May 21st will be a landmark day in videoga...er, all-in-one multimedia history. If you missed the Xbox One conference, or if there are a few details you're still unsure of, here's the straight skinny. Please add any questions or clarifications in the comment section and I will edit them into the main post (thanks!).
Q: What happened? Why did the internet blow up?
A: Xbox One was announced to be an all-in-one media machine. Games took a very back seat (like back-of-the-bus) to the media and streaming features. Xbox fans who were hoping that Microsoft would return to their former gaming-focused ways basically had a flock of albatrosses fly over them and take a dump.
Q: Microsoft said the May 21st reveal was all about hardware, and the games are coming to E3. Why are people upset?
A: Good question. Microsoft is feeding you a PR line, because it wasn't about the hardware, either. Very little info about the actual hardware power was revealed. The conference was about partnerships, movies, music, and TV. People are upset because if Microsoft took the time to announce a Halo TV show, surely (if the games were there) they could take the time to show off some games, right?
Q: What did they announce for the hardware?
A: This is what we know so far: built in wi-fi, 500 Gb hard drive, 8 gigs of RAM (3 of which are devoted solely to the operating system and background programs), an 8-core processor, and a Blu Ray drive. No further details have been given on the speed/bandwidth of the processor or the GPU.
Q: Is the hardware more powerful/less powerful than the PS4/Wii-U?
A: We won't know until more details come out. I can say with 99% certainty that XBox One is more powerful than Wii-U based on the specs we know. As far as PS4, it is likely (although not certain) that Xbox One will not be as powerful as PS4. The RAM type is slower than the PS4's RAM, and more of the RAM in the Xbox One is unavailable for gaming functions. No official word on whether the GPU or processor are stronger/faster/slower/weaker than PS4.
Q: Why is the all-in-one such a big deal?
A: Microsoft is declaring hostility against the gamers who made the Xbox brand popular. It appears - in yet another effort to push into the multimedia marketplace - Microsoft is leveraging the Xbox brand for this purpose instead of using the Xbox brand for what it was designed: gaming.
Q: How many exclusive games were announced? (thanks SMGP)
A: 15, with 8 of them being new IP's. These 15 exclusives will be available within the first 12 months of the XBox One's launch window. Whether they will be Kinect games, core games, or download-only games is not specified.
Q: Speaking of games, I heard rumors about no used games...
A: Yes. The truth about the "no used games" is currently being muddied by Microsoft, but it is clear that at the least, the era of going to Gamestop, picking a game out of a bin, taking it home, and playing it are OVER. Microsoft has confirmed that if the game has been linked to a previous account (i.e. if it has been used) then any subsequent gamers will have to pay a fee UNLESS they are logged into your Live account. Microsoft claims this is the same as owning a disc and lending it to your friend, but it isn't. If I have a copy of Halo 4 and I hand it to my friend, he can play it, I can't, and that's it. However, if my friend has to use my Live account to play the game I loaned him, it means that I AM UNABLE TO USE my own Live account at the same time and subsequently I am unable to use any game in my Xbox One library.
Q: Pay a fee?
A: This is also being muddied. The Microsoft VP clarified that if - for example - it is a brand-new game, the "fee" will be the full price of the new game. Speculating, this "fee" will likely go down as the game ages, but that price will be entirely set by Microsoft and/or 3rd party publishers.
Q: What? Me and my three roommates each have an Xbox Live account. Are you saying that in order to use the same game we'd each have to buy it?
A: That depends. If you each play on the same Xbox One console, Microsoft has confirmed that they have included an option to allow multiple accounts to play a game on one system. In other words, if you register a copy with your own Xbox Live account, any other Xbox Live accounts on that system can also play the game. However, in order to take the disc and use it on another Xbox One in the house, you will have to pay a fee as detailed above.
Q: I heard something about Microsoft still allowing game trades online?
A: This was an often-missed point during yesterday's hubbub. Microsoft said they are working out a way to trade at retail, but they are also working out a way to "trade your games online with your friends". What follows is my own personal speculation: I imagine Microsoft is implementing something like Amazon Kindle's book-sharing, or creating their own online-only digital store. Imagine, for example, that you could sell (i.e. deactivate) your copy of a game, Microsoft would grant you credit on the Xbox Live store, and then a friend could "buy" it from you, with Microsoft raking in all the profit.
