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COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
#dealwithit, Always-online, E3 2013, Forza 5, Kinect, Microsoft, Quantum Break, Titanfall, Xbone, Xbox One

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

Sony won E3.

Whatever that means. See, despite their emphatic commitment to indie games, a fantastic price, powerful hardware and some very promising launch window games, much of their impact simply came from being the last press conference of the day. The Microsoft presser seemed like a distant memory; a thousand cold black coffees and energy drinks ago, almost forgotten as the PS4's £349 price point made everyone upstanding.

In the cold light of day, however, it's clear that we shouldn't count out the Redmond heavyweight just yet. Though Sony crushed Microsoft on that fateful evening, Xbox One still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve... and I do so love playing devil's advocate.

Kinect Is Cool

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

Yes, Kinect has raised a few eyebrows with potential privacy concerns and the potential for visual DRM. If you've ever watched Charlie Brooker's outstanding Black Mirror series ('15 Million Credits' specifically), it's easy to envision adverts that stop when you glance away, and executives peering into your living room to dominate your every purchasing decision.

On the other hand, Kinect is also capable of delivering one of the most convenient, enjoyable and frankly brilliant user experiences out there.

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

After a long day, I actually rather fancy the idea of telling my TV to cue up an episode of something, or switching over to the internet browser to check the weather without having to sit up. I can sign into accounts without selecting them. Multitask effortlessly. All without having to expend any energy whatsoever. Though Kinect's motion control functionality will probably still be largely ignored by developers, its voice and facial recognition is going to be huge - both in terms of the way we interact with the interface and a thousand profound gameplay applications.

The multi-tasking also sounds fantastic. Though it seems to be aimed at ADHD suffers who want to jump between games and telly every ten seconds to avoid getting bored, I love the idea of checking the internet while matchmaking, or watching a TV show before picking a game up right where I left off.

If it works. If. Make it work.

24

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

Microsoft's controversial decision to disable Xbox One gaming should you fail to sustain an internet connection for 24 hours has been a PR disaster. I absolutely detest this system in theory, both in terms of the lack of contingency plans if our net gives out or we move house, and the fact that the console may never be truly ours. And what happens if Microsoft's own servers end up going down for a protracted period? Boo, hiss, to infinity and beyond.

Practically, though, it won't change the way I play console games one iota. In fact, it won't change anything at all.

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

If you own an Xbox 360, be honest with yourself: do you automatically connect to Xbox Live when you switch it on? Do you play while constantly connected? I'm sure that some of you don't, but frankly, the vast majority of us are already 'always-online.' Many gamers are also still under the impression that the check-in procedure is a manual process, something that couldn't be further from the truth - it simply means that 24 hours will count down from the last time you played your Xbox One while connected to the internet. Once you log back in, the whole thing resets automatically, silently, in the background. There's not a big red button on the top of the console that you'll need to press every day to avoid burly men turning up and carrying you off in a van.

That said, Don Mattrick could have been slightly less of a dick more tactful about it.

Of course, there's every reason to suspect that Microsoft will make a U-turn on this decision down the line, and look like absolute angels as they do so. Was that the plan all along?

Cloud Power

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

'Cloud' is a great word, isn't it? It makes you sound forward-thinking and futuristic, yet means basically nothing at all. Microsoft's boasts about the massive server farms supporting Xbox One rang hollow and desperate at the reveal event a few weeks ago, and suggestions that GFX processing could be offloaded to remote servers will probably not come to fruition any time soon. After all, OnLive has trouble streaming its video effectively on most people's connections. Forget about lighting.

However, silly jargon is already starting to translate into meaningful applications. Titanfall will use Xbox One's server armada to offer dedicated servers to everyone, as standard, and will almost certainly offer lightning-fast low-latency matches as a result. Moving forward, MMOs will be able to take advantage of all the computing power in the world in 1999, and developers can effortlessly utilise Microsoft's enormous server infrastructure in surprising new ways. The potential is practically limitless, and again, it comes as standard on the Xbox One. The foundation is in place.

That Controller

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

Come to daddy.

