Xbone – Our Thoughts Post-Reveal

Xbone – Our Thoughts Post-Reveal

Microsoft unveiled their new machine a few days ago, known as the Xbox One it will be launching later this year. By now you will have read the news stories about what the console offers elsewhere, so we here on The Reticule want to take a few moments to share our thoughts on what we know so far. Why have we left it until now to publish these thoughts? To give us a few more days to mull over the rumour and conjecture and deliver a more reasoned opinion. Some of our thoughts then, after the break.

Kevin

Kinect2pointOh

“This is just the beginning, E3 is just around the corner and we’re going to be bringing you even more”

When I first heard Tina Summerford utter those words before the Xbox reveal I was excited. Excited as a gamer, excited as an aficionado of technology and excited as a consumer, that one day in the not to distant future I might own the console that was being revealed that very day. The reality is that after the one hour presentation of Xbox One I was left deflated and disappointed in the target market that Microsoft deemed necessary to aim for throughout.

Now that quote serves only as a warning to myself and other gamers for what was to come next. It’s enough to say that for two thirds of the presentation I was finding it hard to focus, listening intently for a glimpse of some gaming revelation to beat or at least to match Sony’s presentation in February. What I got instead was a show that essentially means the Xbox One is a Sky box that also plays games.

The focus was heavily on two things. The first, a TV service that (at least initially) won’t even work outside of the USA and the second, Kinect functionality. Now I’m not against Kinect as I’ve never actually used one, but as a gamer who likes to keep his girlfriend from cold blooded murder, I do most of my gaming late at night when she’s asleep. I also love music, I have it playing all the time unless I’m gaming. These two factors mean voice control is out the window and as far as flapping my arms about in front of my TV goes… well I would rather use my controller.

Aside from TV and Kinect there was also something about actual video games tagged on at the end, but to be honest I don’t remember much of it.

Nick

XboneController

Indie developer Dan Marshall pretty much summed up my opinions of the new X-Bone via Twitter:

Now the dust has settled has anyone managed to get a clear, concise quote from Microsoft yet about whether or not Xbox One can play games?

— Dan Marshall (@danthat) May 22, 2013

Amidst all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Microsoft’s huge unveiling of their new baby, the megalithic company seems to have forgotten one thing about the old X-Box – that people primarily bought to it play games.

The first X-Box was a games console. You put games in it, and it played them. How a company as large as Microsoft can take such a simple concept and get it so hilariously wrong I find absolutely mind-boggling. Did no-one raise a hand at any meetings as say ‘erm, guys? Do we really need all this…stuff?’

With the new X-Bone, I’ll apparently be able to switch seamlessly between playing a game and watching television at the touch of a button. What an amazing concept – one so amazing it’s something my television remote has been happily providing me for years. Who the hell wants to watch a trailer for a movie whilst watching another movie anyway? I can really imagine the people watching Star Trek with me will be overjoyed when I take up half the screen with a trailer for the sequel. They can watch it with me – it’ll be just like sitting in two cinemas at once.

After Sony demonstrated a forward-looking attitude towards indie developers for the PS4, I was really hoping the new XBox would follow in their footsteps. Instead, Microsoft have brushed the indie scene aside without even an afterthought. Braid, Minecraft, Bastion – games like these have no future with the X-Box One, and with the indie market exploding in popularity over recent years, if Microsoft don’t show a u-turn on their attitude in the future, they are going to suffer as indie devs leave for the PS4 in their droves.

As much as I hate the name, I think Microsoft have hit the nail on the head. – The X-Box One. A unwanted reboot of a popular franchise that completely missed the point of what made the original so special.

Everything Microsoft have revealed so far about their console fills me with terror for the future of console gaming under their dictatorship. And remember folks, as Tina said…

“This is just the beginning, E3 is just around the corner and we’re going to be bringing you even more”

Chris

Xbox and Man

It wasn’t a perfect introduction, far from it – but of course in consumer technology that isn’t really possible anymore. Devices have become so multifaceted and complex that they deny a single interpretation, a defining message.

That quote comes from a piece by Keith Stuart on The Guardian which sums up why there has been such a backlash in some quarters to the Xbone announcement. Unless you spend hours and hours covering every little detail, a tech reveal of this scale is never going to please half of the crowd paying attention.

Indeed, I believe that a lot of the reaction is down to some very poor communication about issues like pre-owned games. Will gamers have to pay an activation fee, or is that up to the retailers? Are pre-owned games going to cost a hell of a lot more than before, thus negating the benefit of the second hand market? Even Major Nelson’s clarification on the issue is entirely lacking in clarification.

We look at the rumours of the online requirements and things still aren’t entirely clear, even after Phil Harrison tried to explain to Eurogamer’s Tom Bramwell.

“Some bits of the system will work offline,” he said. “I think the key point to make is that Xbox One requires an internet connection, but it does not need to be connected all the time. We think that most of the biggest games on Xbox One and most of the games and experiences and services you want to use will be internet-connected.”

Then we have the following quote from former Bulletstorm dev Adrian Chmielarz when speaking to Eurogamer. It is a quote which certainly struck a cord with me.

“For example, with all due respect to Mr. Spielberg, a Halo TV series is not the reason for me to buy a $400 (or whatever) box. I got way more excited when I saw Jonathan Blow on the PS4 stage. Not because of his game, but because of the message that Sony was sending this way.”

I’m looking forward to seeing what Microsoft are going to show off at E3, the promise of a bunch of new franchises is exciting. But I have reservations that the Xbone is moving too far towards trying to copy Google and Apple and focusing too much on live TV hookups right now and might just be ignoring the crucial bit: innovative, new and exciting games. I want some more defined communication on the pre-owned and online questions and I want to know how Kinect 2.0 will work with games, and not just by letting us Skype and play.

Regardless, I expect both the Xbone and PS4 to be extremely pricey at launch with only a minority of games actually making best use of what the machines have to offer. I’ll be sticking with my PC for the timing as my main gaming device for now while hoping to be truly blown away at E3.

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