Xbox One Reveal Falls Short of Expectations
By Chardell Johnson
Despite the sizeable number of new titles due out in 2014, the year will undoubtedly be most notable because it marks the introduction of the newest generation of gaming. While updates to the current-gen systems — like Kinect and Playstation Move — have been trickling in, nothing compares to the release of all-new hardware, and with an almost ten year gap since a new console launch, most gamers believe the new systems are overdue.
While Sony released information about the PS4 over a month ago, it did not receive nearly the attention that the Xbox One reveal garnered. This is to be expected, as gamers tend to enjoy arguing against the opposition even more than supporting their favorite gaming platform. This, combined with the failure of the PS3 launch and the relatively tame media reveal of the PS4, left Sony waiting for an opponent. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal didn’t give the PS4 an opponent so much as it created one in its receptive audience.
There were plenty of things about the Xbox One reveal that evoked disfavor among gamers, but one of the primary touchstones was the amount of time the presentation dedicated to informing gamers about the Xbox’s new television features. Considering the Microsoft/Apple rivalry and the Apple TV release, it’s natural that Microsoft would respond to Apple TV, however, most feel like it shouldn’t be done with a gaming console. Over the course of the hour-long presentation, only about fifteen minutes were dedicated to talking about the specs of the console and what it would bring to the gaming world.
Another problem with the new Xbox is the inclusion of Kinect 2. With its ever-on, Big Brother-esque camera, many gamers felt their privacy slipping toward utter oblivion. Even if one were to ignore the ease with which any webcam can be hacked, the Kinect camera has the ability to read the facial expressions of users and report this information back to advertisers. In theory, this would then aid them in tailoring future ads according to emotional response. There is little hope that indiscriminately frowning at all ads will cause them to be removed entirely, so this feature sounds creepy more than it does helpful.
Kinect 2 is also able to charge for extra licenses based on the number of people watching a given movie, and Microsoft has already filed patents that would enable Kinect to be used as a type of DRM. Since gamers are known for their fondness of DRM and privacy invasion, Microsoft seemed surprised in their few responses since the reveal that the community is so against their Kinect 2. One wonders why the Kinect 2 is even involved in the Xbox One as its predecessor is largely considered a failure as an add-on to the Xbox 360. In Germany and Australia, there is already some talk of a ban on Xbox One’s Kinect 2 features, and although this is still far from being actual legislation it should be a real concern for the Microsoft team.
When Microsoft did mention gaming, there still wasn’t enough pleasantness to remove the bitter taste of the largely television-centric presentation. Microsoft wants to make game-sharing a thing of the past, as each game will be downloaded and registered to a specific Xbox and playing it on another console will be impossible without downloading your profile onto that machine. Used games will now come with a fee to the retailer, which could mean some retailers doing away with used-game sales altogether.
The Xbox One will require an internet connection at almost all times and will check every 24 hours to make sure it is maintained. For people who live in countries without stable internet connectivity, this means that the Xbox will be essentially useless as, without its Cloud connection, it cannot even be used for single player gaming.
It’s not all bad, of course. The ability to multitask is certainly going to be an interesting addition, and being able to leave a game and resume it where you left off will be a welcome change. The resistance to the Cloud connection is warranted, but it also opens up the possibilities for much more heavily processor-taxing games, which means more depth and better graphics. Xbox Live was touted as the better of the networks because of its highly social capabilities, and this is still true with the introduction of on-board Skyping and more consistent party-making abilities. The design of the console left much to be desired, but the controller has undergone marvelous additions, including higher-sensitivity pads as well as responsiveness in each individual joystick.
With E3 around the corner, there is hope that the Microsoft team intentionally revealed the non-gaming aspects of the new Xbox in order to save the most relevant parts of the console for the huge event. June 11th is just far enough away that Microsoft should have plenty of time to respond to the backlash from gaming communities and respond to the many concerns that were voiced. Perhaps they will take an unprecedented stance of listening closely to the complaints and desires of their customers and will make changes accordingly, but given history and the responses that have already been offered by Microsoft, it seems like we’re better off just hoping that the Wii U and PS4 fuse into some sort of super console so that the Xbox One can stay where it belongs: in preproduction.