Microsoft’s big reveal is now out and about, and it’s attempted to claim it’s stake in the next edition of the console wars, but did it really achieve anything?
Like many fellow geeks and gamers, I took some time off and decided to tune in to Microsoft’s big announcement about their new console. Now, before I go any further about it, our writer Jasmine Henry wrote this completely awesome article that will give you all the information about the console that we’ve learned from the announcement, however little that is. As a core gamer, who favored the 360 at launch, and throughout most of my time gaming on consoles, I remain a little skeptical about the announcement though. So in order for me share my point of view, let’s start by picking apart what we do know about the console, we’ll begin with looking at the system itself.
What we’re seeing here is Microsoft spoon-feeding us another reason to use Kinect. If you’ve bought into the hype when they first launched the device on the 360, you know exactly how utterly exasperated I feel as a gamer right now. If you’re not too sure where that negative energy comes from, take into consideration that the Kinect was just another ploy to cash in on the wave of popular fitness games and living-room-activity that helped drive sales for the Wii some time before. The Kinect itself is not exactly a terrible piece of hardware mind you, but its implementation into the Xbox’s operating system was clunky, required a ton of space to use properly, and detracted from what the console was originally designed for: Playing Videogames. In this announcement, Microsoft decided to turn the Kinect into the main attraction for the console, as a collective groan washed over every core gamer tuning in to the announcement coming from the Microsoft Campus in Redmond. We’re now being showcased how “amazing” the technology is, and how we can swipe our hands around and talk to our television to control the interface. Needless to say that I remained completely unimpressed by that display, and I was more interested in seeing what the new console could do at this point, which lead to the second critical flaw in the presentation: this console was now being touted as a way to watch television and movies, and make Skype calls. This is where I raised by eyebrow quizzically and started wondering if I was watching the right thing.
The console’s primary goal, according to Microsoft, is to become an all-in-one system for the living room that will replace any and all devices in your living room. “You can watch TV, on your TV, through your Xbox”, now if you feel like that statement is convoluted, you know exactly why I’m shocked about all of these seemingly useless features. While I understand that Xbox is trying to broaden it’s horizons, this essentially leaves behind it’s biggest original demographic in favor of appealing to everyone. The Xbox One isn’t trying to sell you games anymore, because you already know it’s going to do all of that. What it is trying to do, is get your parents, your non-gamer friends and their family to buy an Xbox too. Smart move on paper, but this comes at the cost of alienating your audience when your presentation is entirely focused on a very small audience to begin with. The parents and sports-fans weren’t going to watch this event, and the press that was invited to the event was composed, in majority, of gaming press. This left us with little more than an abbreviated spec-sheet, some pre-rendered custscenes, and gave us absolutely no idea of what the Xbox One could do to impress us, the core gamers. Following all of this, Microsoft gave us an announcement that it was partnering up with EA, which lead to another wave of collective groaning from the masses.
Let’s be honest; EA has had a bad track record in the past. It’s not just how it treats its customers, but also how it manhandles its franchises. The only successful division of EA (to some extent) is the sports division, which is what we were shown during the presentation. Now make no mistakes, EA is not going to release exclusive titles to the One (as far as we know so far), but rather exclusive “content” in the form of DLC. If you remember the news about EA getting rid of online passes, and how that left many users weary about how they’ll make up for lost sales: you’ve got your answers. This inevitable cash-grab in the form of a partnership is just icing on the cake as far as dishonest practice goes, and how very little the gamers are being considered.
So the Xbox One is revealed as a glorified media center running on Windows 8, and Xbox Smartglass. We’re done here right? That’s enough, we got what we came for, see you at E3 folks!
Unfortunately no, as one last piece of salt on the wound to all of us who just wanted something nice, we now have television tie-ins and a shoehorned Halo TV series. You’ll have to excuse my complete lack of enthusiasm at the concept. While I respect the franchise and had my share of time playing the game; a TV series at a console announcement feels like Microsoft is trying to pull off a smoke and mirrors act.
Queue in a round of applause and everyone is cheering and happy and the presentation is rearing it’s end. There’s only one problem:
No one is genuinely impressed, or cheering. We’re all a little baffled by these announcements and left with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths. We’re banking on a lot of great announcements coming out of E3, but is this really enough? Not really.
I feel insulted, quite honestly. I wanted a reason to believe the next Xbox could claim its stake. Instead, it’s making itself barely credible by giving the majority of its consumers a pat on the back and a promise of 15 exclusive titles with 8 original IPs. It’s giving us no information regarding the requirements for all of these bells and whistles they’ve spent the past hour showing us. I didn’t ask for this, I don’t want tacky hand gestures to watch TV on my console, I don’t want to talk to myself in my living room to switch between six different things, I don’t want to get a Skype call on my console, I just want to play video games. The only thing Microsoft delivered for me in this presentation is a new controller to use on Steam, one with a better D-Pad and a built-in battery, so for that: Thanks Microsoft.