Captain Obvious Vs The 8th Console Generation (Xbox One)
With apologies to - know what? Just taking the damn name for myself at this point...
I've long held that the seventh console generation should have been delayed by one if not two years. Believed that since HDTVs were not yet established and that cell phone games would never become what they have, that some thought and consideration should have gone into that console cycle before it happened. Instead things felt rushed into with results which have caused the gaming community to splinter into hardened offensive/defensive camps who have argued into the second decade of the Twenty First century.
Now with the latest Electronic Entertainment Expo either well underway or just about over the eighth console generation is finally here and things feel both better and worse. Multiplayer and social networking elements largely dominate gaming, which has been a horrible realization for an old time singleplayer fan such as myself. The fall of Japanese role playing games, or again the realization that they failed to develop past their PS2 era heyday while becoming flooded by the trope of underage schoolgirls with fabulous fashion sense as main protagonist, against the rise Western ones is also now a thing. The technology correction I hoped would happen, that instead of any true innovation as once emerging and expensive parts turned stable and cheap, at least happened as i expected.
Allow me to try and explain that last by looking at the three new systems now that they've all been officially revealed.
First up, Nintendo's WiiU is what the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 probably would have been if they had been held back, though likely with only half of the RAM of the newer system. Severally underpowered compared to what are it's actual contemporaries, the WiiU is still often more matched against the older consoles by critics and defenders alike while it's one supposed strength is hardly ever mentioned. It certainly wont be here.
Next lets look at what's become not only the darling but savior of the gaming community: the Playstation 4, which does and has nothing new that we haven't all seen before.
No really and in total honesty -- it does nothing new.
The speed of its Blu-Ray drive has been upped from the crawl the PS3 was constantly under attack for and its been given the option to install games either from off disc or as they download off PSN, but really, how long have people been begging for that? Making it so that a Sony console could install and download as a single action.
Then there's the thing that no one really wanted -- weeeell, that's not exactly true. Cross game chat has been a most requested feature since Xbox fanboys started holding it over Sony fanboy's heads. So now the PS4 has social features to the point a gamer in New Deli can either watch or finish the game of a friend in New York like any IT guy can remotely fix minor issues on a PC. That's where that idea is from. Its nothing new.
And in all seriousness: used games. What has changed about them from the PS3 and to the PS4? Nothing. The answer of course is absolutely nothing.
Of my last example of why the eight console generation is more a seven and a half however, the same can't really be said. Despite being a slight copy of the last mentioned system in terms of hardware, there is little different between it and the XBox One besides their outer casings. A cable tuner which requires a compatible cable box so that the XBO can act as a low-end cable box which lacks high-end DVR cable box features. Unless games and Twitch are involved.
And then of course there are the XBO's three major issues which like it's sleek yet bulky and ancient VCR design were intended and planned by the product's parent company. Not that Microsoft neither planned nor expected the public reactions to the only true "innovations" to their system.
All of them pretty much equally notorious, lets start with one of the two easy ones: Used games. or the utter lack there of.
With the first XBox repeatedly assaulted by pirates and the 360 fairing no better except when online, it was almost only natural that the beleaguered giant corporation would fall back upon its software roots and the example of Steam in order to find a solution to protect its future hardware and earnings. Listened to the complaint of fellow multi-billion earning companies and took righteous measures against would be thieves, renters and lenders. Crafted a plan which would also earn a nice and just profit which relied on an always on connection.
Yes, there's the twenty-four hour check in. One-hour if accessing an account through a friend's system. But really, if each game must be registered the first time its installed, if your or Microsoft's provider or servers fail for however long, or if you simply have no online service or access to begin with, what difference does a timed check-in really matter?
Always Online is the twenty-first century equivalent of "Let Them Eat Cake" which was actually not said by the person who said it. But like the quote, Always Online is quickly becoming a term which represents the haves and the have-nots. The tech literate and tech illiterate. Mid and senior Microsoft employees either perplexed, condescending if not both in inability to understand that even with the XBox 360, roughly half of the system's owners either did not want or were unable to access the function and features of the service which has come to represent much of their cooperate division's success and revenue: XBox Live. With less than half again not upgrading from no-frills Silver accounts to the wider functionality of paying Gold. In part, it was likely the hope or expectation that of all coming XBO owners, more than half would pay for the better access. And all XBO must be online, if not always. Which leads to either the least or most worried aspect about the XBO: Kinect 2.0.
Successor to a visual motion control device described as "fidgety", "laggy", and even "racist", though it has GREAT voice recognition according to it's defenders, Kinect 2.0 is so integral to the XBO -- forcibly so -- that even more than internet access, the console cannot function without it. This coupled with a sensor which lets it see no matter how light or dark a room is, facial recognition software which allows it to recognize console users as they play -- and it must watch you as you play -- ALWAYS! -- has lead some to be concerned about recent news in regards to government information gathering.
Misplaced apprehensions to be sure, as Microsoft have been attempting to peddle off the device to potential advertisers and others as the perfect marketing research device since it went by the name Natal. They even plan on offering achievement points for watching commercials -- and they'll know when you're watching.
Beyond all that I have a personal theory that the reason Kinect has been made a mandatory XBO accessory is because of the partnership Microsoft recently made with the NFL. That another ability of the device, namely counting current TV viewers pausing whatever is showing to either "request" any newcomers leave or be paid for in addition, will allow both to profit from such things as Superbowl parties.
I ask anyone who's attended one; how many people showed up for the game and when? Did the host charge and/or make money from people being in their livingroom or den? How appealing would a sports bar display be to such a person and their friends? The kind Microsoft showed off during the XBO's pre-E3 presentation.
One more question if after all this rambling if I've managed to keep the attention of someone who might actually know; is it possible to track or detect cloud distribution activity via standard provider reports?
I have a theory that when Microsoft were talking up the three hundred thousand servers they plan to use to increase the XBO "experience" they meant distributed computing. That while actual physical servers will have game related information, virtual ones formed by clusters of idling XBOs would be giving their extra power to ones which needed it. Given that supposedly two thirds of current online XBoxs are used to watch media, that would translate to the two to three extra XBOs Microsoft boasted would be there to supercharge one playing games. But again, that's just my baseless speculation. Something that came to me based on the -- rumor? -- that current multiplayer on XBL is nothing more than peer-to-peer.
Welcome to the new age, same as the old...