Following the announcement of the successor to the Xbox 360 known as the Xbox One, reactions have been a jumbled collection of excitement, speculation of the future, questions about what was seen and what wasn’t seen, and a sense of wonder about the whole thing. So in other words, job well done to Microsoft for getting the community talking about their next box.
From a gamer’s standpoint however, I’m not entirely sure I’m on board at all with the Xbox One. My gut reaction is telling me to wait this thing about and see what the Xbox One delivers in the future, but as of right now there’s some questions I want answered.
Where are the games?!
First and foremost, I’m saddened there aren’t any games (at the time) that have me excited to play the Xbox One. So far we’ve heard about Call of Duty: Ghosts, Quantum Break, FIFA, Madden, NBA Live, Forza, and… ? It was announced that Microsoft Game Studios is working on 15 games that will be out before the end of the year, but seriously? That’s all we get! In my mind this is the biggest travesty to jump out of the media event. I understand that Microsoft is taking a different approach with the Xbox One: they’re attempting to create a box that not only plays games, but also watches TV, searches the interwebz, talks over Skype, and many other cool features. But in so doing they’ve completely alienated games from the forefront.
Discussing the topic with friends earlier I decided that perhaps this is just me. Maybe I’m the only one getting the feeling that the Xbox One wasn’t designed for me, the gamer. NFL Fantasy Football integration, a new CoD, using the box to primarily watch TV and movies… all these things are not for me. They’re for the existing fan base of the Xbox 360. I can’t say I’m surprised that Microsoft took this approach, I mean, it only makes sense they’d go after the demographic that would pull in the most money. As I said before, the reveal of the Xbox One makes me believe the system isn’t for the gamer; it’s for the entertainment junkie. Time will tell if great titles do indeed come out for the Xbox One, but consider me greatly unimpressed in the beginning.
The graphics certainly do look amazing
I will admit that I was impressed with the graphical presentation of the Xbox One. In particular the Call of Duty: Ghosts demonstration. I never consider myself a graphics whore or anything like that, but seeing faces that realistic is an amazing technical feat that should not go unappreciated. Though I feel Sony beat Microsoft to the punch with the graphical powerhouse that is the PS4, it’s still impressive tech. That means absolutely nothing in terms of gameplay (or really any feature that Xbox One offers), but it’s cool nonetheless.
The Live Tiles Display Might Work
Perhaps not a surprise to those of you that own a Microsoft phone or Windows 8, the Xbox One appears to use a modified version of the mobile devices/operating system’s Live Tiles display. I think this might actually work well for the console. There are so many things you can do with the Xbox One, watch TV, talk on Skype, keep up on sports scores, so this easy navigation looks to fit the bill. As with any new operating system it will take some time getting used to, but after the initial learning curve I bet it’ll be like second nature.
Instant Feedback and Response
It was stated quite a few times onstage that the Xbox One would react instantaneously to your commands. Say “Xbox On” and the system will boot instantly, with virtually zero wait time. Say “Xbox watch TV” and you’ll seamlessly shift to watching television. It seems the thing to do in today’s technology filled world is get things done faster. I’m not offended that my current TV takes ~3 seconds to change to a different channel, or my Xbox 360 takes a minute to boot (though that is a bit excessive comparatively), but having things done in an instant is sweet. The improved and required Kinect sensor also recognizes when you pick up the controller and launches the last game you played.
Kinect has been improved for the Xbox One. A redesigned casing and 1080p recognition means you’ll be better sensed by the Kinect, which will hopefully lead to improved motion capture. The Kinect is included with the Xbox One and is required to operate the system. This can be a huge determent to the system should Kinect fail. We’ve already seen the Xbox 360’s Kinect fail on many fronts from what it claimed to do, so putting this much faith on the Xbox One’s Kinect shows how much Microsoft is banking on the device delivering. I’m sure the console can be operated with a controller and not use any voice commands (the same goes with games), but if the Kinect flops then a literal portion of the console has flopped as well. In my mind, the inclusion with the system is a great idea, but “requiring” it to operate the console is risky.
No backwards compatibility
Here’s where it starts to hurt. The Xbox One will not play Xbox 360 games (nor original Xbox games). When asked about the subject, vice president of Xbox Live Mark Whitten stated that the company does not have any plans at the time to incorporate any sort of backwards compatibility. For Xbox 360 owners, this means keeping your 360 around, and possibly paying a separate (maybe?) subscription fee for Xbox 360 Xbox Live (that’s just speculation, not yet confirmed). I don’t mind keeping an extra box up to play older games, but it appears contradictory to Microsoft’s agenda to create one box to do everything in one’s entertainment center, and then have their install base keep around their older tech to play games.
Used games may require an activation fee to play online
In an interview with Wired, it was said that the Xbox One would require users to install each game onto the system’s hard drive. If a second user wanted to borrow that game disc and install in on their Xbox One system, they would have to pay a fee to register the game under their account, otherwise gamers could simply purchase a game and swap the disc like crazy without paying anything. This essentially means used games as we know it today won’t work with the Xbox One. In response to Wired’s article, Microsoft reached out and stated they have a plan in the works for the Xbox One allowing used games but gave no further details. I’m sure this will be but a small hiccup in the grand scheme of things, but blocking used games in any way will cause outcry from gamers, which may hurt the system overall.
It’s not “always online”, but it kind of is
One of the big questions following the Xbox One reveal was whether or not the system would require a constant internet connection to function. Thought it wasn’t stated clearly during the actual press conference, post-reveal interviews have confirmed that the Xbox One can be played offline. But at a price.
Playing offline likely means playing just video games. It appears that almost every feature shown for the Xbox One would require an internet connection: surfing the web, playing games online, downloading anything, and possibly even television (or that weird Fantasy Football updater) would all seem unlikely without an internet connection. This won’t mean nary a thing to solo gamers not playing with buds online, but most all these features (also, Skype, chatting with friends, seeing trending topics) would require some sort of connection. So… it’s not always online, but it is always online to get your money’s worth?
The questions left unanswered
As with Sony’s press conference a couple months back, there are many questions we still don’t know the answers to. But while Sony’s PS4 reveal gave us a great idea of what to expect from the gaming console, I feel that Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal almost leaves me scratching my head with even more puzzling conundrums. Is Xbox Live going to cost money per month, and will it be a different fee/service from the current Xbox Live? What games will be on the Xbox One that actually make me want to own one? What if my game room is too small to support Kinect? Will there be fees to use the TV aspect featured?
Now, most of these questions are just me being nitpicky, but as a gamer, a serious gamer and user of the Xbox 360, why do I feel so alienated by the Xbox One? The PS4 didn’t wow me to the point that I said, “I am buying this!” but at least it targeted me as the audience. Microsoft is trying to be the dominant force in the living room, they’re trying to be the one box (hence the name, perhaps?) that you will need for all your entertainment. I don’t need that. I need a system that can play the newest games, the most innovative titles, my favorite series’, my new favorite series’, and make me feel connected to the gaming community.
It’s just day one of the Xbox One, but I’m skeptical and worries for what the future of gaming may become. So long as I can play video games, see my most beloved characters and friends in new adventures, then I have nothing to complain about. But Microsoft has done nothing to quell my fears of the future of the Xbox and the gaming community at large.