This Is Xbox One

Home. Trending. Games.

Once again, Microsoft are pitching a console not at gamers, but at everybody. That Smart TV you bought? It’s not smart enough. That way you’ve been controlling games consoles for years? It’s wrong. Everything is wrong, and Microsoft are here to make it right. Presenting Don Mattrick as some kind of technological white knight was the intention, I assume.

Except, well, I’m resistant to change. I don’t want to interact with Kinect because aside from my first day with the tech I’ve rarely found it interesting or useful – it’s always quicker to tap right a couple of times than to pretend you’re Tom Cruise, waving your hands around.

Understand what?

But now you can talk, and Xbox will understand? Understand what, that I just want to play games on my games console? From today’s Xbox One showcase at Xbox headquarters, it seems not even the platform holder understands that.

Of course, this has been the company’s direction for years, and fair play to Microsoft for having the balls to dedicate a massive chunk of their precious time to showing off its not inconsiderable media playing capabilities. Yes, it was all very US-centric and a massive turn off, but if you’re the sort of person who objects to tapping Source on your remote, Xbox One ticks at least one box.

But here’s the thing: I’ve never felt the need to find out what any of the ‘trending topics’ are on Twitter, and I’m less likely to do so on a console. Oh, look, everyone’s playing Call of Duty, or watching Batman, or – shudder – the NFL. I can see that from my friends list, should I be bored enough to look.

Why Microsoft want to push ‘trending’ before Games is obvious, of course, but I’m not interested.

Not that the Xbox One will be the only console to do this. Sony dedicated minutes explaining that everything you do on PlayStation 4 will be fed into some kind of Bertha-esque super computer to ‘assist’ you with purchasing options and it’ll even download games it thinks you’ll like.

The section with the specific sports was like white noise, an incomprehensible mess of fluffy, non-compulsory bullet-points that presumably had some kind of target audience. Microsoft’s presentation was regimented and structured, but I just wanted to shout “Xbox, games please.”

Or press ‘start’, like we used to.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Before we got to the games, though, before we even heard about specs, came the hyberbole. Xbox One is “at the centre of your entertainment” and represents the “beginning of intelligent TV”. I don’t doubt that this angle will be popular, but are people really going to buy one for that?

Even given the notion that today was about the console and E3 will be about the games, the weighting at the outset was severely off balance. It’s hardware designed to slot in anywhere (and it is a lovely looking box) but you need to find a place for Kinect, it’s still not a casual-friendly purchase.

Speccing out the specs

But then the numbers. Clearly Microsoft was never going to release Xbox One without matching Sony’s last minute insert, so there’s 8GB of RAM, a Blu-ray drive, a silent hard drive, and – yes – it’s cloud-based. But that’s a term that’s going to be bandied around recklessly.

You’ll read lots about what that may or may not mean, but rest assured little will be absolutely right: Xbox One’s grunt is onboard. This isn’t Amazon’s cloud computing, an 8-core x86 processor handles the dirty work and that’s on the motherboard.

And all that chat about never needing to switch your TV’s inputs relies on the One’s HDMI pass-through. Yes, that’s ideal, but it’s one HDMI cable per device, and so unless I’m misunderstanding, how can I also connect up my PlayStation 3, Wii U and PlayStation 4?

Can it really switch those on too, or are we just talking about cable boxes…?

Remedy’s Quantum Break

It’s hard to figure out what’s just marketing chatter and what’s crucial data at such an early stage, of course. But talk of three independent operating systems is interesting, and that revised Kinect sounds like a monster. The games, though – surely they were coming?

EA’s inclusion was hardly a surprise, given discussion earlier in the morning. That their presence wouldn’t really say a great deal was disappointing though. Those games aren’t exclusive to the console, this is just Microsoft showing that they’ve still got considerable pull.

And from what I could gather, the only really exclusive stuff was daily content pushed to your device, and that seemed to be concentrated on Ultimate Team.

Quantum Break: yep, looked promising. Forza 5: no matter how this was shown, Microsoft had to have some kind of racer, Sony made sure of that last week. Turn 10’s ability to craft a weighty sim isn’t in question, of course, Forza 4 was superb and no doubt 5 will be better still.

The key snippet here was that Microsoft will have 15 exclusives in the first year. That’s a good number, and shows that there are first party developers working hard on ensuring that the games will flow.

