It was going to take alot for Microsoft to impress me at their XBOX reveal. After Sony’s superb reveal of the boxless PS4, my gaming fire was fanned to a conflagration’s immensity and doubts about what the next XBOX could be soon followed. As a Sony loyalist – objective, mind you, but suffering finances have prevented me from buying more than one console – I still wanted to see what Microsoft could bring to the table. I’ve been impressed with the current generation’s offerings but not enough to commit to a second machine. I will eventually get BOTH systems, perhaps even a Wii U if it survives, but in order for me to start my Gen-8 gaming with an XBOX, I would have needed to see something AMAZING.
My amazement will have to hold its tongue. Or rather, it will have to remain in a slumber until E3. What Microsoft showed was a machine that is capable of playing top tier games with television and web integration running on separate operating systems. Those OS will indeed be seamlessly integrated into each other, allowing for on-the-fly input switching with voice commands and/or bodily gestures, utilizing Kinect 2.0 to roll your TV service into your gaming experience. It is still unclear HOW your TV service will be integrated. Whether or not consumers will have to sign up for a Microsoft TV service or somehow various outlets will integrate into XBOX ONE’s OS remains to be seen.
All in all, very little, if anything, seems groundbreaking. While control of your living room experience using voice activation is a cool gimmick and may one day become the gold standard for TV control, it’s generally a throwaway concept that hardly warrants the steep price this machine will sell for. If Sony’s machine carries an equal price, it’s doubtful that consumers will choose XB1 over it (or vice versa) for those cool features especially if it’s a paid service.
More asides to the living room experience include some interesting social integration, none of which appeared impossible on PS4′s proposals. While they mentioned a “gaming DVR” feature, they failed to highlight any streaming services, leaving their constant “cloud computing” mentions with more questions than answers. XBOX SmartGlass looks to integrate phones and tablets in some way. Skype will of course be a large part of its social forum and depending on how consistent the XB1′s version of Skype is, streaming gameplay could also be possible and is likely inevitable.
From a consumer’s standpoint, XB1 proposes a machine that has high level social capabilities as well. Again, nothing shown was anything new in that realm with PS4 claiming dibs on every aspect. Trending TV or gaming was a large part of the interface shown but little in the way of the friend interactions Sony boasted. Summarily, Microsoft will have its own twist on what Sony is doing.
Not many games were shown. One exclusive was by developer Remedy of Max Payne fame entitled “Quantum Break.” Basically we saw a little girl with some powers, demonstrated by a barge floating down a river that was teleported in time, it seems, to break a low clearance bridge. Why it was headed toward a low bridge is a conversation for another day but the concept itself seems conceived along the same lines as Infamous or X-Men with a more dramatic aura. Though this was the only exclusive shown, 15 more were promised including 8 new IPs within the first year after the system’s 2013 launch. Of course Forza 5 was both announced and promised as a launch title, satisfying the token racing game requirement necessary for any console reveal.
A big partnership with EA were announced but entailed little in the way of exclusivity. EA’s UFC game, Madden 25, FIFA 14, and NBA Live were all mentioned for release in the next 12 months but will all appear on PS4 as well, likely on the same dates. FIFA 14 hinted at some exclusive content utilizing Kinect 2.0 but stopped short of revealing what other than an enhanced Ultimate Team mode.
Call of Duty: Ghosts rounded out the conference, another game with more of the same but upgraded, though an enhanced story narrative was promoted amidst the graphical upgrades and tech jargon that goes along with that. Zero gameplay footage was shown for any of the games, yet they were all said to be running on XBOX ONE hardware. CG sequences were abundant to hammer this home despite several references to “actual gameplay on XBOX One hardware.”
You’ll have to forgive my rather bland reaction here. Nothing that I saw amazed me and struck me as something that would be a system seller. On the contrary, I can foresee more problems with these gimmicks than solutions. While it is cool to switch seamlessly from TV to gaming, what about your other TVs? If Dad wants to watch sports, he’ll have some cool features to play with but that means his teenage son or daughter won’t be gaming on that TV. In essence, those features work against themselves to alienate gaming in general, promoting instead a notion of web browsing and TV watching and seemless transition that would be useful for someone living alone.
Perhaps that is an unfair assessment. Maybe XB1 will allow multiple receivers or work with your current TV service so that it doesn’t get in the way of your gaming experience. Still, that begs the question: What is the point? Why buy a machine that does TV when it is used for gaming? Why the need to switch easier and have some nifty features that disallow gaming on another TV?
It is no wonder that word on Wallstreet is that Sony’s stock began soaring after the XB1 reveal event. It seems the smart money is on a gaming machine that is less invasive, ironically, than the one that attempts to create an entertainment hub in the living room. Hell, it’s likely not even a hub more than it is a constrictive device that pools all entertainment to one place instead of allowing it to be an additional option for your entertainment desires. Gone is the possibility of gaming in your bedroom if your parents want XB1 to run your TV. Gone is the possibility of using its futuristic features for TV if you do still want to game in your bedroom. Gone is the desire to have those features if you’re a gamer.
Unfortunately, Microsoft did not have a slam dunk today. In all fairness, neither did Sony a couple of months ago unless you’re a gamer. Their game-focused approach might be better suited and thus bring in more buyers when all is said and done. Then again, in a world where hundreds of dollars are spent annually just to have the coolest new thing, Microsoft may have that market on lockdown. It really is a cool device with some cool capabilities that may or may not be used frequently. In the end, we are gamers. And our gaming needs will be impeded upon with XBOX One, at least from the looks of things.
Many other aspects of the XB1 reveal will be discussed on TRG in the coming days including some opinions of the rest of the staff. Regardless of what yours or their opinion of Microsoft’s proposals are, this holiday season is going to be historical. Two machines with largely the same capabilities from two juggernaut companies will hit store shelves. What exactly they offer is largely unknown but will be revealed at E3 next month. Until then, a sour taste for Microsoft may be infecting the gaming sphere’s proverbial mouth. The console wars rage on. Let the speculative arguments commence.