All About The Games

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

Microsoft's E3 presser lacked system sellers. There's no getting around it: a useless teaser for Halo 5 was no substitute for the likes of Fable, Crackdown and Gears. Not to mention Killzone or inFamous. Microsoft's seemingly callous attitude to indie development was also disappointing, though I still suspect that a successor to XNA (designed to let indies build games for Xbox One, the Kinect API, the Windows 8 app store and Windows 8 devices) will probably break cover over the next few months.

On the other hand, however, we did see an enormous commitment to the gaming front. Titanfall brought out the big guns in sensational style. Quantum Break will push transmedia tie-ins in exciting new directions. Dead Rising 3 will render more zombies than we ever thought possible (and will hopefully render some colours beyond brown and grey too). Forza looks mind-bendingly gorgeous. The big-budget games are present and connect, while the unbelievably ambitious Project Spark will utilise Smartglass, sharing and free-to-play pricing models in interesting ways. The download scene will receive Killer Instinct, Crimson Dragon and Below, just for starters, demonstrating a range of pricing models and genres. Oh, and let's not forget that much of Sony's press conference lineup will also hit the Xbox One - not limited to Kingdom Hearts III, Destiny and Watch_Dogs.

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

If you strip down the E3 press conferences to just the revealed games and balance out the multiplats, I'd argue that Microsoft actually had the stronger showing, despite their indie limitations.

Microsoft's nebulous pre-owned policy could also see some publishers giving them preferential treatment. After all, Microsoft have broken their backs (and a few hearts) by suggesting that used game regulation can be easily enforced with a platform-wide system, which more cynical publishers will likely be keen to reward. After all, if you're going to make an exclusive, giving it to someone who'll let more money get back to you seems like a smart idea. As much as it sucks.

Beyond that, remember that Microsoft has spent the past few years forging relationships with any number of publishers, which is already paying off in timed exclusives and DLC promises. Third party exclusives will likely start to dwindle, but you'd better believe that Microsoft's big fat wad and history of flashing it about will count for something.

"This Isn't A Sprint"

COMMENT | Don't Underestimate Xbox One

If someone forced me to pre-order a next-gen console right now, I'd opt for a PS4. Obviously. It costs less, supports indie development, offers marquee titles at launch and utterly crushed Microsoft on the day of reckoning. But as Microsoft's Phil Spencer told IGN, "this isn't a sprint."

Black Tusk have yet to reveal their new IP. Halo has yet to tip the scales. Quantum Break will reveal its true colours, while Project Spark promises something genuinely new to look forward to. Lionhead are working on something, as are Ruffian, Twisted Pixel and others. We've yet to see exactly how the two systems measure up in terms of real ease of development, online stability and how on-paper specs are translated into useable graphical power in multiplatform titles. We've still got Gamescom and TGS (though Microsoft has little chance of impressing at the latter, let's face it) to go, and months before a launch that many people simply won't engage in. Savvy consumers will likely wait, enjoy the PC arena or current-gen games and hibernate until Spring to make their final judgement.

Microsoft undeniably lost the battle on June 10th. But the war? It hasn't even begun.

Add a comment5 comments
Quietus  Jun. 13, 2013 at 14:10

I disagree on the Kinect front. If it were optional, I could agree with you, but making it mandatory makes in a pain in the **** for people with no interest in anything beyond the games.

I don't use my 360 for anything except gaming, so the idea of having a new console that I have to constantly **** around with some (to me) pointless device, when all I want to do is turn the console on and play a game, is irritating.

DrTrouserPlank  Jun. 13, 2013 at 14:20

Microsoft's release plan is pretty much in free-fall. Every day you get some more bad news come out relating to the technical limitations and restrictions which are a result of their pro-publisher/anti-consumer approach.

The bottom line is that cloud-processing is complete bunk. It doesn't exist in any meaningful form, and is just marketing spin to compensate for their machine appearing to be lower spec than the PS4. By claiming that everything can be offloaded to "the cloud" it neutralises the attack.

Both system's games shown looked pretty current gen if I'm honest, certainly not really changing anything significant visually, at least yet.

What it comes down to is whether you want to own your games or rent them?

