Xbox One Unveiling: A Different Strategy
So today Microsoft brought up the rear and finally announced the third, and final, entry in the next generation of consoles. It had the benefit of foresight, having watched Nintendo and Sony take their swings first. It listened to at least a little of the feedback from the PlayStation 4 reveal and actually showed the form factor of the Xbox One. In fact, the two reveals couldn’t be more different.
Where Sony spent a great deal of time showing games and talking about the theories behind the PS4’s hardware as related to game development, Microsoft went the exact opposite route. Instead, the Xbox One unveiling showed an acute concentration on general entertainment and how the machine will make accessing said entertainment as seamless and easy as possible. It succeeded. No one can deny that the responsiveness, ease of use, and Kinect 2 integration were compelling arguments for planting one of these things underneath your flat panel.
The problem is that most of the people who are going to buy it out of the gate at full price are people who play video games on a daily basis. This is an absolute and it will never change. It has been true since the NES generation. It will be true when the Holodeck is finally a reality. Hardcore players are taste makers—evangelists, if you will. If a system doesn’t get their nod of approval, it’s sunk. Today’s unveiling of the Xbox One was programmed as if these people didn’t exist. What do these folks want to see? Video games.
A few hours after the press event and I can’t think of many compelling reasons to buy it to play video games over the PlayStation 4. The sparse footage that was shown didn’t exactly melt the paint off the walls, but that could have been made up for with some semblance of quantity. If there are indeed 15 exclusives (and eight new IPs) coming to Xbox One in the first 12 months, it stands to reason that we should have seen at least five of them today, leaving the other seven for a big E3 splash. Instead we got another Forza and an interesting new game from Remedy, Quantum Break. Third-party showings were bloated PR reels with tons of CG and underwhelming real-time footage speckled in. It’s being released in the next seven months.
As for some of the frivolities, the console’s form factor is interesting in exactly how uninteresting it is. It’s like Microsoft just said screw it. After all, does one’s opinion ever change on the rectangle? You’ll hate it the same five years later as you did on day one. That’s better than thinking less of it over time, right? The name is just dumb, but it looks like Microsoft is trying to get into the numerical game like the PlayStation. Never mind that searching for it in Google turns up results for the original Xbox brick.
I’m down with the slight tweaks to the controller like rumbling triggers and lower latency. Hopefully the new D-pad isn’t another disappointment. I like how games will have the ability to seamlessly incorporate traditional and motion controls. I like that the new Kinect might be something worth actually fiddling with. Including Smart Glass integration, there is a possibility for some new gameplay experiences. While I realize I’m in the minority, I also appreciate the deal struck with the NFL and the Xbox One’s sports integration overall. The content deals and services can’t be viewed as a negative thing, unless they’re taking away from game development.
Now that the dust is settling there are some unsettling facts coming to light. The biggest being how the system is going to handle used games. Every Xbox One game is tied to an account. If you try to play that physical disc on another system, it must be logged in under that same account. So while you can take a game to a friend’s place and log into your account and play with him, you cannot leave that game behind for them to experience. To do that, they will have to pay a fee. Microsoft isn’t saying how much right now, but I’m guessing it’s basically full price.
Everyone has been quick to jump on Microsoft for this, but the truth is, we still do not know how Sony is going to handle it. This gives Sony a competitive advantage. I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to think that a large number of those early adopters might make a purchase decision based on something like this. With Microsoft’s cards on the table, Sony has the perfect opportunity to create a real competitive advantage and regain some goodwill with lost customers. Will it do it or will greed win the day?
Either way, Microsoft has set a precedent, and with no backwards compatibility, looks to be testing the mettle of its most ardent fans. With the initial showing of games lacking quantity and quality, Xbox One is poised for one memorable E3, but only if Microsoft realizes it needs to impress the audience that truly matters during a console’s first year on the market.