Microsoft just wrapped their presentation for their next-generation console, XBox One. The name comes from being an “All-in-One System” that will be at the center of your home entertainment system in a way that’s never been quite this intimate/creepy. There was a lot of information during the presentation, but I took copious notes in between mocking the presentation on Twitter. In all seriousness, Xbox seems to have taken a real next step as opposed to Nintendo (new controller!) and Sony (better graphics!), but let us not get into a console flame war. The verdict is far from in, but the Xbox One does look promising albeit with some serious reservations.
Hit the jump for my recap of the presentation, and click here for the news regarding Xbox’s live-action Halo series produced by Steven Spielberg.
Starting with the design of the console, Xbox One is definitely a step up from the “implode” design of the Xbox 360. It’s got nice, clean lines with an interesting “two-face” look. However, this console will pack a powerhouse of hardware. The system has 8GB of RAM, 500 GB hard drive, Blu-ray player, USB 3.0, and a single 40-nanometer chip for both the CPU and GPU rather than the two dedicated 90-nm chips needed in the 360. All that power comes with a cost, and the original Xbox 360 was a noisy bit of work. But according to Wired, “the engineering team kept things quiet by shrinking a number of internal components for better airflow within the console.” However, this is something that can’t quantified, and I’ll be interested to see if the Xbox One is as quiet as my PlayStation 3 Slim.
Moving on, you knew that Microsoft wasn’t going to give up on Kinect, and they’ve only put more effort into the technology. The new Kinect will come with every Xbox One, and Microsoft has made it essential to the experience to the point where it’s unnerving and possibly disappointing. In the presentation, the voice recognition worked perfectly. Rather than the exhausting act of pressing a button on your controller, you can now say “Xbox On”, and provide other commands like “Xbox, go home!” as well as make physical gestures. Microsoft is promising that the 1080p Kinect camera will be able to make the Xbox respond instantaneously, but we’ve heard that promise before. Also, voice recognition technology has yet to work consistently. Remember how great Siri was going to be? I rarely use it because Siri doesn’t understand jack shit, and it’s not like I have a serious speech impediment or talk to her when my mouth is full. And let’s assume the voice and gesture recognition is as good as Microsoft says. Can it differentiate between orders and casual conversation and movement? If I jump up and cheer during the Falcons game, will Xbox change the channel?
Speaking of watching TV, Xbox One now has live television. You can tell Xbox to go a channel, and it will do it (in theory). One of the coolest features is watching a sports game and keeping an eye on your fantasy team (although with the NFL, it looks like you’ll have to be playing through the NFL’s Fantasy League as opposed to ESPN, Yahoo!, or other fantasy sports provider). The presenter then speculated that Xbox One might be able to interact with other programs like awards shows and debates (Xbox 360 already interacted with this year’s Presidential Debates by allowing viewers to vote on certain questions). You can also “snap in” other programs like Skype, so Microsoft is playing right into our short-attention span culture. There’s also “trending” where you can see what your friends are playing/watching and then a general “trending”, which is where Microsoft will have the ability to put even more ads into their dashboard.
But Microsoft has missed one very important aspect of the way we watch television: time-shifting. Microsoft may be angling to replace the set top box from your cable provider, but I have a DVR, and I barely watch any show as it airs. There was a lot of information in this presentation, so please correct me if they mentioned that the Xbox One can DVR shows. If so, then it will be a true replacement for cable boxes.
With all the emphasis on how the Xbox One functions as an entertainment system, it took half an hour to start talking about games. There wasn’t much to say because Microsoft is holding most of their gaming info until E3, which is in 19 days. However, they did devote some time to the biggest developers. EA Sports announced that Xbox One will get Madden, NBA Live, UFC, and Fifa (and Fifa 14 will be an Xbox One exclusive). Microsoft also revealed that Forza Motorsport 5 will be available at launch, there will be 15 exclusive titles for the console, and eight of those will be new franchises. The presentation finished up with a look at the next Call of Duty game, Call of Duty: Ghosts, which held no interest for me other than the fact that they mo-capped actual SEAL Team dogs. More than anything, gamers demand dog authenticity.
If I had to break down Xbox One into one word, it would be “intimidating”. I’m still not convinced that Kinect works, and there was no mention if they had gotten the technology to where it doesn’t need at least 6feet of free space (no system should require you to move your furniture). While I assume you can still use the controller (which looks like it has fangs), I wonder how it will handle stuff like the “snap” functions. This system seems like it’s been built around voice commands, and that requirement could cripple the console if it doesn’t work perfectly. No one wants to keep screaming at a box just to change a channel.
Microsoft has yet to announce a release date beyond this year. Even more importantly, they haven’t announced a price. How much will gamers shell out for what truly feels like a next generation console?