The lights are on
In this month's issue, we revealed that the Xbox One won't come with a headset packed in. This news caught a second burst of attention this week, so we decided to catch up with one of gaming's premiere headset manufacturers to see how they are approaching next generation consoles.
We spoke with Aron Drayer, director of marketing for high end gaming gear manufacturer Astro, about his company's plans for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. A lot of talk about voice chat on Microsoft's new console has been brewing, and our readers that use premium (expensive) headsets have expressed concern about how their devices will work in the next generation.
"Microsoft is pushing ahead with new technology that will change how things work," Drayer told us. "Everybody got locked out of Xbox One. For instance, the Madcatz guys make some great fighting sticks for the Xbox 360. Those aren't going to work with your Xbox One. It's the nature of moving from one platform to another."
Unfortunately, this is the exact same thing we've been hearing from Microsoft about chat. The company reiterated to us today that "Only Xbox One controllers and accessories will work with the new console."
You still can output game audio through Astro Gaming's mixamps and A50 transmitter. "You will definitely not be able to do voice chat," Drayer confirmed. This means that an adapter for existing devices simply won't work.
"Based on what Microsoft is doing, that's not what they want to allow anyone in the peripheral space to do," Drayer explained. "Everybody is introducing new products, because the experience that Microsoft is developing on the Xbox One demands a different type of solution. We love what they are doing, and it's super progressive, and we're really excited to potentially partner with them."
Astro is currently seeking a license to develop on the Xbox One and is confident they'll be brought on sometime in the near future. This also likely means that the company will have to break from its universal approach. "I definitely think it's going to demand developing a specific product for Xbox One," Drayer speculated.
In all likelihood existing headsets with a 3.5mm connection (like the A30 and A40) will continue to operate and the new tech will be incorporated into a new mixamp or similar product. However, Astro is biding its time and waiting to hear from the competitive gaming community, its original audience, what features are required. From there, Astro will let those sensibilities "bleed down to the hardcore."
Drayer speculates that, because we aren't hearing about the same type of licensing and new products for the PlayStation 4 that Sony is aiming for the status quo. "Based on what we've heard (and a lack hearing from anybody else), our assumption is that things are very likely going to work as they do today," he told us.
This means that chat output via USB will likely be consistent from the PlayStation 3 to the PlayStation 4. We've reached out to Sony for details, but at the time of publication are still awaiting response.
As for the overall market, Drayer remains positive despite a weakening of the video game sector. "We're selling more product right now than we did at this time last year," he shared. "The softness of the industry has an affect on us, too, but we're really happy where we are given that it's a transition year."
Even though he doesn't expect things to turn around in the console market until Christmas 2014, he revealed some good news about other segments. "We'll have some stuff in-between in spaces where we see high growth," Drayer said. "One is the PC pro space, like League of Legends and Starcraft II and the live streaming behind that. The mobile gaming space is really interesting, too. A transition year in one space doesn't necessarily mean that PC and mobile are slowing down. They're growing super rapidly."
Since publication, Microsoft has provided Game Informer with an updated statement on headset compatibility. You can read that story here.