After what seemed like the longest wait ever, Microsoft finally revealed its next generation gaming system, the Xbox One. The veil has been lifted and the black box has finally seen the light of day. Finally, all the speculation would come to an end…or so it seems.
On Tuesday at 1pm EST, I waited with baited breath for some huge announcements. After Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One, I was impressed with the hardware, but not the name. I thought to myself, “What sense does that make?” But it’s not the name or the look of the hardware that matters, it’s the games and more importantly to me, the features. I wanted to know if Microsoft had enough under the hood of the Xbox One to convince me to continue subscribing to Xbox Live. The cloud services they detailed may be worth that price. So we get 300,000 Xbox Live servers, everything saved on the cloud, DVR recording, editing and sharing of game play videos? My interest was peaked!
Next they showed off the new Kinect hardware. When Yusuf Mehdi first got on stage and commanded “Xbox On”, time came to a crawl and it looked like he was praying that it worked. There’s nothing worse than a live demo going bad, but it worked and it worked well. The new Kinect was fast and furious as he gestured his way through the menus. The Kinect now has next to no latency and it enabled Yusuf to effortlessly navigate through the Xbox Dashboard. He also demoed the voice controls and was able to quickly pull up channels and apps on his dashboard with simple commands. I was impressed. This was the Kinect I’ve been wanting to see. I was also glad that they were getting the Kinect/Entertainment features out of the way first.
The new Xbox Dashboard was the biggest surprise for me. I didn’t expect much from it at first. I’m no big TV hog but after seeing how it’s fully integrated into the dashboard, I understood what they were trying to do. With this new dashboard you could switch back and forth from games, Skype, Internet Explorer and movies and then back to the dashboard. It was seamless and fast. They also highlighted that if you wanted to do two things at a time, like Windows 8, you could with a feature called Snap Mode. We got to see a full Skype video chat concurrently running with a movie, all on the same screen. I thought to myself, “What a great tool for creating videocasts!” All kinds of content creation and community ideas started to enter my head. I was very impressed with what they’ve done. At this point I was sold on the Xbox One featureset. MS did their homework and showed some truly innovative advances in Xbox technology.
There’s lots of talk about how Microsoft will be handling used games. They confirmed that you can bring games with you to your friends house and play them. In fact, you can install the game on your friends Xbox and if they decide they like the game, they can purchase their own license for it. They also pointed out the fact that every game will have a mandatory install. This is no biggie as we’ve been doing this for years on PC and I’m willing to bet the case will be the same on the PS4.
There is no Always-Connected requirement, but your Xbox will be in an Always-On state so you can turn it on with your voice. Finally I can walk into my room and say, “Xbox On.” and instantly be on the dashboard. This is an extension of what the Kinect can do now except on a much higher level. If you are connected to the internet, the Xbox One will connect to the Live servers once every 24hrs. If you don’t have internet, it won’t be an issue. At least that’s what Phil Harrison is implying.
At some point in this hour of the Xbox Reveal, I had hoped to see some games. They showed Forza 5, Remedy’s Quantum Break (no Alan Wake 2?!), 4 new sports games from EA and a very long look at Activision’s new Call Of Duty: Ghosts. What really irked me about Forza 5 and EA’s sports games was the same thing that irked me about most of the PS4 reveals, no real gameplay. Forza 5, Madden, NBA Live, Fifa and UFC were nothing but cinematic trailers. I’m sure the trailers used actual in game assets, but nothing we saw was actual game play. The EA Madden trailer may as well have been the same one from 2005. The Call Of Duty: Ghosts footage highlighted some development footage, a lot of cinematics and a few quick clips of game play, which could have easily been missed if you weren’t paying attention. I’m a little disappointed that Forza 5 is a launch title. I was hoping for PGR5, but we might see that at E3. I would think that Forza 5 should simmer until 2014, but MS is banking on covering all genre’s and getting the jump on Sony with the next gen. If Forza 5 is a launch title and there’s no GT6 for PS4, MS can use that as a marketing bullet point.
Quantum Break has my interest. It’s one of Microsoft’s first new IP’s for the next generation. The trailer had me saying “WTF IS GOING ON?!!?” There was a live action sequence with a young girl talking to an older woman. She touched her ear and then the screen flashed to a graphical representation of a huge tanker running into a bridge. The bridge, water and tanker, all reminded me of Alan Wake. Could this be an Alan Wake sequel? The rest of the trailer showed quick clips of the actual game. It looks to be a 3rd person action game and from what we saw, it looked pretty damn good. I still have no idea what this game is about. The mystery of it all isn’t a bad thing.
So how do I feel about all of this? I’ll be completely honest. I was very disappointed by the time the press conference ended. I know Major Nelson said the Xbox One reveal would be two parts; First the system reveal and then the games. It makes sense, but even knowing this, I was hoping they had more games to show or at least more game play. I would have been happier if they should actual game play of Forza 5, Madden and Quantum Break. I wanted MS to give me a little something to wet my gaming appetite for E3. I wanted to be as delighted with the MS conference as I was with the Sony conference, but unfortunately I wasn’t.
I think Microsoft beat Sony in terms of features and I love the fact that we got a really good look at the dashboard and were able to see how some of it works. As far as the games go, Sony won hands down. Not because they had more games to show, but because they actually showed real gameplay. Even though Watch Dogs was played on PC, we got to see more Watch Dogs. We got to see Knack and KZ Shadowfall actually being played. As an event, the Xbox One reveal was as underwhelming as their last 2 E3 conferences.
A few hours after the conference my disappointment subsided and I started to think about what Microsoft actually did and what was important to them as a business instead of what was important to me, as a gamer. In all honesty, features are more important to me than games because I know the games will be there. My current Xbox 360 and PS3 libraries are deep. To me, it’s the cool features like sharing, Skyping and recording games that tip the scales. As a business, Microsoft wants to own the living room. This has been their dream for years. So they got the whole family covered with the TV stuff, dude bro covered with the Call Of Duty and ESPN stuff and the gamers covered come E3 time on June 10. They hit every point they needed to hit to sell the box to everyone, not just gamers. From a business standpoint, this is smart. If you can get mom and dad to buy and Xbox One just for the TV features, you are now increasing your market share enough to get more support from 3rd party publishers. This is the same thing Sony did with the DVD in the PS2 and the Blu-Ray in the PS3. They were able to sell a console to non-gamers. In this day and age, that’s important. Angry gamers think that a console is supposed to just be about the games. If today’s console was just about the games, Dreamcast would have never had internet, PS2 wouldn’t have sold as a DVD player, Netflix wouldn’t be an application, music, movie and TV downloads wouldn’t exist. It’s shortsighted thinking to say that games are supposed to be the primary focus of a console in this age of technology.
I now understand what Microsoft is doing and I can’t really argue with it. While I wasn’t happy that I didn’t get to see more games, Microsoft has promised that E3 will be all about the games. They revealed that Xbox One will have 15 exclusive games in it’s first year and 8 of those games are new IP’s. They’ve answered the call of the gamers to publish more exclusive games. I’m going to hold my breath and hope that they deliver on that promise on June 10th, 2013.
Thanks to Sergio Curiel for his original artwork!
Read Tony Polanco’s editorial about the Xbox One event here.