Grizzly Gaming

Friday, May 24, 2013

Xbox One reveal in a word – underwhelming

Even though Sony announced the Playstation 4 weeks and week ago, Microsoft must not have felt very worried about the main competition. Why? Because rather than get their act together and reveal their own next-generation console around the same time, Microsoft decided to wait until May 21 to unveil the next Xbox. And so far, the overwhelming reaction from fans has not been positive.

On Tuesday, Microsoft finally revealed the Xbox One. Originally dubbed the Durango, Xbox One was given its name because Microsoft wants it to be an all-in-one entertainment device, one that is the center of your multimedia home set-up.  Along with a host of hardware upgrades, the One is also being packaged with an upgraded Kinect as a standard.

As I stated above, the internet did not react favorably to the Xbox One reveal. And I am among that crowd. But, in the interest of unbiased journalism, I’m going to relate the cold, hard facts of the reveal before editorializing. But be sure to stick around for those thoughts, you won’t want to miss them.

Xbox One - The facts
-Microsoft went out of its way at the Xbox One reveal to hammer home the point that the Xbox One is a new system, built from the ground up to be a completely different machine from the Xbox 360. This means a few things but mainly that nothing that works with the 360 will be compatible with the One. Games, controllers, headsets – nothing produced for the 360 will work with the One.

-The next most important thing to take away from the reveal is that every Xbox One will come packaged with a next-gen Kinect model. Apparently, the Kinect will be integral to the functionality of the One. So even if you haven’t bought a Kinect, don’t or didn’t want a Kinect, you’ll have to set one up anyway – a Kinect that will always be watching you (more on that later).

-And even though I’m not huge into discussing hardware specs, I’d be doing people a disservice by not relaying the pertinent specs of the Xbox One. The One (the system, not the Jet Li movie) will have 8GB DDR3 RAM, a built-in 500GB harddrive, a Blu-Ray drive, built in WiFi and a bunch of other numbers that I don’t know what they mean. Microsoft has also stated that The One will be relatively silent, which will be a big step up from the 360, which sounds like its constantly revving up to take flight.

-The Xbox Live online component will also, obviously, be making the leap to the Xbox One. It’s not going to be exactly the same as it exists today, but Live will obviously still be around. Gamerscores are allegedly going to transfer as well as profiles should transfer over.

-The bulk of the reveal was spent by Microsoft touting The One’s multimedia center capabilities. With The One, you’ll be able to watch TV, watch a movie, surf the internet, draft a fantasy football team, Skype with friends or play a game and instantly switch between multiple screens at once, via Kinect interactivity.

-Microsoft will be shipping a new, upgraded controller with The One. The new controller boasts over 40 (alleged) improvements, such as an improved d-pad, improved face buttons, new shoulder buttons and triggers as well as a manner of force feedback through the triggers.

-Then, near the end of the presentation, Microsoft finally mentioned video games. (Yes, during the reveal of their new video game console) Apparently, there will be 15 new IPs in the first year of The One, with 8 of those new titles being turned into new franchises. Only one of these games was actually announced, though, something called “Quantum Break” being developed by Remedy Games.  And beyond the name, I don’t think there was any info announced about the game, other than that it definitely wasn’t “Alan Wake 2” (because an announcement of that game actually would have excited people). They also announced that “Call of Duty: Ghosts” will, in fact, be on the Xbox One.

Above is an edited version of the Xbox One reveal, which is the way you heard it if you care about video games

Xbox One reveal – My thoughts
I…I just don’t know where to start. How could things have gone so wrong? I honestly don’t know where to start since the official One reveal could be described as anything from confusing to annoying to downright upsetting. And only very few fans on the internet seem to be pleased with what MS has presented so far.

My biggest gripe about the reveal – hardly any mention of games. As some have stated, perhaps MS wanted to use the reveal to talk about console specifics to a wider, more casual audience. Which, I suppose, is necessary in this day and age. It was the very first time they talked about the console so it’s obvious they wanted to get all the boring stuff out of the way. The thought on the internet is that MS saved the meatier subjects – games, specifically – for their E3 presentation.

