Microsoft’s vision of the future revealed; and here’s why it has me worried.
This was Microsoft’s big day; their chance to show the world what the future of Xbox had in store for us. A lot of info was spilled, but sadly, we were left with more questions than answers. For those keeping track, we’ve had a pretty good run with our current crop of systems from the big three – Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Nintendo in predictable fashion entered the game early with the Wii U system, last year. Back in February Sony spilled the details on its future, and this May Microsoft was prepared to ‘wow’ the world with its vision.
People were excited. I was excited. The gaming world was excited. And how did Microsoft do? Well, to put it simply – miserably. Microsoft should really hire a better PR team.
We’ll come back to that, but first thing’s first, here’s what we know (we think). Getting a solid answer from Microsoft seems to be a challenge in itself. But here’s what was revealed at the event that was held live across blogs and TV.
It’s not Xbox 720, Infinity, or X-Bawks Tres. The new Xbox and the brand name Microsoft has committed to is simply:
This is to symbolize the Xbox as a one-stop source of all your entertainment. And that’s understandable, and I admire that. Microsoft sees a future where there is no need for 4 or 5 big black boxes below your TV. They want to integrate, minimize, and socialize where and how you get your entertainment. Microsoft wants you to use your Xbox One for everything – TV, games, and social media. The better part of the hour long reveal was spent introducing and explaining the Xbox One’s capability to replace your cable/satellite TV box. You will soon have the ability to use the Xbox One to browse and watch your favorite programs. There are some really neat features to this. For starters, you’re able to categorize and even see what’s popular among your friends and the public. Theoretically you will be able to see what your friends watch, what strangers are watching, or discover new shows that are trending.
During the above mentioned demonstration, Microsoft took the chance to show how versatile and unique the Xbox One can be. While watching a program you can engage something called, ‘Snap Mode.’ This feature allows you to pull up a second window to do whatever your heart desires. Want to look up the actress on IMDB for the show you’re watching? Now you can, but you don’t ever have to leave the show to do so (but I have my smart phone for that). Want to reply to a message or simply search the net and multitask while you watch TV (wish I had a way to do that, oh yeah my smartphone)? Or perhaps chat with your friend on Skype as you watch the newest episode of Game of Thrones? Now you can with the new Snap Mode feature. It was very slick and worked nicely, but I felt it was almost unnecessary.
Much to my dismay, Microsoft has gone full steam ahead with the Kinect. Now this little piece of hardware can do more than ever – in fact, I feel this is what Microsoft originally envisioned with the first Kinect. New additions include a 1080p camera, wider field of view, much higher light sensitivity, (it can reportedly work in complete darkness) and the ability to pick up all the subtle movements of your fingers, toes and even the rotation of your joints. In one of the more impressive – and weird – features was the Kinect’s ability to detect your heart rate. Imagine playing a workout game that tailors to your endurance using your heart rate as a guide. Or perhaps a horror game that monitors your heart rate and uses that info to tell when you’re actually scared – tossing out creepy sounds or monsters at just the right time.
One of the biggest surprises out of the event wasn’t a game or a shiny new feature. It was the surprise announcement of a TV show between 343 Studios and Steven Spielberg to produce a new Halo TV series, available exclusively on – you guessed it – Xbox Live. This was a seriously cool announcement. Mainly because I adored 343’s Forward Unto Dawn mini-series. With Spielberg’s penchant for sci-fi drama and 343’s commitment to Halo, this could turn out awesome.
Despite screaming fan boys, the PS4 isn’t technologically superior. In fact, both machines are pretty much matched. As far as we know, the Xbox One is actually a little more complicated/cluttered. The Xbox One will feature 3 operating systems; one to play games, one for the TV experience, and a third to allow the seamless transition between the first two. The system will feature 8 GB of system memory, an 8 Core CPU, 500 GB HDD, USB 3.0, Blu-ray drive, 802.11n Wireless and WiFi-direct connectivity. You can also tell Microsoft is trying to reach a larger audience than just its core gamer crowd. The box itself is black, sleek and contemporary. The controller has also been slightly tweaked and improved with over 40 alterations. Things like a more tactile d-pad, rumble motors within the triggers, and less deadzone on the joysticks should make players happy.
What about the games, boss, the games?!
Well the press knew that this event wasn’t really about the games, but instead, was more about the hardware and software. The games will be saved for E3 in June. But not to leave their core demographic – and probably 90% of people actually watching the event – out of the picture, Microsoft revealed the following information
– Microsoft’s premier racing series – and direct competitor to Sony’s Gran Turismo series – Forza is seeing its 5th incarnation, Forza Motorsport 5. The game will be a same-day release for the Xbox One.
