As of yesterday the stage is now set for the eighth generation of video game consoles. From Nintendo, the 3Ds and the Wii U. From Sony, the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation Vita. Now finally, during a press conference yesterday, Microsoft unveiled its newest home console: the Xbox One. The announcement and subsequent press conference have been the subject of the video game world for the past 24 hours. Namely: what does everyone think. What is the Xbox One? What games does it have? What about used games? Why is the third console called One? Do I need to use the new Kinect? For my part, I am going to do my best to cut through the hype and presentation to talk about what was said and, more importantly: why Microsoft said it. Every company has a plan and Microsoft has made their target goal apparent (just look at the name).
So let’s talk about that press conference. First thing’s first: the name. Microsoft announced its new console name after showcasing one desire above all others – they want the Xbox One to be the one system used for everything in your living room (as long as that everything doesn’t include playing Xbox 360 games). As long as you’re in the United States you can integrate the Xbox One with your television, allowing it essentially to replace your current network service (satellite and cable are going the way of the dodo) and, thanks to a new deal with the NFL, I believe you can watch football games in real time on it as well. That is, as long as you’re in the United States (Ammurrica!).
So does that mean you need a remote control? Of course not, that’s what the new Kinect (and controller) are for. The Kinect 2 (I think that’s its name at the moment) is always listening and will allow the Xbox One to be turned on a navigated by simple voice commands. Microsoft is marketing this as simple and streamlined and admittedly, it does sound so. However the idea of a camera/microphone device that is “always on” can be seen as unsettling and potentially invasive. Good news is that Microsoft promises security and privacy will be top priorities. This will ultimately boil down to an issue of consumer trust.
That being said, it is great to see Microsoft making an effort to streamline the TV experience for Americans in 2013. Their service does look weak, however, compared to Nintendo’s currently offered TVii service, which is essentially the same thing and currently available to families in the USA, Canada and Japan (Europe is expected to launch later this year). But anyway, this is not comparison time, this is marketing time.
Further proof for Microsoft’s plan to usurp current television providers came in the announcement of Steven Spielberg’s live action television series, Halo. Please note that Spielberg is simply an executive producer for this series meaning his involvement may be as limited as essentially throwing money at it. The show will, of course, be based off of the popular Halo video games series that is Microsoft’s bread-and-butter exclusive. Microsoft appears to be marketing now in the vein of HBO (not that this is a bad thing). Might we expect a Gears of War or Fable television series if Halo proves financially successful: count on it.
Again all this coming to you through Microsoft’s grand plan to streamline and improve television. Next up let’s talk communications: Skype will be integrated into this new Xbox meaning that if you want to call and talk to someone during a game or show/movie, it will be possible to run it in the background. I’m not sure about anyone else but the idea of more interaction with the Xbox Live community can only be seen as a double-edged sword to me. Also… Nintendo is already doing this.
The final portion of Microsoft’s conference addressed what, to many, was the central issue: the games. With E3 only weeks away, Microsoft decided to play coy, simply teasing that the system had 15 exclusives on the way for the first year with 8 of them being new IP (intellectual property – basically meaning new franchises). The only exclusive (I think it’s exclusive) game reveal we received was Quantum Break, a video game from the makers of Max Payne and Alan Wake that appears to have a large focus on cheesy acting. Seriously watch the trailer – what is this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_64IZNgxPKs. Also the new Call of Duty is coming to the Xbox One and it has a dog!
Do the games look noticeably more powerful: yes with an “if”. That “if” is the same cynical “if” that must accompany all early video game press, especially when new systems are concerned. If it really looks that good.
Now here is the last thing and the biggest. What information didn’t Microsoft market. What do they know about the Xbox One that they would only say when directly asked. Namely two issues have risen up and both of them have considerably irked the consumer base. First, as implied earlier, the Xbox One will not be able to play Xbox 360 games. This looks troubling on Microsoft as Nintendo’s Wii U is fully backwards compatible (plays all Wii games out of the box) and Sony is exploring an emulation service to allow people to continue their PS3 experience onto the PS4. In an age of economic recession, this is more damaging. People want to replace their 360s, not simply purchase another system.
The second tidbit is this: you will probably be charged an additional fee by Microsoft if you purchase and try to play used games. What this means is that the Xbox One discs are encoded to the first system they are played on. After that, the code kicks in and a fee will be charged. Obviously this was created as a maneuver against the selling of used games (which Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo don’t see a penny for and are understandably peeved about). However, what this also prohibits is lending games. If my friend and I both have Xbox One’s and wish to lend each other games, we will still be charged. Again, this is not being received well.
So there you have it, marketing triumphs and pitfalls from day one of Xbox One’s life. How do I feel about this new system personally: I don’t know enough to have an opinion yet. I will be doing a side-by-side-by-side comparison of the big three after E3 comes and we have a bit more info. Initial impulses, however, leave me unimpressed. As said before, my television has already been streamlined thanks to my Wii U (as a free service I might add) so none of Xbox One’s features appeal to me on that end. The lack of backwards compatibility is also really condemning right now as I just don’t have room for another system (especially one as big as the Xbox One).
Now, lastly, about that name. Is it as bad as say, the Wii U? No, but it’s close. I don’t understand calling your new system a “one” when a “4” is being released the same year. Also your last system was called 360, so this new number is 359 digits lower. Yet it is still clearly a new system at least. Yay Microsoft for that one. Now comes the big question, knowing this: are you interested?
Thoughts? Comments? Am I full of shit or onto something? Let me know now in the feedback section of this article.
Think I was too harsh or too full of praise? Check out these alternative takes: