Xbox One revealed and the dark cloud above it

Microsoft have been instrumental in drumming up hype for its newest games console which has been revealed as the Xbox One, but having been privy to the excitement and launch of the Xbox 360 way back in 2005, it’s hard to get excited over this new dawn of entertainment in comparison. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was all about putting the player at the center of the experience – hence the name – with a strong focus on software and yet Xbox One seems to suggest a singular insulated approach at capturing all as one.  Whilst the original Xbox and 360 were aimed at core audiences, the new Xbox seems to ditch the ideal and head for the lofty heights of mainstream appeal right out the gate, but at what cost.

On the plus side, the new voice activated user interface looks slick and works well with Kinect 2 being an integrated part of the package – possibly pushing the price up a bit. The multi tasking functionality looks novel – although in reality, playing a game and watching TV or even chatting with friends via video seems like a stretch of the imagination – although heading to Youtube or a website that provides game hints seems like a natural fit. The seamless movement between applications and TV is interesting as well, but that’s assuming we’re a lazy bunch of oafs moving away from a traditional remote control. The idea seems to stem from a family setting, where the One is the central hub in the living room Great for Timmy playing Forza 5, and dad wanting to come in and watch the News – except in this day an age of mobile devices, catch up TV and computers the idea seems a bit muted in practice. Still, the ideas are sound on paper for a living room experience where only one box is required to do everything. But What about those in other rooms? How well does Xbox One cater to the smaller gaming space?

Xbox_Console_F_Tilt_TransBG_RGB_2013

Xbox One looks like a beast from a time gone by that we’d all rather forget. Gone are any sleek curves and shape, instead replaced by an angular looking relic of the 1980s. It seems design wise Microsoft has taken a back seat. Looks aside, there’s also a number of glaring issues which might not affect everyone, but are there all the same and will no doubt have some influence over peoples purchasing decisions. On one hand, the Xbox One won’t play Xbox 360 games which goes against the ideal of the Xbox One being a singular console. Want to play an older game, then the Xbox 360 still has to reside in ones gaming space. This is a big faux pas from both console manufacturers as Sony’s PS4 will also not be supporting older games.

The Xbox controller has had a redesign, with the biggest upgrade being the additional feedback afforded. This sounds neat and should be good if developers use it well enough in their games. Kinect 2 sounds like an all round improvement as expected, but as mentioned already, at what cost will this be for the entire package?

There’s also furor surrounding the always online connectivity. It’s said that always online is not a requirement for all the functions, but at some point an internet connection will be required. Microsoft are being vague about this and what’s been said thus far is the Xbox One will need to connect to the Internet once every 24 hours. Most people who use Xbox 360 with Xbox Live already – and there are millions of them – will have no issue with this and it’s only those with no Internet connections at all that could be missing out. Perhaps Microsoft will devise a way to allow mobile phones or traditional phones to be used to activate products somehow? The issue that most people will want answered is can games be played offline without the Internet connection, once already authorized. A fair question to ask, but in reality it seems the Xbox One will be a grounded console rather than one you take away to your island retreat once a year.

Xbox_Console_RHS78_TransBG_RGB_2013

Perhaps the greatest issue right now surrounds used sales of games and how this will work. The idea of lending a game to a friend is apparently not an issue for many people; and in the face of digital mediums such as Steam, this is a correct assumption. Gamers will be able to show off games on their friends consoles but not share them in the owner’s absence. It makes sense in light of piracy, but does remove some of the ownership of having a physical product. Selling games to stores for cash or credit is a massive part of the market, which numerous ways have already been tried to counter this (Online passes, extra game content etc.) and one can argue that all XBLA or PSN games can’t be traded any way.  It appears – and Sony might follow suit – that Microsoft aims to take control of the used market somehow although its intentions right now are unclear. It has been suggested that games can be traded to retail, although the terminology is quite vague and could include an online retailer using Microsoft’s own service, where credit can be used towards future purchases but nothing concrete has been said about this. In some ways, this would actually be quite good if extended to digital products as well as disc based, especially at present where there are no returns on digital purchases for the consumer.

Xbox One has been met with mixed responses, but perhaps this is because Sony were too cautious to get into the meat of the issues which are causing gamers to get upset. With E3 weeks away, sure we’ll see a lot more software as it’s the major gaming event of the year, but Microsoft and Sony really need to spill the beans a little more on their plans for tackling the other issues sch as used sales.

Xbox One is certainly here, and welcome, but there’s a little bit of a dark cloud hanging over its head which Microsoft need to blow away as much as they do the consumers when actual games are revealed.

Written by: Robert Cram

Robert Cram has hundreds of video game reviews and thousands of articles under his belt. He aims to remain objective and fair in his analysis. With years of experience, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement is entirely optional.