arrogance and ignorance or just horrible horrible PR.
As if being unclear about online requirements and the lack of backwards compatibility wasn’t enough,then came the issue of used games. As of now it seems that Microsoft themselves still isn’t sure about how used games will work on their new system though the consensus now seems to be that in order to play used games on your Xbox One, you would have to pay a separate fee. This means that if I have this cool new awesome game, a brand new IP and I wanted to share that game with a friend for free, I can’t.
Microsoft with this event had a chance to really make a statement with brand new ideas and features, they also had a chance to quash all negative murmurings and make everyone stand up and take notice that Microsoft isn’t holding back when it comes to entertainment. But what we got was an uninspiring entertainment box that happens to play video games. I really feel that this Xbox One reveal was a far more important event for Microsoft because they had the stage all to themselves. Sure E3 is the one event that gamers look forward to but Microsoft will have to face Sony and Nintendo as they all vie for the spotlight whereas for this event they had all the spotlight to themselves. The world was watching, and they blew it big time.
To sum it all up: