So yesterday Microsoft unveiled its 8th generation console to the world and a fairly mixed reception. To be honest we still don’t know enough about this system to get over-excited just yet. Either way the reveal was pretty well executed (despite the lag riddled live-stream) and of course the obligatory dubstep went down well (how could it possibly fail?). As far as gaming conferences go it was handled with fairly minimal awkwardness… Except maybe the “interview” in which we discovered Roger Goodell (NFL boss) and Don Mattrick (Microsoft President) give D-grade actors a pretty hot run for their money.
Firstly, the name. “Infinity” and “720” backers got the biggest surprise here. I personally don’t care that much about the name, because we’ll probably end up just calling it the Xbox in due time anyway. Many are hilariously referring to it as Xbox Juan.
There was a huge emphasis on multi-tasking during the conference. We saw Xbox One ‘snap’ open Internet Explorer (heh) to a side panel while a tv show was running, as a way to browse while watching tv all on the same screen. This can also be used to display stats and fantasy news while watching sport – eliminating the need to have another device on the couch while watching a match. It seems that this feature is activated by talking to the console in case you’ve lost the remote. It seemed to get a good reception but I can’t decide whether it’s actually good or Microsoft are just pandering exclusively to people who can’t find their remote controls.
Now, this would probably work out well on larger tvs but the emphasis on live sports is aimed almost purely at the US market – other countries don’t have the same demand for US sport and TV shows so it’s hard to see this feature doing well anywhere else on earth unless it’s handled very thoughtfully and specifically. It seems as if the content we saw during this section of the conference will be very different in other regions – all channels shown appeared to be exclusive to the US. How it works in other countries will probably be entirely different – for better or worse.
Another talking point is the way it’s going to be controlled. The voice interaction feature means that the new Kinect sensor will be required to operate the console – which could spell bad news if it’s anything like old Kinect. Hopefully it has seen a big overhaul and is nothing like previous Kinect which was hugely unpopular.
On the other hand – the regular controller looks completely awesome. It’s a lot like the 360 controller (which was highly regarded as extremely versatile) despite a few small stylistic differences. Most imprtantly, the d-pad got a much needed make-over, and the battery pack is slimmer. Of course we won’t know for sure until we hold it, but I doubt there will be complaints over the controller. It seems like Microsoft have listened to the community and made just the right amount of tweaks without changing it up too much. If it all works out perfectly I wouldn’t be surprised if the controller feels like a natural extension of the human body.
A common criticism of the conference was about the lack of game announcements and gameplay footage. We did see a bunch of trailers but no actual gameplay (EA games aside) which makes you wonder why they didn’t want to show it off a little more. I guess E3 will cover this section though – there will be 15 exclusives available at launch (including at least 8 new IPs) which is a very smart move (Nintendo, why can’t you be like this) so hopefully we’ll get to know some more about them in the coming weeks. However, COD:Ghosts was talked about so at least we got something besides the predictable EA Sports offerings. It seems that Ghosts will hold on to core gameplay elements while launching the series in a totally new direction. Hopefully it actually does.
Microsoft have been very vague on whether or not Xbox One will need to be connected to the internet at all times. It appears it will need to be connected most of the time, which is going to be irritating for gamers who aren’t as interested in online game modes. If, for example, one-player game save files can only be stored in the Cloud then Xbox One should prepare itself for some highly deserved scorn. I don’t know if such an instance would come to exist but what other reason would the console need to be connected? That said, the HD is pretty massive (~500GB on what will probably be the deluxe version) so such an instance will hopefully never see the light of day. I hope.
Halo fanboys will no doubt be foaming at the mouth upon hearing the announcement of the Halo Tv series feat. Steven Spielberg. I’m not a big Halo guy but I’m all for expanding video games into things that aren’t video games like tv, films and books. Japanese developers have been doing this for ages but it’s not very common to see a video game developed in the West get a tv adaption, so for that reason I hope this works out well. The inclusion of Skype is also welcomed as an added bonus to the console.
In summary the Xbox One is both exciting and unexciting at the same time. It seems the strategy behind the launch was to introduce the console as a box that does more than just video games, which is fine, but has a lot gamers pretty concerned due to the lack of… well, video games! There was not enough talk about games to generate a enough buzz to freak out Microsoft’s rivals. We already knew that COD was probably going to get talked about, and it’s not even console-exclusive. Same goes for the EA titles. Microsoft needs a really kick-ass E3 to get people excited about this new system or else it could totally bomb out. It’s pretty much vital that Xbox One gives gamers a reason to buy this new console and not something else, and what it comes down to is simple. What games can it run?
Let’s wait and see.