Q: ....always-on DRM?
A: Kinda. You won't have to be connected to the internet every second of every day. However, we do know two things (straight from the mouth of the Microsoft VP). 1) An internet connection is required to use the system. No internet means no verification of the game code included with your brand-new game. 2) Xbox One makes an "internet check" once every 24 hours.
Q: So what happens if my online goes down? What happens if I buy a brand-new game, I come home, I install it, but my internet isn't up to verify the game code?
A: Fantastic question! You should ask Microsoft what happens. My guess is that you won't be able to play your game.
Q: ....required game installs?
A: Yes. This wouldn't be so bad if it was optional. Having the option to install the full game and forget the disc would be fantastic, but full-game installs are required for every game.
Q: ....no backwards compatability?
A: Nope. Microsoft confirmed the Xbox One will not be compatible with Xbox 360 or Xbox games. No official confirmation whether or not downloaded Xbox Live Arcade games will be compatible with the new system.
Q: So, wait, this means I can't rent a game? No Gamefly?
A: Not in the traditional sense, no. You apparently cannot play any game unless 1) you are the original purchaser and you have the one-time-use activation code or 2) you pay a fee to activate the game disc with your account. However, personal speculation ahead, Microsoft will almost certainly continue to offer game demos, and they may offer something like the "1 hour trial" on Playstation Plus or even offer their own "rental" (where you pay $20 for a 7-day access code or something like that).
Q: What games were shown off for the console?
A: There were no live gameplay demonstrations. Never once did someone use the controller nor the Kinect camera to actually play a game. That said, there were a few trailers shown. Forza 5, Quantum Break (a new IP from Remedy), four EA Sports games (Madden, FIFA, NBA, and UFC), and Call of Duty were all confirmed during the conference.
Q: Forza! Any other confirmation of first-party exclusives like Gears, Halo, Fable, Alan Wake?
A: RARE teased they would reveal a "hardcore game" at E3 after the conference had finished. 343 Studios came on stage to announce a partnership with Steven Spielberg to create a live-action Halo TV show. Other than that, no news for core Microsoft IPs.
Q: Is there going to be a new version of Kinect?
A: Yes! You're in luck. It will be bundled with every system. Keeping Kinect plugged into your system is a requirement of Xbox One. To be fair, the technology (read, the TECH, not necessarily the game software we end up getting) looks like a huge step up from Kinect 1.0, especially in terms of detecting tiny movements and details. Kinect voice commands will play a huge role in how the system operates.
Q: Wait. Kinect is required?
A: Yes. It appears that the majority of the menu functions rely on Kinect voice and motion commands to operate. No word yet whether the menus will also be accessible using the traditional controller.
Q: I heard something about three operating systems.
A: Yes. If you watched the demonstration of the Snap feature (window-in-a-window) or the nearly-instant task switching, you probably wondered how Microsoft pulled that off. According to all sources, that demonstration was real, and the system really does work that fast. Xbox One uses three operating systems in tandem to balance between movies, Skype, streaming, fantasy football, oh, and games. The three operating systems use up 3 out of 8 gigs of RAM and an undisclosed amount of processing power from the 8-core processor and GPU.
Q: Any news about Xbox Live?
A: In terms of actual gaming enhancements, very little was discussed regarding XBox Live. Achievements are going to be more dynamic. Match-making will be better. Lobbies in multiplayer games will be larger. Microsoft will have 300,000 servers in place to support the Xbox One's online features. However, there were no details as to what will be included in a basic non-paying XBox Live account compared to a paying Xbox Live Gold account.
Q: How many of the extra features (like integrated fantasy football, TV, etc) will also cost extra money?
A: Unknown. It is confirmed that using TV on your Xbox One will require a separate cable box and a separate subscription with your cable provider. It is unknown which features will be free, which features will require Live Gold, and which features will be a separate service entirely.
Q: Any features that use the Cloud?
A: Yes, although not many details were given. The Cloud can back up game saves, access your movie/music library. Also, Microsoft claims the Cloud servers will gradually be able to make the XBox One more powerful.
Please leave any questions or further details in the comment section below.