Verdict On The Xbox One Unveiling
Microsoft’s Xbox One conference was an undoubtedly disappointing affair. For a company that was so focused on providing compelling and memorable gaming experiences at the dawn of this generation, the hardware giant is now so focused on providing all-round entertainment it’s forgotten what we’re here for, the games. The unveiling of new hardware is one of, if not THE, most exciting event for gaming enthusiasts, as we all gaze in wonder at the shiny new tech that will dictate our future gaming lives. For the Xbox unveiling hype was at an all-time high, Sony had already played their hand and the world was wondering if Microsoft had an ace up its sleeve. The answer, of course, was a resounding no.
After much speculation on what the name would be, 720, Infinity, Now! etc. the lid was finally lifted on what the next gen Xbox would be called; Xbox One… oh dear, where to start? The name of course stems from Microsoft’s plan to make it an all-in-one entertainment system, but it just sounds silly considering it’s the third Xbox. Somehow Infinity doesn’t seem all that bad now. Unlike Sony’s next gen unveiling, the console itself was actually in attendance at the event and this would have been a good thing, if it didn’t look like an early model of a VCR. Considerably bigger than the 360 its top and sides are part grey matte and part glossy black. Its basic rectangle shape and minimal design make it simple and elegant, but nothing like a games console. Its design is obviously influenced by Microsoft’s plan to have the Xbox One your go to system for all your entertainment needs. The controller has also received a redesign, apart from a few aesthetic differences, the most notable changes are the newly incorporated battery pack and directional buttons that are no longer set on a circle, meaning that they’ll actually offer precision. While these changes are beneficial they’re nothing that the PS3 controller hasn’t offered for years.
After a fairly underwhelming unveiling, hopes were still high for a glimpse at the kind of wonderful gaming experiences the console could bring. Unfortunately Microsoft deemed those less necessary than the ability to switch instantly between live TV and the Xbox One. A lot of effort was put into demonstrating how, by using voice controls, you can change switch effortlessly between live TV as well as the functions of the Xbox One. That’s great Microsoft, but the TV remote has been doing a bang up job on that front for years. Snap lets you run multiple programs at once, so you can do things like browse the internet while watching a movie, that’s hardly mind blowing stuff, and Skype allows you to group chat using Kinects integrated camera. While all of these features are beneficial, the fact remains that they are nothing new, they already exist in other forms of technology and they aren’t going to convince people to buy a new games system to use them on. What sells a games system is, and always will be, the games.
But games we did not get, instead Microsoft continued to talk up its new features. Kinect will be packaged with the Xbox One and be an integral part of the experience. A newly designed sensor will offer deeper and more accurate recognition, which is a plus, but Kinect had its wow factor last generation, in order to truly inspire for the next generation something new was needed. With regard to the technology powering the new system, the Xbox One will be less powerful than its Sony rival. This shouldn’t be of major concern though, the PS3 was more powerful than the 360, but almost identical results were achieved on multiplatform games. Some good news amidst all the PR fluff was that the system will offer a better socialised experience through a revamped achievements system, editing and sharing tools and improved matchmaking.
Finally someone at Microsoft must have remembered the Xbox is supposed to be a gaming console, as we actually saw some games! Forza Motorsport 5 showed off awesomely shiny cars and things were off to a good start. After that we were treated to another Xbox One exclusive, this time from Remedy, the makers of story writing, ghost slaying, insomniac Alan Wake. The game’s called Quantum Break and, well, that’s really all we know, after a daft trailer showed a boat crashing into a bridge and a live action clip of a strange little girl. Next up was Microsoft’s sampling of what we have to look forward to from EA Sports, with Madden, NBA, UFC and Fifa 14 all stretching their next gen muscles. A great offering there, unless of course, you don’t like sports titles, but surely there were more games to come! Oh no wait, just the one more, Call of Duty: Ghosts. Admittedly the game looks amazing, but like the sports titles it’s also a multiplatform release. Microsoft promised fifteen exclusive titles before the end of the year, eight of these being new IPs so why didn’t it show off more of these in order to drum up some hype? If it’s the launch of your new console and the thing that gets people most excited is a dog in Call of Duty, something has gone very very wrong.
The unveiling event lacked substance, especially with regard to the games. With their stout focus on TV, sports and Call of Duty the only demographic they really had any hope of appealing to was young, tech enthusiastic males, not gamers. Sony made the same mistake in 2005 when it advertised the PlayStation 3 as a device for all your entertainment needs. The truth is a games device doesn’t need to do everything under the sun, it just needs to offer amazing gaming experiences that you won’t get on any other system. Will the Xbox One do that? After that conference we’re no further to knowing the answer. Here’s to E3.