Game Informer Editors React To Xbox One News
Even with gaming taking a backseat to multimedia functionality, Microsoft threw a lot of new information at the public with its Xbox One press conference. Find out what the Game Informer team thinks about the new hardware, television features, cloud computing, and, most importantly, game announcements.
Given that E3 is right around the corner, I didn't expect Microsoft to focus on software much during the Xbox One Reveal, so I wasn't disappointed by the lack of compelling game announcements. Instead, Microsoft made its pitch to the masses with a new convergence device. This vision of a connected living room intrigues me - who wouldn't appreciate being able to switch from a football game to Madden in an instant to avoid the Ford F-150 commercial that Fox has playing on repeat every game break? I also love the idea of entertaining myself with something other than a static screen while I wait for a multiplayer match to begin.
After the press conference wrapped, however, I had more questions than answers regarding the feasibility of this bold new future. Getting different devices to talk to one another is hard enough work. Not only must Microsoft make the Xbox One compatible with dozens of different cable and satellite boxes, it needs to create a critical line of conversation with these providers and provide incentive for them to keep these systems simpatico through myriad software updates. Going halfway won't help. If Microsoft only lands deals with Comcast and U-verse, for instance, what would compel a DirecTV, Dish Network, or Time Warner subscriber to purchase an Xbox One? This degree of market segmentation could drive potential customers toward Sony before we even get to the games conversation.
Yesterday's Xbox One unveiling event confirmed that Microsoft's play for the console video game market had always been about the control of the living room. This new system is designed to be an all-encompassing entertainment device, and that message was delivered loud and clear yesterday - perhaps to the expense of the system's gaming potential. But while the hardcore may say that Microsoft has lost focus on its roots, you have to admit that on a technological level the instant switching between apps, live, television is impressive. If successful, it could finally unify your home entertainment system into one clean interface. That's a plus for consumers.
Microsoft claims it has more new games in development that ever before, but we have to wait until E3 to see their big guns. However, if it managed to pack all this next-gen media functionality into a box that also has the capability to be a truly powerful gaming platform, we all win. If its push toward entertainment comes at the expense of their core gaming audience, they will learn how unforgiving the market can be. For me, I'm genuinely excited about a better, more advanced way to consume TV entertainment and I think Xbox One represents a step in the right direction. No one, including myself, is going to pay Microsoft money for a better cable box, and I think the company knows that. However, if I can get a system that will be great for games plus let me skip the hideous and unusable user interface of my Comcast box, I'd be genuinely excited.
My enthusiasm for any new console is dependent on games. Lots of people feel the same way, which could be part of the reason that reactions to Microsoft's reveal turned negative. If you're a company releasing a video game console, shouldn't video games take center stage?
Microsoft didn't do that, and in that neglect, demonstrated its lack of regard for gamers. We're not the audience that Microsoft was talking to; the company was talking to people who liked Kinect, who don't already own six Netflix-capable devices, and who don't care about whether or not they can borrow games from a friend. Microsoft's reveal was a success in that it showed the company's strategic emphasis on multimedia entertainment, but a failure in the way it further alienated the hardcore gamers it once catered. E3 is Microsoft's chance to highlight the exclusive software that will distinguish it from the PS4, so I'm still excited about the potential of the Xbox One...but it's more in spite of what I saw yesterday than because of it.
What I saw of the services has me intrigued. I would definitely use the television functions, as I often swap back and forth between live TV and my 360 when downloading content. I'm also hopeful about the game offerings that we'll see at E3. We haven't yet heard from Epic Games, 343 Industries' Halo (game) team, Crytek (Ryse), or Lionhead. I'm interested in learning more about Quantum Break, as I'm a fan of Remedy's past work. Once Microsoft has definitive answers (no matter what they are) regarding used games and connectivity, it'll be far easier for consumers to judge the landscape.
Microsoft has less than three weeks to get its messaging figured out. Yesterday fell apart from a public relations perspective, with different spokespeople offering a variety of answers to straightforward questions. If that happens again at E3 (or if Microsoft fails to provide concrete responses), the backlash is going to be substantial.
As someone who hasn't had cable in years and has no plans to purchase it again, I remain unsold on the Xbox One. The majority of the console's capabilities that Microsoft showed seemed to me to be a bunch of things I can already do on devices I already own. I mean, seriously - looking up info on cast members during a movie? Who is in the market for an Xbox One that doesn't already have a smartphone, tablet, and/or laptop that can accomplish that just as effectively? The one thing I saw that interests me is the tie-in to Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform. That could conceivably be used in interesting ways by game developers to create genuinely new experiences. It seems like a lot of engineering overhead for limited benefit for any multiplatform game, though, so I don't expect to see it used in any real way except in Xbox One exclusives. Sony reaching out to indie devs and embracing alternative business models seems far more useful to me and the games I'm interested in than anything Microsoft said yesterday.
I'm starting to warm up to the name and the form factor, but I'm worried what a mandatory, packed-in Kinect peripheral will do to the system's price. On the whole, a lot of the features announced for the system - like the PS4 - fall in the "nifty" category, but don't classify the system as a must-have. I'm sure when all is said and done, gamers will have plenty of great software to enjoy on the platform despite yesterday's TV-centric presentation. That said, I still think Sony's first-party stable of studios is stronger. I'm sure we can expect a few specialty Kinect and casual experiences to water down Microsoft's seemingly weighty declaration of fifteen platform exclusives and eight new franchises in the first year. As far as the used games/online connection debate, there is still too much we don't know to start casting stones.