But it wasn’t so much that they didn’t talk about the games as much as it was the tenor of the entire presentation. Judging from the reveal alone, MS wants the One to be of much broader use and not “just” a video game console. And though I don’t like the idea of MS not focusing on their core audience – gamers – I understand that they want their product to reach a wider audience. But their strategy for upcoming titles, the indy game market, the Arcade venue – none of it was even hinted at. It’s almost like it was the presentation of a new home theater system that, hey, also happens to play video games.

And hey, Microsoft, I don’t want a Kinect. I didn’t buy one when you released it for the 360. I don’t want one now, I don’t want one ever. But if I want to play the One, I’ll have to suck it up, right?

Because call me crazy, but I’m not keen on having a camera in my room that’s constantly watching me. Because, yes, it will constantly be watching you. Whether you’re sitting in front of it watching a movie, playing a game or on the couch doing things you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see, the Kinect will be watching. How do we know? Because Microsoft is trying to convince us that being able to walk into a room and say “Xbox on!” and have the One turn on is such an amazing feature (FINALLY, I don’t have to press a button to turn on my console), that I won’t realize that the Kinect is also always on, watching and waiting.

But the worst thing – out of a presentation filled with terribly disappointing news – to come out of the Xbox One reveal is that Microsoft is doing its damnedest to screw with the used game market. With the One, games will have a mandatory install and once installed, it’s tied to your console. For life. But don’t worry, because Microsoft has ambiguously stated that “they have a plan for the used game market.” (Sounds kinda like a mob boss dancing around the fact that he’s ordering a hit, doesn’t it?)

You have friends, right? And those friends play video games, yes? Do you ever borrow games from them? Sure, of course you do. And they borrow your games, right? Well, you won’t be doing any of that with the One. Seems that Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, is implementing what is in essence a licensing system for your games, that you paid for with your money. With The One, when you purchase a new game, the first time you play that game on your One, it will be locked into your account. Once it’s tied to your account, a separate FEE will need to be paid to be able to play the game (that you already paid for once) on another console/account.

What does this mean? A whole host of things – none of them good. You won’t be able to share games with friends – you’ll need to pay Microsoft again for the right to play games you paid for once already. You won’t be able to resell games – once they’re connected to your account, you need to pay a fee to play it on another account. It also essentially means that the One, which Microsoft says isn’t always online, IS ACTUALLY ALWAYS ONLINE so it can always be checking to make sure that there isn’t some more money that can be fleeced from your pockets.

But wait, what was that? What does “always online” mean? Like, it’s always got its phone out, checking Facebook?

No, in terms of video games, always online is, in a sense, a form of Digital Rights Management or DRM. If a game is said to be “always online” it means you need a constant internet connection to play it. Even if you’re playing single player, for a portion of the game that doesn’t even have online capabilities. So, in terms of the One, it means that it will always be connected to the internet and if it is not, you won’t be able to use it. Simple as that.

Obviously, MS doesn’t want to say that this is just their form of DRM, because DRM is a scary and evil word in the video game world today. But if they say “it’s not always online, you just need a constant internet connection,” what in the world does that mean? Apparently the One only checks for an internet connection once a day. What happens if it doesn’t find one? Who knows, but if you want an idea, go ask anyone who bought Diablo 3 or the most recent SimCity what it’s like to play a game that’s “always online.”

But wait…there’s more. Practically every aspect of the reveal drew my ire.
-No backward compatibility means that my entire library will be obsolete after my current 360 inevitably breaks down for good. (It’s my third 360, for the record, which means that I’ve had to replaced my 360 far fewer times than many other gamers)
-A new controller is nice, I guess, but necessary? I love the 360 controller, it’s damn near perfect.
-Hey guys, don’t worry! The next Call of Duty game will totally be on the One! Because you were worried it wouldn’t be, right?
-A Halo TV show? Stop the presses! My prayers have been answered!

This has been pretty tough for me to write. I owned an original Xbox alongside my PS2 and opted for the 360 over the PS3. After the Xbox One reveal and seeing Microsoft’s strategy for the next generation of video game consoles as compared to Sony’s, the choice to me is clear. I’m going with the company that is focused on delivering a high-quality gaming experience. I’m going with Sony. When I want to Skype through my TV through a camera that’s always watching me through a video game console that doesn’t seem to be designed to play video games, I’ll consider a One.


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July 3, 2013 at 8:09 PM  

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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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