Microsoft has stirred up much talk about its latest gaming console, or entertainment box – it’s hard to tell. The Xbox One, meant to be the all-in-one solution to uniting everyone under the gaming banner, is anything but unifying.
At the conference, Microsoft spent its first half hour talking about nothing but TV integration. Most random of all was the announcement of a Halo-based TV series directed by Steven Spielberg. After that, Microsoft talked about the Xbox One’s capabilities as a sports viewer. Then they talked some more about TV features. And some more sports.
No doubt, the interface this time around for the Xbox One is sleek and convenient, but it’s easy to get confused about who the intended audience is for this device.
Microsoft isn’t wrong for trying to diversify its audience but it is wrong in forgetting who their core customers are. Earlier this year, a Nielsen study revealed that video-on-demand and streaming services account for 13% of users’ overall time on the Xbox 360. The rest spend their time playing video games.
Video games were just the thing that Microsoft’s conference was missing. Sony did an admirable job during its PS4 conference by stressing that their console was primarily a gaming hub with extra features to enhance the living room experience. Microsoft, however, seems to possess an entertainment box that just happens to allow gaming.
Yes, we saw Call of Duty , but I would hardly call that a game to attract the masses of people who aren’t hardcore gamers. If diversity is what Microsoft was trying to attain, then it is unclear how a military shooter will accomplish that. The fact that the only other games shown off were sports games (the likes of FIFA 14) was a blow to Microsoft’s core customers.
At the end of the day, if the Xbox One doesn’t focus on games, then what we’re left with is a somewhat more fancy Netflix device and that’s going to be a tough sell to the casual audience.
As far as innovation is concerned, Microsoft hasn’t done enough. Even the specifications of the hardware were a bit vague. Arguably the most important technical component for gaming – the graphics card – wasn’t even mentioned during the conference. We know it has an 8-core processor, but we don’t know how fast it is.
The concern with a console like the Xbox One is that by the time it releases, it may not even be technologically relevant anymore by PC standards. The fact that users won’t even be able to swap out hard drives says something about the lack of customization.
More surprising was the emphasis on Kinect, a device which never developed beyond a mere gimmick for the Xbox 360. While it sure is impressive that the new Kinect can measure people’s heart beats, one has to wonder how practical and useful such features will actually be for players.
Add to that the lack of backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games, fees slapped onto players who buy used games, a cloud system that requires players to be online to play games, as well as a new controller that looks uglier and still runs on AA batteries, and what you have is a baffling product. In several aspects, the Xbox One seems like a step in the wrong direction.
It may just be that Microsoft hasn’t finished announcing everything under its belt but in an age where we have tablets, smartphones, and gaming PCs that are growing more powerful by the weeks, the Xbox One doesn’t seem as impressive as the Xbox 360 did in 2005.
Maybe I’m just expecting too much. Maybe I’m too eager to see Star Trek’s holodeck created in real life. Now that would be a technical marvel.