Musings on Microsoft’s XBOX ONE Reveal

I’ve left this post a day because 1) There could have been announcements/reveals after the live event (and there were), 2) I’d have time to process my thoughts and 2) I had a horrendous migraine.  But I’m better now and I’m ready to jot down my (admittedly, still muddled) thoughts on…

THE XBOX ONE

and how it compares to the PS4.

Looks wise, its big and bulky and I’m not surprised. I’ve never liked the look of Microsoft’s consoles (The 360 Slim is OK) so at least they’re keeping consistency. This one reminds me of the BOSE CD tower stacks they always used to advertise on the back of the TV papers in the early noughties. Modern.

I’ve never understood why people adore Xbox controllers. Maybe I just find the Dualshock’s symmetry to be the perfect design – analog  sticks should be next to each other, end of.

The much maligned Kinect is going to be a major part of this console and I’m open in thinking they could make it work well. If the navigation is smooth then it could be a real clever selling point. Then again, I remember how much of  a big thing Siri was for the iPhone, and people I know (me included) rarely use it.

The new Xbox is hopefully going to replace that TiVo or Sky+ under your TV. At least Microsoft hopes. Again, this doesn’t sound too bad. I’m not adverse to having a few things under my TV but if integrated properly with multitasking watching/recording TV with downloading games or whatever then the Xbox One could be the All-in-One device that MS want it to be. Oh, but it runs on something that looks very similar to Windows 8….

I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

The Xbox One also comes with Skype functionality, which actually sounds pretty cool, if not for me. One of the things Xbox fan tell me they love the most is cross-game chat and this sounds like the perfect next step. Personally I’m more of a solo player and when I’m playing a game I like to focus on it and not be distracted by talking to other people. Unless its something mindless like Dynasty Warriors where I have been to known to talk to people on loudspeaker on my phone or Skype on my laptop. But no, can’t really fault this. Its not groundbreaking but its a solid addition.

But now, onto the bad stuff…

  • Its still unclear about the ‘always on’ connection debacle.  This is something Microsoft needs to outline exactly, and soon. Apparently you can watch films and play single player games without being connected to the internet but you need to connect at least once every 24 hours… what?!?
  • Discs are only there to install games to hard drives. The Xbox One comes with a 500GB hard drive (I’m sure there will be more models available with different sizes), a ‘significant portion’ of this is taken up by the operating system. Current gen games take up around and above 5GB of HDD space, with PS3 games like Ni No Kuni and Uncharted require around/over 40 to be downloaded and installed. How many next gen games will you be able to have on your hard drive alongside recorded TV shows before you need an upgrade? Hmmm.
  • The big issue is about pre-owned games. If you take your disc to a friends house you can install the game on their system and play on your account fine (I’m guessing with cloud storage you can pick up your save where you left off at yours, which is cool). But if they want to borrow the game, they have to pay who-knows-how-much-yet to activate usage of it with their account. Even if the cost is as low as a fiver or a tenner, its still a bit of a bummer. This applies to pre-owned games too, its likely when you buy a pre-owned game you’ll need to be connected first time you boot it up so the service can checked if its pre-owned and then charge you if necessary. Paying more to use something you’ve paid for? People aren’t happy about this. Current gen systems like Network Passes are bad enough. This may not be a huge problem in the UK as the price of new games often comes down to about half the original price within a few months anyway, but pre-owned bargain hunting is one of my favourite things about buying games.
  • Whilst your account and gamerscore moves over, your games won’t. Like the PS4, this is due to different computer architecture and is a shame, but understandable. Sony offered a glimmer of hope saying emulation may be available through Cloud streaming, but we’ll see.

This brings us nicely to the selling point of all games consoles: the games. I had an argument with my housemate this morning about the whole reveal and next generation. He is pretty cynical about the whole thing, talking about advertising and features and whatnot and my response was, it all boils down to the games. This current generation has had its misfires, sure but there have been some of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had over the last few years. Uncharted, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Journey, Metal Gear Solid 4, LittleBigPlanet: all pushing the boundaries of storytelling, gameplay and what games can really do. The reason I’m a massive Sony fan is because they invest time and money into the keyword: exclusives. Experiences I can’t get on any other console and are unique, artistic, different. Sony’s mission statement for the PS4 was that it was a games machine first and foremost. Whilst the titles they showed looked good, they were still your FPS shooter, cartoony platformer, gritty adventure game etc. I’m hoping at E3 they’ll show us something more left-field and characteristic of Sony’s diverse exclusives range.

Microsoft have positioned their machine is an all around entertainment device, which is , funnily enough, what Sony did with the PS3. They apparently have 15 exclusives for the console, 8 of which are new IPs and potential franchises. We got shown one, alongside a new Forza and an already announced Call of Duty. Both companies haven’t played all their cards yet, and that is understandable, but Microsoft haven’t answered the burning questions everyone wants to know. First impressions are important, and whilst we haven’t got the whole picture from Sony or Microsoft about their new consoles yet, the former has left a much better taste in my mouth by focusing on what gamers love: games.

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