Red-Ringed and Wronged: Microsoft’s Xbox One Debut Falls Flat
A few months ago, gamers were introduced to Sony’s PlayStation 4. Showing off new tech and software, the PlayStation 4 debuted with excitement and general praise. By going before Microsoft, Sony had set the bar for the next generation, and they did a fair job. They mentioned new features (the ability to view in-game content with friends with a share button) and showcased new games (WatchDogs, Infamous: Second Son), but for some reason, Sony didn’t show the actual console, but getting a look at the controller was good enough. Right?
Overall, Sony was praised for its vague but intriguing conference. Sony had done their job: they introduced gamers to the possibilities of the next generation, and they were smart; they kept the focus more on how their system would affect gaming and less on buzzwords. Now, the ball was squarely in Mircosoft’s court; last generation they came hot out of the gate with the Xbox 360 and rode it to the second best console sales of the generation, only behind the Nintendo Wii. Mircosoft had time to prepare, to test their audience for reaction, to figure out where they could improve. Microsoft could use that time to show that the 360 wasn’t a fluke and that the Xbox brand would continue dominance over Sony for the near future. Did they?
Instead, Microsoft managed to be more vague than Sony on many of the pertinent questions gamers had, and when they did give answers, they made people mad. I don’t think Microsoft had any real idea what the audience wanted from their product, nor do I think they noticed any of the media coverage they were getting and the very real concerns people had. We’ll know more at E3, but right now let’s take a look at the major questions Microsoft had to answer coming in to this presentation.
What’s The console called?
For months now, speculation ran rampant about the possible name for the next Xbox. Name ideas seemed to change weekly as the project (codenamed: Durango) neared its debut. The most popular suggestion came from Reddit as a user made a mock-up with the name “Infinity” attached to it, and surprisingly (or unsurprisingly depending on your view of game journalism) the mock-up was picked up as official by a few gaming websites. Many lols were later had. Fast forward to yesterday, and we now have an official name: Xbox One.
Did they answer it?
Yes. Not the best name out there, but its better than the Wii U. I still wish they had kept up the naming convention they started and gone with Xbox 720. Outside of the PS4, the new consoles sound like expansion packs instead of heirs.
What does it look like?
After Sony’s conference where they did not show the new system, Microsoft could conceivably get a leg up on the competition just by revealing that they actually *had* a console. Sony had talked up the next generation. By showing some hardware, Microsoft could actually start it.
Did they answer it?
Yup. Here it is:
So, it’s pretty much a PC. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. Plus. it looks like the Kinect has consumed some PEDs during the offseason. Overall, it looks sleek, but sticking with Xbox tradition, it is freaking huge.
What’s the deal with Kinect?
Coming into the presentation, there were some concerns about the Kinect. Microsoft’s entry into motion controls has been under utilized and not very well received by gamers or the general public. Much like the Wii, the Kinect was fun the first couple times it was played but was quickly unhooked until you had a dire reason to play it.
There weren’t many reasons.
There was a very sincere hope that Microsoft would move on from the Kinect and focus back on the core gamer.
Did they answer it?
Here’s where Microsoft started to get themselves into trouble. Not only would the Kinect be back for another go, but the camera add-on now would be required. The Kinect 2.0 must be plugged in and calibrated for the Xbox One to even function. While that may not sound like a big deal, think about the problems people had due to reorganizing their rooms to make the Kinect work. If it has problems calibrating to your room specs, no Xbox for you.
The camera also listens for you even while it’s off, which is…disconcerting to say the least. There’s also the fact that having a camera watch all the time does raise some concerns, but Microsoft says they have some very strong privacy settings. Despite that, there is a very real chance that Microsoft is using the Kinect as another way to try and combat privacy. This article published last year shows that Microsoft has thought of ways to use the Kinect as a tattle-tale, and the fact that the Kinect is now required makes me think they’re looking to advance that idea. Don’t be surprised if stories of pirates being caught by the add-on start springing up next year.
