Tues 21st May. Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One – successor to one of the most popular consoles of all time.
As someone who buys consoles largely to play games, and has a media center PC (and current gen consoles) already rigged up to the living room TV – the event was a huge disappointment. E3 is just weeks away, so MS are obviously waiting to show games – but they had a captive audience here, and could have done anything to make the gaming press happy. What we saw instead was MS positioning Xbox One as an entertainment device first and a games platform second.
Interestingly this is the exact opposite of what Sony did at their (equally strange) event.
Regarding the hardware and functionality shown. It’s one of the most boring, soulless looking console designs ever conceived. Controlling a sliver of your screen with a smart glass device makes little sense. You could just access that content on the tablet/phone itself. The live TV side is increasingly irrelevant moving forwards as streaming becomes the norm. Outside of the US nobody cares about the NFL and fantasy leagues aren’t a big deal. Recording to your HDD and using the X1 as a PVR for gaming and TV is quite nice, but having a non replaceable HDD doesn’t help with that. It won’t take long to fill 500GB with decent quality 1080p footage, so we’d be forced to use external drives.
You know what hardware would have been immediately wowing to both gamers and the mainstream press? Illumiroom. If that makes a showing at E3 the console will at least have something unique.
Controlling everything with gestures and voice is nifty, but not in any way compelling. What we have here is the Segway of media boxes. All of the things this device is doing, other devices have been doing better for some time. The only thing a console will ever having going for it over the litany of other commonly available and more intuitive devices is the games. They should come first.
They keep answering questions nobody was asking and coming up with solutions to problems that nobody had anyway. It’s a similar approach to Apple’s, but far less focused or sensible, and nobody had an epiphany watching a Microsoft event and thought “wow, this is what I wanted all along” – because they’ve got by fine without it already, and the more you think about the solutions, the more they become gimmicks. (Unlike say, how the iPad ultimately turned out)
Looking as the Xbox event another way and it’s almost offensive to the medium and its fans. You have to ask what audience this was targeted at. This could be worse than when Nintendo seemed to turn its back on the “core” audience to cater to families and casual gamers. At least they ARE part of the gaming audience. Everything at microsofts event made the gaming seem like an inconvenient legacy for MS’s media hub ambitions. By only showing EA sports, COD, Forza and (almost nothing of) a new Remedy game they didn’t throw much of a bone to traditional players, let alone developers or small and Indie devs.
And how much flak would Sony have got if they’d shown solely pre-rendered trailers for titles as big as Forza at their unveiling? Wouldn’t it have been wise for MS to show a little live gameplay?
Halo TV series? With Speilberg? Have we forgotten that he was involved in the “classic genre piece” that was Michael Bay’s Transformers? Unless he is actually directing Halo his presence is pretty meaningless. Anyway, as interesting as that could be – here it got lost among other announcements. Between all of the TV and multitasking talk, and the flatness of the presentation it felt like Microsoft wanted the mainstream media not to lump them in with the gaming crowd, but the TV/entertainment one. If the X1s primary competitors are Netflix and whatever Apple have up their sleeves – good luck to them, but I really think they’ve made a massive mistake so far. When the only narrative based game they’ve shown anything of had a trailer that was more than half filmed actors, and the most storied and important franchise MS own’s presence has been reduced to a big budget TV show it paints a picture of a company that holds the foundation the Xbox brand was built on as lesser to their film aspirations.
Why are MS being so cagey about specs and details? Tuesday’s event left far more questions than answers, many more important than “but what does the console look like?”
The Internet hasn’t reacted well to Tuesday’s reveal, but there’s still hope for the Xbox faithful. It’s all down to E3 now, and the gaming line-up. If they’ve covered all the bases, and if the new IPs aren’t a ton of Kinect party games and glorified tech demos, Microsoft should do fine.
This isn’t where I thought we’d be today though – Tuesday should have been about starting a hype train that would accelerate towards E3 on June 11th, but it looks like instead they’ll be concentrating on damage control for now. Sony and Nintendo must be very relieved.
At least E3 is shaping up to be something special this year.