– Microsoft has partnered with Activision to release the first in-game trailer for Call of Duty: Ghosts. Relating to the trailer, all DLC for the game will see itself on Xbox Live first before becoming available to the PS4 and PC.
– Microsoft is working with EA Sports to bring a new level of immersion and connection with its fans. EA took this opportunity to show off its new engine named, Ignite. Ignite promises better visuals, crazy detail, life-like animations and bringing more to the fans of FIFA, Madden, and NBA Live.
– A very weird, vague and not so revealing trailer for Remedy’s (creator of Max Payne and Alan Wake) new game, Quantum Break.
– Perhaps the best bit of news regarding, you know, games, was Microsoft’s commitment to expanding the Xbox One’s library. They confirmed 15 new games over the next year, 8 of those being original IPs. Nice.
This all sounds great, what’s the catch?
Editor’s note: Due to the sketchy nature of Microsoft’s PR team, please take the information below in good spirit.
The console won’t require an always online connection. We think. Honestly, we don’t really know. There has been a lot of hit and miss information regarding the true details of the situation. Some outlets are reporting one thing, while another says the opposite, all while Microsoft PR fumbles and provides no real answers. This event would have been a perfect time to denounce all those nasty always-online rumors. I guess Microsoft didn’t get the memo.
From what I can gather, the Xbox One will require a sort of “handshake” to Microsoft’s servers every 24 hours for the console to function like you expect – playing games and watching movies, even single player games. Not as bad as some reports would have suggested, but remember, not everyone has reliable internet. It would suck if I lost internet for more than 24 hours and I wasn’t even allowed to enjoy my own bought and paid for games.
Another bit of news apparently said during a post-show interview, was Microsoft’s stance against used and borrowed games. When you buy a new shiny game for your new shiny Xbox One, you must install it. Once installed, you will have to connect to the internet to allow the game to authenticate and tie itself to your Xbox Live ID before you can play. This means if you beat a game and want to let your friend, brother or roommate play it – they can’t, unless you log in with your Xbox Live ID on their console, but when you log on your console at home, it will sign you out on their console, and as a result, will render the game useless to them.
When the borrowed game is installed you will be prompted to buy an unlock code (which is speculated to be the full price of the game if it’s a newer title). Gone will be the days of lending games to family and friends. There are two things very wrong this: One, it alienates your core demographic of people – gamers. Some of my purchases are simply based off of a borrowed or rented game. Two, Microsoft is a global product, not only with the problems mentioned in the above paragraph, but what happens when soldiers on deployment or people in remote locations get a new game and can’t activate it? Has your new game just become a $60 paperweight? Microsoft would be silly to implement a system like this. Hopefully developers have the say in how this DRM is implemented and Xbox Live just provides the service.
The Xbox One is also reportedly said to have a non-removable HDD. This is beyond stupid. HDD’s have moving parts and sometimes they fail. With the Xbox 360, if our hard drive goes bad we can buy a new one and simply install it ourselves. With this new setup we won’t be allowed to swap hard drives if something goes bad (or we might break our warranty). Apparently you will be able to save any kind of information to removable flash drives, but what happens if you lose those? Not a good move, Microsoft.
To top it all off, Microsoft has decided to not let the Xbox One function at all if the Kinect isn’t connected. This wouldn’t really bother me, but it does simply because of this: the new Kinect is always in a low power state and never fully turned off. It’s designed this way so you can walk in to your living room and turn on the system and start up your favorite game or application with only your voice. Let’s recap: camera, microphone, internet, always on. What could possibly go wrong? Microsoft says they’re taking the necessary security measures so users’ privacy is top priority, call me a skeptic, but nothing is ever 100% secure. The idea of a stranger observing and hearing you without your permission makes me uneasy.
The price of Microsoft’s XBOX One was not revealed during the announcement, but is speculated to be somewhere in the $500-$600 range. Console makers have been losing money on their hardware for a long time, and the high-end specs of the XBOX One make this no exception. We will have to wait and see if they decide to push the higher price point, or if they cave in – fearing a high price-tag will hurt sales.
Analysts are also saying that games could be priced at $70 or higher – so prepare yourself before you get sticker shock.
In closing, I’m very excited for the future of games. In particular, Microsoft’s vision and where it will lead us. However, I feel Microsoft may be losing sight or trying to do too much at once. People who buy consoles on release day are most likely your hardcore or dedicated group of fans –- the same people who watch E3 and press events. I’m not the only person who feels like this. The social media world is blowing up, expressing that Microsoft has lost sight of gamers’ interests – and further expressing their interest in Sony’s PS4. After the event Sony’s stock rose 9%, while Microsoft’s dropped 0.66%. That’s real folks. Hopefully, Microsoft listens to the players and makes some changes before they release it in gamers’ hands.
Your move, Microsoft.
For more information about the XBOX One, visit the official site at xbox.com.