Microsoft Reveals Xbox One, Their Next Videogame Console

Posted by Bob Muir on May 22, 2013 in Videogames |

Xbox One group shot

Yesterday Microsoft finally spilled the beans — well, a little at least — on their next videogame console: the Xbox One. I hesitate to call it that though, because going by their presentation, it seems more geared as an entertainment system than a machine that focuses on games. The “one” in the name refers to how it’s an all-in-one media experience, which is not surprising. Going by how much Microsoft has been pushing and expanding the non-gaming applications of the Xbox 360, this seems like a natural extension. I’m just not sure it’s a good One.

Let’s get the specs out of the way. We’ve seen the box, unlike the PS4. It looks a bit VCR-ish, but I don’t think the box really matters. Inside the box are specs similar to the PS4, but notably the RAM, which matches Sony’s 8GB, is a slower DDR3. Retail games will come on Blu-ray discs, and there is 500GB of hard drive space. The controller also looks like a slight refinement of the Xbox 360 controller, but with a noticeably better d-pad. And as expected, the system will be released later this year, opposite the PS4.

Xbox One Kinect

But what about content? Unfortunately for gamers, Microsoft spent most of their time emphasizing non-game uses. The system will ship with an improved Kinect sensor, which is partially utilized to switch between games, movies, internet search, Skype (fully integrated), and live TV. Yes, if you have a cable box, you can plug it into the Xbox One to control your channels and integrate Xbox functions. The idea of switching back and forth without lag between all this media is admirable, but again, it’s not much more than what many Smart TVs can already do. Microsoft also announced an exclusive deal with the NFL to bring football stuff to Xbox, including pulling up your fantasy football stats alongside a game, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you’re reading a geek-centric blog, you might not necessarily care about sports.

Speaking of sports, when it was finally time to reveal some games, the first ones revealed were several EA Sports games — Madden, FIFA, the usual crowd you’d expect every game system to have. (Except for the Wii U, but that’s a strange exception this year that hasn’t been explained yet.) Another new game is Forza Motorsport 5, which looks like a prettier version of the racing franchise. None of these games had any real gameplay footage, instead showing stuff in-engine that looked like they could still be “target renders.”

Xbox One controller

In bigger news, 343 Industries announced the next Halo game, but shared nothing about it. The more interesting Halo news is that Stephen Spielberg — yes, the famous director — is creating a Halo TV series. The man is talented, so this could be very interesting. But again, details were scarce.

So beyond the obvious stuff, Microsoft announced that within the first year the Xbox One would have 15 exclusive games, with eight of those being new franchises. In an industry dominated by sequels and other sure bets, that’s actually exciting news. However, all that was shown was Remedy’s Quantum Break, with a trailer made up of live-action and prerendered CGI. A little girl (live-action) somehow made a boat somewhere else (CGI) “glitch” forward and hit a bridge. Remedy is a very solid studio, but there’s very little to go on.

Finally, the conference was closed out with the first trailer for Call of Duty: Ghosts. The game, of course, is not exclusive to Xbox One, also coming to PS4 and other platforms this fall. Why is it here? Because Microsoft and Activision have extended their deal that sees DLC coming to Xbox consoles first for maybe a month. Yay.

If I were to describe the reveal, I would use two words: safe and disappointing. It’s obvious that they’re holding back some major announcements for E3, like those 15 exclusive games. But when the majority of the conference was spent talking about TV and sports, all that’s being communicated is that Microsoft doesn’t care about the gamer as much as the average consumer. There’s nothing wrong with going after the average consumer, but it seems that the Xbox One is an entertainment system that plays games, not a gaming system that is also a media hub. Every other feature is a bonus, but it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t have exciting games. And when all you have so far for exclusives are a racing game, the obligatory Halo game, and the promise of more cool stuff, it’s hard to get excited.

Also, a quick aside regarding the name: it’s horrible. This isn’t bad like the Wii U is bad, because that name is just silly. This name is actually confusing. It is easy to mix-up with the original Xbox, which is sometimes called the Xbox 1, and it also suggests that no progress has been made since then.

Xbox One

What’s most disappointing, however, is the information that has come out after the conference from Wired. After months of worried speculation, it has been confirmed that the Xbox One will play used games and not require being always on. However, it seems that every game will need to be installed, and as it is, you will lock it to your account with a unique code. Want to play it on another system, either by buying the disc used or trying your friend’s copy? Be prepared to pay up. The internet requirement is a bit disingenuous too, as it seems that the system will need to connect online about once a day if you want to play offline.

I would try to clarify those statements further, but there is so much different information coming out about it, all from Microsoft’s higher-ups. All their messages are crossing and no one seems to be on the same page. It’s hard to tell if things are still in flux or if they’re back-tracking, but it looks sloppy and unprofessional. Most importantly, it is very anti-consumer and pro-publisher.

I’m still open to the Xbox One being a good system, perhaps after E3 gives more information. After all, the Xbox 360 was my primary system throughout the seventh generation of consoles. But as of right now, Sony is promising more focus on games while still offering other media services; they’re also promising a big indie game presence, which is important for the game industry right now as triple-A games see homogenization and soaring budgets. It will hurt to leave my gamertag behind, but ultimately what’s important on a videogame system, not surprisingly, are the games.

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