Overall, I was underwhelmed with the XBox One announcement. The rumors about the third iteration of the Xbox being The Living Room Device / ‘cable killer’ / entertainment hub were clearly front and center. I’m not sure what exactly I expected from Microsoft, but I think it involved a lot more talk about gaming. Chatter online shows peoples expectation that the talk will be all games, all the time at E3 (June 11-13), but I would have liked to have heard a little more depth and breadth around specific gaming innovations. Lots of gamers seem to agree.
Whenever a new generation console is revealed, I tend to think “what could they possibly do to improve?” – which is typically a graphics-centric thought. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized a new gen could shift so far to the side – forward-moving or not – that I find myself questioning whether I play The Console Game anymore. NES, Genesis, N64, Xbox, Xbox 360. That might very well be the end of my line.
Running through the details around the web, here’s what I’m feeling about the Xbox One:
In my opinion, this should always be the end-all, be-all of a next gen. If the graphics upgrades don’t completely blow us away, then it’s just a v.5 upgrade. So far, the system looks great.
Six months ago, before Milo, I would not have given Skype a second thought. But now we Skype almost weekly, so be able to do so living room-wide in HD from the couch sounds great. (I was surprised this wasn’t already possible with the 360 + Kinect – or is it?)
Install a game to start, and not worry about the discs again after that. Love it, assuming the HD read-write speeds are up to par. And I’m fine with the internet connection requirement as long as they stay true to not needing the connection constantly to play.
This was one area where there was a significant focus on content, but I don’t pay attention to EA games. I vote with my wallet, and I absolutely do not give money to that company. And the fact that platform & hardware companies continue to feed that beast with exclusivity skews this from neutral to almost negative.
We’re not cable-cutters in our house, as much as we might like to be. I’ve only ever used my 360 for live television twice: when there was a game on ESPN3, and during a 2012 presidential debate. While the experience was fine both times, both instances were circumstantial: I was too lazy to go into our main TV room to watch the game through cable, and to experiment with the interactivity Microsoft was touting for live debates. I’m not rushing to re-experience either through a gaming console in the future. And we have a Roku box, so as rickety as that system might be, we can rent and stream through the much-smaller-footprint-of-a-box just fine. There’s a lot of detail and nuance to why I don’t ever see this kind of execution leading to overall better television experiences, but the Verge sums it up nicely: “the Xbox One won’t free you from your cable box — it’ll stay firmly chained to it“.
Also, this NFL interactivity thing sounds like it could be fun – I’m actually very into online socializing during sports – but I’m seriously doubting the abilities of Microsoft and the NFL to bring this functionality to us without severely crippling its capabilities through excessive costs or exclusive, prohibitive partnerships.
Just a personal thing, but I really couldn’t care less about the Halo franchise or Steven Spielberg.
Physical media. LOL.
Lack of backwards compatibility
Sure, I would still have my 360 nearby, but this just doesn’t sit well with me, even if Sony is doing it too with their new PS4. I don’t care about the hardware why’s, or any arguments about driving innovation. As a consumer, I’m not happy about this.
Forced & always-on Kinect
The new Kinect is built-in, mandatory, and always on. It is always listening; that says it all. We could argue all day about whether this is overblown, but just because they have no intention of spying or listening in to anything other than the ‘Xbox on’ command today, doesn’t mean they won’t decide to tomorrow, or that someone at or outside of Microsoft finds a way to do it anyway on their own terms. The fact is, you’re putting a listening and watching device directly in your house. And while I’ve given them a lot of leash over the years, of all the possible companies, I do not trust Microsoft with that power. Make no mistake: this is a deal-breaker.
Undoubtedly, the price
This wasn’t even discussed, but I’m sure it will be prohibitive. I’ll wager $499 entry-level.
So while I don’t ever see myself buying anything from Sony, I’m sad to say as of the XBox One unveiling, I don’t see myself buying anything from Microsoft either. I completely understand where they’re going with the platform, and I do think it makes more sense than not. Ultimately though, they’re a company with a terrible reputation around both price and service, which puts the Xbox on a trajectory to become just another shitty Comcast / EA / AT&T / Hollywood studio platform first, and a gaming platform second.