Microsoft has some great ideas for the next generation, but it did a disastrous job of communicating them yesterday. Most of the negative comments and Tweets that I read were from people who felt betrayed at the company's focus on TV and seeming indifference to gaming. This is a video game console, right? Well, sort of. If you haven't noticed that these boxes are more than simple game systems, you haven't been paying attention. Microsoft is in a tough position. It's relatively late in the year for a 2013 hardware reveal, and the company needs to get people interested in its unique nongaming functionality. People who aren't keyed into gaming, in particular, who mighty think it's cool to say "HBO" and have their TV switch to that channel instantly. I'm guessing that Microsoft bet that a few game reveals (including an appearance from the latest Call of Duty) would be enough to keep everyone else busy until a major game-focused E3. That's a bet that they apparently lost. One last observation: Microsoft needs to get its people on the same page on basic items like "Will there be a fee added for playing used games?" When people are getting conflicting reports from various spokespeople - and when a Twitter handle @xboxsupport3 has to step in for a while - it's a sign that things have gotten out of control.
Initially I was disappointed with Microsoft's press conference. I wish it had shown more games, or at least shown more of the games that it did show. As interesting as the Xbox One's new TV functionality is, I felt it was a strange way to start a presentation about a new video game console. It makes me wonder if Microsoft has lost its focus. The system itself looks great. I love the design and I'm excited about the new controller. However, I found it silly that Microsoft didn't talk more about the new controller or the new Kinect. Most of the interesting details about the Xbox One weren't in the press conference, but had to be read online afterward. That said, I'm excited to get my hands on the system and play some of its games. But, if Sony doesn't charge a fee for used games, then I'll be buying a PS4 first.
I leaned toward my Xbox 360 this generation. In the beginning I think this was a combination of the system launching before the PS3 and most of my friends being on it. Microsoft was also smart enough to pack in a headset and let me transfer my Xbox Live account from its first console, making my go-to system for online play this generation. But now Sony is taking online more seriously. The company is including a headset, unlike Microsoft, which is taking the Wii Speak route and having players use their Kinect to communicate. Sony also appears to be implementing an Xbox Live style party system. With the PlayStation 4 correcting its predecessor's mistakes, the gap is closing between the two companies. However, Sony's impressive PS4 showing could be temporary - we don't know everything yet. The company could be delaying the more unsavory details, including used game fees or other hidden tidbits. It's still early, and neither manufacturer has said much about games for the systems. Come E3 we'll have a clearer picture, but I'm leaning towards the PlayStation 4 at this point.
Presenting new consoles on a platform outside of E3 is a brand new world. Even Nintendo, which has fallen in love with its own Nintendo Direct presentations, revealed its Wii U at E3. Presenting the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 to the world in an online stream outside of the conference is a new idea in the world of video games, and I find myself considering this when thinking about Xbox One's presentation. Everyone is crying, "Where were the games?" and I can't help that feel that their absence was a calculated shortcoming from Microsoft. This was purely a chance to show off the base features and nothing else. E3, a show devoted to games, is where Microsoft will offer the exciting game-focused bombshells.
Underwhelming is a word a lot of people are using to describe the event, and I agree with that sentiment. We got to see the system and the new controller, which is very exciting, but everything else was blasé. I have a Kinect, but I don't use it, and I am doubtful that will change. I have a cable box and DVR that I have very few complaints about, and realistically I don't see myself using the Xbox One to change channels. Hearing about a new Call of Duty was akin to hearing about a new Madden. The games continue to be fun, but the next iteration in a yearly franchise is not exciting. Finally, even as a Halo fan, I don't see myself watching a show based on the franchise.
The most offensive takeaway for me is the incredibly confusing messaging about the future of used games and always online. I can begrudgingly accept the always-online aspect of the Xbox One considering my current consoles are always online as it is. However, not being able to simply place a game in my console and play, borrowed or purchased, is a problem. One of the main reasons I have always preferred consoles to PCs is the ease of play. Ultimately, I'm not sure what or whom to believe. Even internally Microsoft doesn't seem to know what it is talking about. I am willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt on this issue as we learn more, but it's not looking very good right out of the gate.
I know Microsoft is saving plenty for E3, especially games, but I wanted more from the presentation. The TV features look nice and all, but they're not a deal breaker for whether or not I get a system. Games are the deciding factor. One thing that got me really excited was seeing the enhanced graphics of Call of Duty: Ghost. The attention to detail that developers can now give to characters models and environments looks promising. One of my biggest complaints with graphics currently is that they fail to capture realistic mannerisms and facial expressions in games. I'm wondering with the superior technology if developers can get it right in the upcoming generation. As an avid fantasy hockey player, the ESPN features to track stats and get alerts on players are a nice bonus, but that's how I feel about a lot of Microsoft's presentation. I just saw bonuses, not selling points.
I'm personally not that excited about the Xbox One. The name is fine, the console design is fine, the Kinect is ugly, but the push to appeal to avid television viewers and sports fans does not get my blood pumping. The controller looks great, but Microsoft's priorities don't align with my interest. While it cited gaming as its "beachhead" for the system, it also framed the power of the console as getting them that much closer to "playing real life" through graphical fidelity. I don't care about pores in the skin and imperfections in Forza cars. I would like to see something new in the gameplay space. That all said, it is way too early to write off the system, and I'm curious to learn more about the upcoming games at E3.
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