If you want to buy into this rental scheme which strips powers away from the customer and heavily favours developers, eventually allowing them to have a monopoly on game pricing, then buy the Xbox; however know that once you give developers and console manufacturers the green light to take away your right to "own" a game, don't expect to ever get that right back. That is an irreversible change that they are just waiting to take advantage of.

Last edited by DrTrouserPlank, Jun. 13, 2013 at 14:21
waxxy  Jun. 13, 2013 at 18:38

another thing that potential xbox one owners are not realising is a consoles average lifespan is about 7 years 10 years if your lucky.but once Microsoft move on to there next gen of consoles the servers will slowly be turned off which will then in turn make your expensive purchase nothing more than a massive paper weight.
if im paying £429 on a console and £50 a game you can bet your life I wanna still play those games for many years to come or at least have the knowledge I could sell it or give it away.
ive got a playstation 1/sega Saturn/Nintendo 64/Panasonic 3do..etc all very old consoles but all still working and I know unless I drop them they will still be playable for many years too come.
Microsoft have seriously messed up this time ,in the west the xbox360 was a massive success but in asia it didn't sell that many in fact I goto to asia a lot and the stores over there are still wii/ps3 dominated theres useally a few shelfs for xbox360 games but no one ever buys them because of the unreliability of the x360 console(in fact im on my 5th xbox360 !!)in asia the xbox one will not sell any at all it will be a massive failure over there because Microsoft are pandering to there shareholders instead of there customers.
in asia they respect companys that give something back to the community there selling to and theres no way drm,always Kinect camera on,internet on every 24 hours,you cant lend games or sell to others will go over great in asia.
this xmas will be pretty exciting time for gamers all the big players will be begging for your money but I can see ps4 will be a sell out and Nintendo will drop the prices of the wii u which will appeal to younger kids so that will have a great xmas but xbox one will only be bought by diehard Microsoft fans or people with more money than sense.
the only way xbox one will sell is if they ditch there drm/Kinect plans and drop there prices.the tv features will only really work in usa in England we pay for our tv liscences and lots have got rid of there cable tvs/sky dishes because of the ressession so the features there so proud of are usealess as is the laziness of shouting at your tv to change channels why not get of your fat **** to change the channels?kinect tv will only really appeal to obese americans sat on there **** 24 hours a day watching the price is right.

ive already ordered my ps4 and will continue to buy my ps plus subscription as it gives me free games each month for my ps3/ps vita and eventually my ps4 ..its a bargain its only £39 a year and for that you get loads of free games/big discounts/free beta game passes/cloud saves etc...another thing not many have realised that is if you have ps plus and you buy a ps4 they will give you drive club and 3 extra ps4 exclusive arcade games for free in your first month also next easter you will be able to play and stream ps3/ps2/ps1/psp games to your ps4 to play some of those will also be free to ps plus members too ..all in all its a bargain !!!

JonLester  Jun. 13, 2013 at 19:21

@DrTrouserPlank: I can't disagree with you. Cloud-based processing is patently ridiculous (at least in the next few years) since we don't have either the technology nor the broadband infrastructure to support it - I tried to make that clear in the article. That said, Microsoft's mass of servers will have their benefits, even if it's only giving us 'free' dedicated servers.

"If you want to buy into this rental scheme which strips powers away from the customer and heavily favours developers, eventually allowing them to have a monopoly on game pricing, then buy the Xbox; however know that once you give developers and console manufacturers the green light to take away your right to "own" a game, don't expect to ever get that right back. That is an irreversible change that they are just waiting to take advantage of."

Aye, there's the rub. I've tried to play devil's advocate as much as possible, but I just couldn't find a single upside or benefit for consumers here.

As I said in the article, I think that savvy consumers will probably be best off waiting until next year before making a decision. There's no-one holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to pre-order a console right now - and beyond pretty graphics, I don't feel that either the PS4 or Xbone have managed to make a watertight case for parting with several hundred quid.

Think I'll pick up Titanfall on my PC, mind, along with Transistor, Watch Dogs and practically everything else. ;)

BlazeBlue  Jun. 14, 2013 at 00:41

im going to keep this short and sweet. I will be getting my Xbox one on the day it comes out.

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