So we finally got our big reveal for the next generation Xbox and it is called the Xbox One. It is being billed as the next revolutionary step in not only gaming, but home entertainment. The ‘One’ concludes that this will be the only entertainment console and device that will be connected to your television because of its expansive features that will cater to all. From the new Kinect, technological innovations, partnerships with Skype, the NFL, and Comcast, Microsoft wants to be your exclusive hub for all things media. Of course, we have a varied range of opinions of the staff and we’re going to share our thoughts on the system, the press conference itself, and other things. Amanda Denton, Scott Fraser and myself dive into the essentials below, after the video of the reveal part of the press conference courtesy of IGN.
First, let’s just go through everything that’s been announced so far today. One of the big things they are pushing today is the Kinect. From the outset, this is a major part of the console as they have concentrated on improving the use of the Kinect and its integration into navigating the system. They called it ‘rocket science’ type stuff and while skeptical, for the most part it was impressive. Showing off the use of the system in tracking the unique voice and person, the system seamlessly moved between the Xbox Dashboard to cable TV to movies previously watched as well as music recently listened to. This is a result of the architecture inside which uses multiple operating systems and the new hardware that allows for a quick transition. Also taking advantage of the upgrade is the sensor that can recognize things with more accuracy, such as joints and being able to follow gestures of the body, to give a more accurate performance for games that need to track precise movements.
You are also able to enable something called ‘Snap Mode’, which allows you to run two windows or apps at the same time. By saying ‘Snap Mode’ and ‘Skype’ for instance, you can watch your movie on one edge of the screen and then enable a Skype call to your body and multi-task. It’s a nice feature that should cater to the ADD masses, as well as anyone that wants to have say, a television show in the background and not have to feel interrupted when a Skype call comes through. Also using hand gestures, you can easily go between modes and minimize and maximize windows as need be.
Going through the technical details, it’s probably best to lift the image from the presser and put it below before we dissect it:
I’m sure none of this matters to a bunch of you but it’s important to note that it’s a powerful system inside. Plus a Blu-ray player is what most people are looking forward to and Sony has lost that advantage now from their gaming console. Again, the most impressive feature is the three operating systems that will run the system as you are able to switch back and forth between applications and windows as need be. Being able to go from game to the dashboard, to live TV and other applications will go a long way in trying to establish the Xbox One as the only machine that should be under your television. Getting back to the live television part of it, the demo they used was from Comcast television but they only said that it will work with compatible TV providers and no mention of exclusivity of certain providers. This is something that we need to keep an eye on just in case.
Speaking of TV, Xbox One will now carry original television programming. That’s right folks, get ready for a Halo television series produced by none other than Steven Spielberg.
Details are still up in the air but it should feature live-action and be done in conjuction with 343 Studios, the people in charge of Halo 4. You can debate that as you will but with the hiring of an ex-CBS programming exec, it was in the works for awhile. Other things we can look forward to is the use of the Cloud in order to record gameplay and saves so you can move from console to console or even to brag to other gamers about your achievements. Also having an editing platform for your videos will be included, as well as a built-in DVR function. With that, expect a constant internet connection to be required because the use of the Cloud and the promise of live updates for your system while not in use will make it essential to be connected at all times.
The new controller still is very familiar, with a few different button placements. The most important thing to note is the battery is now internal so the bump on the back will disappear and will now probably charge just like the PS3 controller. The new design also allows for more accuracy in the analog buttons and new triggers as well. Of course, we’ll probably have to wait until E3 to see what other differences there are when we can get our hands on it.
As for game announcements, there were…uhh…not a lot. Obviously the big one would be Call of Duty: Ghosts, as well as EA Sports showing off their Ignite next-gen engine, as well as the new Remedy game Quantum Break for Xbox One but it was very light on games. Forza did look impressive but they are probably saving the rest of the big guns for E3 in the next coming weeks.
Overall, I came away from the press conference a bit underwhelmed. Maybe it’s just the gamer in me that wanted to see more games but the Xbox One seemed to really hammer the idea of the Kinect into our heads and the living room experience. That’s all fine and dandy but I honestly want to see why I should get this gaming system over the PS3. Technologically, the system is impressive but to demo that with Skype calls, Windows 8 interfaces, and the ability to switch to Live TV because it’s easier than hitting the Input button on your remote felt like pandering to the casual person. Which is great in a business sense but it didn’t grab me like I wanted it to.
Talking with Amanda and Scoot, our opinions varied a bit as well. Scoot noted that he was underwhelmed as well but he’s still excited. He also added the Kinect will be the big thing they are pushing which is odd considering that the current iteration has mixed opinions in the current gaming community. Amanda came away as impressed although wanted to hear if backward compatibility will make the jump to the Xbox One. I also asked them about things like the original programming. Scoot said the new system opens the door for television on the console, especially with going as far to produce an original Halo series for the console. Original programming also has Amanda excited despite the hiring of an ex-CBS exec for “original” entertainment.
She’s also excited about the use of the Kinect and expanding on that technology as well. With Microsoft pushing for this to be the only thing that you need for your television, Amanda also believed it could accomplish that task. With it having a Blu-ray and the use of Netflix and Hulu, there’s no real point in having a bunch of boxes when one will do. Scoot agreed with that assessment as the Blu-ray player plays a big part in the entertainment package for the living room. I also asked my fellow editors one the top feature they saw, the most disappointing and what they want to see in the next reveal at E3. Scoot said his favorite part was the Halo TV show because of the huge step Microsoft is taking with the inclusion of original programming but that it was also the most disappointing because he felt that was the top thing they were trumpeting with the system. He wanted to see more XBox One exclusives and more info on the new tech running the system, possibly of the rumored projector system. Amanda thought the top feature was the inclusion of the Blu-ray and the expanded Kinect integration. She’s most skeptical of the new programming chief for original programming because CBS doesn’t have the best track record in terms of ground-breaking entertainment. As for what she wants to see next, she wants more information about the television aspect, such as if a contract with Comcast is involved with it or the tuner being built in, or even if it’s included in the initial price point. Also, say you don’t have Comcast and are they the only TV provider? There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered.
We do know that it will be released at the end of this year, most likely in time for the holiday season so hopefully we’ll get more information around E3 time. Of course, please share your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page. What do you think, is Xbox One a game-changer or do you need to see more to make it the one and only system for you? In case you want more info, check out Wired’s and Techcrunch’s take on the new console as well!