Any then yet more TV

And then that was it. It was back to more discussion about television. News that there’ll be a Halo series was well received, and Spielberg’s a big name to throw around. It was only the last minute reveal of Call of Duty that reminded me that this was a games console.

Except, well, it’s not, is it? Whilst Sony’s press conference seemed a little sluggish in the second half, at least in New York I got to hear about games. Microsoft’s dedicated, unilateral assault on the living room means that they’ve a lot to cover, but this felt like a presentation lacking focus.

This is all my personal opinion. You might well disagree.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=r46D1lRpO1k

Forza 5

For me, though, a games console should be about games. I’ve said that before and I’ll continue down that route until I tire of saying it. I get the direction Microsoft are aiming at, and I applaud their single-minded approach and determination. They’ll do very well out of it.

But here’s the rub: a single device that controls all the entertainment and media in my living room already exists in the form of my Smart TV. It might not be smart enough anymore, but it works just fine. I don’t mind switching sources because I’ve got them all optimised and ordered.

It takes seconds for me to do pretty much anything I want to do. My TV doesn’t know me. It can’t recognise when I walk in the room. It’s a couple of years old, so doesn’t have that fancy finger flicking thing. It also doesn’t play games.

And that’s what I buy other things for. To play games. I buy them, buy games for them, plug them all into my TV and play them. It’s worked that way for decades.

So what’s the conclusion?

Microsoft have ambition, and I can’t fault them for that. I just felt that – despite the brand having some of the best exclusives in the business and an online system that’s unbeatable – they missed the mark with that presentation. Where’s Xbox Plus? Where were proper demos of SmartGlass?

I can’t wait for E3. I can’t wait to walk onto the Xbox One booth and play the hell out of all those games that’ll be coming to the console this year.

Until then, I’m going to wallow in my own disapproval of how that hour went down. How Microsoft had one chance to one-up the PlayStation 4 reveal, but – to me – didn’t get anywhere near. It’ll all depend on how E3 goes, naturally, but right now Sony has the upper hand.

I love that name, though.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

46 Comments

  1. So the scores are in, XBOX1, PS4

  2. Ha, suitably British and suitably cynical (which is how many people are feeling at TSA, no doubt).

    I really don’t care for the X1 (can we call it that? Seems like a nice abbreviation) but it’s got a place in the consumer’s mind. It’s interesting to think that for games I’d want a PS4 but for everything else I can now see metaphorical space for an X1 – assuming my PS4 doesn’t handle all of the secondary stuff suitably well.

    Until that moment happens, Sony will be having my pennies come Crimble-time.

    • The thing is, I reckon a single device that does everything is something you need to want and consequently seek out yourself. The PS3 does it all for me, it never promised to but it does enough to sit tidily next to the Sky box which is only there because of an appealing offer, we would be happy with Play TV if it had to go. The PS3 no longer does enough for my mate, so he’s got a little Plex driven game playing server, which he hunted down with a few weeks of geekily diligent research. The X1 will disappoint many by gloating about its claimed completeness, while Sony’s previously scoffable ‘It only does everything’ slogan now seems like a cheerfully humble claim.

      • Aye. My media PC has everything covered but I can see how the X1 brings many things under one hood, as such. It’s just whether we want it enough. God knows they were talking about an ecosystem that barely exists outside of Microsoft’s own engineers but I guess we all might come around to having Microsoft on every device (mobiles, etc).

        Okay, maybe not. :-)

      • Hmm, ill go with maybe not :) Weirdly though, I think if Apple made all the same claims I’d jump on board straight away and sit looking at one tidily neat little fruit branded box forever. I suppose brand loyalty and lack of imagination have got me, I’m too old and boring to have one of everything, it’s Sony snobbery and iPhones from now on.

    • Microsoft are saying this is a single device for everything, yet you need another device to plug into it via HDMI in. That my friends is fucking stupid beyond stupid!

      I’m appalled by Microsofts assumption of what consumers want out of their video games consoles!

      • In the US, Cable and Satellite TV rule the roost, whilst they also hold a sizeable chunk of the population in the UK, Europe etc. etc.

        However, all of these services require either additional boxes to cater for the wildly varying standards across the globe. HDMI is the sole unifying system, which also holds the ability to pass commands back and forth.

        For those people that want it, you could happily plug stuff together and have the Xbox at the centre of everything, with voice control etc.