Well, those are the smaller questions. Not so bad to far right? That Kinect stuff kinda sucks, but it’s tolerable. Surely, Microsoft will answer the BIG questions in a way that is clear and satisfying right?
Will the console be Always On (require an internet connection)?
A major fear was that it would be impossible to play the new Xbox without an internet connection. While it is true that the world is now more connected than ever before, not every location has easy accesses to Wi-Fi or even an internet port. This is especially true for the men and women in the armed forces, who may spend most of their time on a ship or on a base in the remotest parts of the world. For these people, the inability to play games offline would turn the console into a pricey paperweight.
Did they answer it?
Yeah, yeah they did. Unfortunately for the people I wrote about above, the Xbox One will require an internet connection, though it’s a bit different than expected. Instead of a constant tether, it must be connected to the internet once every 24 hours in order to function, although no one is really sure what will happen if it doesn’t connect to the internet. Maybe it will self-destruct? Even so, the news that an internet connection is required is a blow to everyone that just wants to play by themselves.
Will it block used games?
There’s no denying that gamers have a love/hate relationship with GameStop, but despite the corporation’s stance on trade-ins (see: highway robbery), there is a benefit to used game sales. I know that I have bought many used games over the years, often from GameStop and other retailers. It’s a great way to get a discount on games that I was tepid on or wanted to wait and see. Just a few weeks ago, I was able to pick up Metal Gear Rising for $26.00 bucks off of eBay, a great deal for a great game. I probably wouldn’t have played most of the games I own if I couldn’t have picked them up used. I understand that used game sales suck for the publishers, but it’s hard to deny the benefits of used game sales for every other entity.
Did they answer it?
Kinda. The Xbox One will require users to go online and enter a one-time use code for their games before use. From there, the game will be stored on the hard drive and can be played as many times as you want. But say you want to lend the game out to a friend, they can play it, right? Turns out no. The system will require your friend or whomever to pay the full price for the game if they want to play it. So, no more buying game from eBay or GameStop, or even borrowing from friends. Microsoft clarified later that if you use your account on a friends Xbox, then the game is playable, but without the account that purchased the game, you’re looking at paying full price no matter what. Microsoft later said that they will have a way to sell used games online, but gave no further information.
But what about the games?
This should really be the main factor in all of these presentation. Yes, I love hearing about how the next generation will integrate innovation into the future of entertainment, but what about the gaaaaames???? This is why people buy consoles in the first place. Yes, its awesome my Xbox can run Netflix, but I hardly use it for that. Give me some next gen Master Chief, or something new and shiny to gush over!
Did they answer it?
An announcement of 15 new games for the Xbox One, 8 of which will be new IPs. They showed sports games, a new Forza, and something called Quantum Break from the people that made Alan Wake. They later announced that one of Rare’s historic franchises would be returning for the next gen. If it’s Killer Instinct, then all is forgiven, Microsoft. You done good.
Well, we learned that Microsoft is pushing some pretty unattractive features with its new console: a necessity for an internet connection, required Kinect, and blocking used games are pretty much the three things Xbox fans hoped to not hear about during the debut, but Microsoft showed that they’re not afraid to piss off the gaming public, i.e. their consumers.
Despite that, I bet this negative reaction doesn’t even affect them. Why? Check out this article; not one mention of the features that freak me out, all replaced with mostly positive praise. Maybe it’s true.
Maybe console makers no longer have to listen to the gamers anymore now that gaming’s mainstream. Maybe people will freak out when they realize what the Xbox One actually does. Or maybe they’ll just deal with it because they want to play CoD and GTA. But if Microsoft wants to get gamers and the gaming media back on their side after this, here are a few tips.
- At E3, they better show games.
- They better show exclusives.
- They better show why we should want to put up with these crazy measures.
If they come on stage and talk about Skype again, Microsoft could be in some real trouble this gen.
When not polishing up his ULTRA COMBOS, Ben Christ writes about Sports and Videogames for Hobbeslives.com He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org