A new Xbox has been revealed to the world as an ultimate entertainment hub. Some people loved the ideas displayed on show; the rest dismissed it as a big show-off in a VHS recorder casing. But when I watched the conference yesterday, I begin to feel that most of my fears about the new Xbox, have indeed been confirmed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a long time Xbox 360 owner since 2006. I have unlocked lots of achievements and have played multiplayer on Xbox Live to death. The games I bought for my system – which was upgraded to slim once – have piled up into one of my biggest video game collections for any console. I previously hoped that its successor would feature better graphics and better interface.
However, as I count the days towards the ‘big reveal’ of Xbox One, I have read some rumours from various websites, which pointed to the ‘over-protective’ and ‘multi-media’ nature of the new console. For instance, I’ve heard that it would require an online connection in order to function. My friends believe it would heavily focus on Kinect, which reported to be improved. Even Jonathan Blow felt that the new system is not focused on games, and decided to release his new game ‘The Witness’ onto the PS4 first. All of them are really worrying to me, as I hoped it would take the games to the next level. But as it turns out, it may not be.
Microsoft finally lifted the cover of their new console on 21st May, and their hosts demonstrated its new features to the audience. I watched some of their conference, and I can’t stop myself thinking that most of the rumors that I’ve seen on the internet, have actually came true, apart from the confusing name and its ability to watch TV.
That conference reminds me of those awful SNES UK adverts with Rik Mayall
Their conference has focused strongly on the console’s features, which include TV channels, guide, and show recommendations. They also have shown off chats via Skype, as well as Movies and Internet Explorer. If they were advertising their new line of Smart TV’s, then I would be interested in buying one. But it’s a games console, and it’s supposed to be used to play games and go online with friends. The message I’m getting from these guys on the show, is that Xbox One is the One place for a web browser, movies, Skype chats, and TV, which a lot of people have already got their fix via their newer TV’s, smartphones and laptops. The likely people, who would purely benefit from the new Xbox, are those who own an old TV and a desktop computer.
Another heavy feature of the Xbox One is that it natively supports the new Kinect, which was demonstrated to control the whole system, using gestures and voice commands. It uses a newer version of the device, with improved features – especially the 1080p camera – and it acts as a vital part of the system. However, it seems to illustrate that Microsoft has placed a lot of effort into ‘Kinect’, and having it as a driving force of the new Xbox. That leaves the system to have almost the same interface as the Xbox 360.
By putting these Kinect 2.0 facts together, it resembles to be an echo of the Xbox 360’s latest direction. When it was announced in 2005, Xbox 360 was all about its new games, and its improved Xbox Live service. It delivered upon launch with a host of fantastic features and downloadable arcade games, and it was given a makeover in 2008 with NXE, which served as a platform for self-published XNA games. However, it went downhill for some hardcore gamers. In order to focus on the wider audience, it shifted the customer focus towards the causal gamer, by introducing Kinect, Apps, and Adverts, terraforming the interface as a result. That is the sort of interface that Xbox One is going to carry over, so it bears a little resemblance to Xbox 360’s.
However, it seems to illustrate that Microsoft has placed a lot of effort into ‘Kinect’, and having it as a driving force of the new Xbox. That leaves the system to have almost the same interface as the Xbox 360.
Seriously, Microsoft would have taken such changes over to that new system, which would make it distinct from the hardcore-oriented Xbox 360, but the problem is people need more powerful graphics and features, so they need to migrate over to Xbox One. So that’s right, Xbox One is where you’re going to play Halo 5, Minecraft, and Forza on, and it is something you have to live with for the next 5 years.
If we look at the PS4 conference, the presenters there didn’t show the console itself, which is quite mean; but they got the facts straight, they shown the features which matters the most to the gaming community, and they mostly present its games, including some wonderful gameplay demos (take Killzone SF for example). The Xbox One presentation however was all about the console and its gimmicks, and has only shown the glimpses of a few games. Call of Duty Ghosts trailer – on the other hand – was a gaming highlight of the evening, especially it displayed a player character battling with a sweet dog companion.
The conference is not all what the article is making a fuss about, as I still have more concerns with Xbox One (and counting…). Its version of Xbox Live is going to put most of your stuff up on the cloud, which is not convincing for some cautious people. It has a used games block, where it takes a filled-up blu-ray disc, and makes a mandatory install out of it; that process will register the game to the Xbox Live profile and takes a large portion of space out of the non-upgradable 500GB Hard Drive. Thankfully, it doesn’t require a constant internet connection, but it needs players to connect it online after 24 hours of offline play. So basically, Xbox One is not an online-required console, but it is more of an online-dependent console, much like the Xbox 360, only more restrictive. If they applied those measures to the NES, then it would be useless by now, because their servers won’t be around for them to activate the console.
This Controller…actually looks neat. I like it!
I’m not really against the whole system, in fact, the conference went better than I have expected, and especially it didn’t have bands playing their latest singles, which plagued the Xbox 360 reveal event a long time ago. It does in fact have some pretty nice features. Running Apps in the Background is a neat touch, and I like the improvements they made to the system’s controller and the Kinect device. I also like the news of an improved Xbox Live service, which will feature dynamic achievements and an ability to record gameplay footage.
However, I really believe that if Xbox One is going to succeed, then they must show a great range of games. They have to show off some exclusives, or something that makes people want to buy the system to play them on. It’s better that way than focusing on giving multiplatform games exclusive content. But I still fear that Xbox One may end up as a system made for entertainment purposes.
In my overall opinion, Xbox One is likely to be a least interesting system of this generation, and the drab conference yesterday is not really helping it out of its fate. People buy game consoles in order to play games on it, and they usually overlook their additional multimedia features. The current presentation of Xbox One seems to indicate that it’s not mainly a games console, rather more of an alternate to Smart TV’s. Also the fact they place measures on the system to make it online dependant and beckon more people to the cloud, is going to constrain the overall enjoyment of gaming. I wanted it to be a fantastic console and make the games brilliant, but I’m afraid that a lot of people are going to be taken over to the PS4 and sadly, I’m one of them.
I would never say no to the Xbox One, it may get better with more games and features over the years, and I may possibly buy it in the future. But for now – since it doesn’t even do backwards compatibility – I may just hang on to my Xbox 360 slim for a while.
Watch the Conference in full (courtesy of Centerstrain01):