        But if you don’t want it, then there’s plenty of HDMI sockets on the back of your tele, I’m sure.

  3. I want a games console to……………..play games.
    OK some of the other stuff can be useful but I’ve already got a pc, tablet, smart tv to do all that stuff on. I don’t want another.

  4. As for home entertainment, I’ll only ever use my PS3 and have done for the past 4 years. I don’t watch TV and I certainly don’t want to watch someone else playing a game I could also be enjoying. All I need, personally, is already integrated into the PS3 (games, Netflix, Blu-ray, music) so I feel Microsoft’s push is misguided. It’s pretty much certain I’ll buy a PS4 at some point, because I love the look of the games on offer and I know Sony will focus on the gamers, yet also have a decent amount of media stuff.

  5. Microsoft One: America F#&k Yeah.

  6. I pretty much agree with everything you say about your comments on the box itself. It’s a big black slab and i don’t see anything sexy about it at all. I’m looking at my 40GB Phat PS3 and it’s got those great curves and stylish font (this is actually making me feel quite strange).

    However, now i think of how irrelevant that is. Who cares about the box? It reminds me of the uproar around the lack of a box at the PS4 conference. It just doesn’t really matter that much. What does matter, is what it does.

    On that front, Sony are making all the right noises for me. We knew that MS would focus on being an entertainment hub, but i at least was expecting some sort of actual demo here, and not a few game trailers.

    MS and Sony aren’t even really competing anymore, not from what we’ve seen so far anyway. They’re heading in different directions and, from what i’ve seen, i prefer where Sony are taking me.

    • I quite like the box design, actually.

      • That’s fair enough, like i say it doesn’t really matter at all, i was just expecting something a little more stylish. It feels very retro.

      • Reminds me of my 80’s VHS set. I like Retro chic.

      • It is quite nice.

    • Apart from your comments on the box itself*.

      I wasn’t expecting to ramble on for so long there. Sorry about that.

  7. If anything I learnt from Sony, Experia designs are sexy so no doubt the PS4 is going be awesome looking.

    Besides the hardware MS went wrong pitching the unwanted tele features & that NFL crap that means nothing to the rest of the world that ain’t USA. Forza did look lovely but I feel the graphics are on par with PS4. Also what if Xbox One is part of different xbox models like Xbox 2 & 3 that does different features.

    • Did we see any gameplay from any games at all with the X1 reveal?

      • No but ain’t the specs the same between them so I see no disasters from certain developers… Bethsda the fallout dudes

      • The PS4 supposedly has an edge of 0.6TFlops and the DDR5 RAM, so there’s that. (Can’t remember where I saw that TFLOP stat)

      • Specs are definitely not the same

        8GB GDDR5 ram (PS4) >>>>> 8 GB DDR3 (Xbox One)

        And, although this is based on rumours:

        On the PS4 only 1 GB is allocated to OS, while on the Xbox One 3 GB is allocated to OS (1 GB for each of the 3 OS’s, yes it has 3 OS’s…)

      • Agreed. Also, there’s the architecture of the GPU and CPU residing on the same chip (for the PS4). I was just keen to see if both consoles measured up.

        Killzone (even though it’s not necessarily for me) looked hugely impressive at the PS4 reveal. I’m waiting for a gameplay video that has me thinking “oh, wow… bloody wow!” for the X1 as well.

      • Ok , dont laugh, i just play games but whats this GDDR5 & DDR3, what’s better

      • GDDR5. It’s what you get in modern graphics cards compared to DDR3 which you will find in your PC or Laptop. GDDR5 is much faster RAM and much pricier too.

  8. I’d have just liked a games console, not an entertainment system, simple stuff really. Not saying that it doesn’t look though.

  9. I loosely remember that Xbox tweet after sony’s reveal;
    ‘Thats one way of revealing a console, don’t show the console’

    So I thought;
    “That’s one way of releasing a gaming console, don’t show any gameplay!”

  10. Just been looking through the X1 website and noticed right at the BOTTOM of the ‘What it does’ page’ – “If you love gaming, this one’s for you.” Yeah right!

    • Gaming will come. I’m just disappointed that it was so neglected tonight.

      Still. Wonderbook.

      Nobody’s perfect.

      • Ha! Are we talking Sony wonderbook E3 boredom?

    • That smeels like false advertising! :P

Comments are now closed for this post.