So it’s been a couple of days since the xbox one reveal from one of Microsoft’s Campus’ over in the states. Since the initial conference the general consensus is that it went poorly with a lot of mixed reports coming from Microsoft on features of the console. Since it’s started to settle down a bit I thought it’d be an idea to give my thoughts on the console.
The actual aesthetic design for the box is quite nice in my opinion, people have commented that it looks like an old VCR player and is rather large. However it has it be realised that no matter the OS or how open it is the XBOX one is a type of computer and a very powerful one at that. You would never find a gaming rig as powerful that can fit into a space that small, not without alot of bespoke parts, and so what microsoft have managed to do is quite exceptional.
The new aesthetics are matched on the new controller and the new Kinect device both of which look nice with their new design. Some points of interest are the colour of the buttons (A,X,Y,B) which now have black backgrounds compared to the 360 controller which had matching colours to the letter, personally I preferred the 360 style. Another thing to note is the single camera on the Kinect instead of the dual camera on the original Kinect. I’m not sure of the technical differences this will make to the device however I am aware the the standard of the camera has been upgraded to 1080p, something that Microsoft had originally had in the first Kinect.
Connections & Formats
With the reveal of the XBOX One the media hands on showed us the connections available on the rear of the device and we also heard about the disc format that the console will be working with.
Firstly the addition of Blu-ray into the device was a very nice feature, something that everyone had expected, it’s nice that in this case Microsoft swallowed their pride after backing the losing horse HD-DVD and have licensed the use of Blu-ray drives from their competitor sony. This format change will allow discs to store up to 25GB of data a big advantage on DVDs.
Secondly there is the TV outputs or more specifically output as there is only one on the XBOX One and it is a HDMi output. In my opinion this was a poor choice for Microsoft to make, it limits their market for the device. Using my own situation as an example the TV I have only has a single HDMi port of which my computer is currently connected making it a second monitor, this would leave no input for me to connect a XBOX One to, also recording devices such as the HD PVR (original not the new gaming one) have no connection for HDMi this device would now be rendered useless for recording games. given that sony have already stated that they have a range of connections available on the PS4 i have to chalk this one as a win for them.
The last connection that i’d like to comment on is one that quite a few people overlooked and that is the Kinect’s new port. Previously the Kinect had a USB 2.0 port that allowed hobbyist and professionals to connect their Kinect to computers and use it for Homebrew projects. This was something that at the time Microsoft stated they were backing/allowing. This new specific port means that the new Kinect will not be able to connect to a computer, at least not without an additional device meaning that Microsoft may have reconsidered their policy on people using the Kinect for homebrew projects or at least how they’re managing those people.
All in one device
If you watched the reveal yourself you’ll have noticed that the event was very heavy on mentioning TV (Hilarious summary) and were frequently saying that it was an all in one device, the only device needed in your living room. However after thinking about i can’t really see how the new xbox is in anyway a complete device. Take the scenario of a normal house, in the front room you’ll have your cable/sky box/freeview box which is the source of your TV content, probably a console, you may also have had a Blu Ray player. Now if you add the XBOX One then all you have is a middle man for your TV content and TV. The device won’t replace your previous gen console as it isn’t backwards compatible and Microsoft have said that the 360 will be supported for another 5 years. The XBOX One will just be another box to add to your living room collection.
Another thing to note is how few of those TV features and Kinect features will work outside of the US, something that Microsoft have stayed very quite about.
Backwards Compatibility and Always Online
It’s a shame that the new XBOX is not backwards compatible with the previous generation of games, however it is to be expected. The architectures of consoles is very different to PCs as to allow the maximum amount of power to be used by the system, this leads to radical changes between generations and the ability to have them working with prior games is pretty much impossible. The original PS3 which was backwards compatible literally had a PS2 built into it as well to make it backwards compatible. Overall i’m not to upset, I will be keeping my XBOX 360 and the collection of games i have, maybe in 30 years I can post on Reddit saying ‘look what I found in my attic’
Now onto the big feature, the online requirements of the XBOX 360, after a lot of mismatched reports and rumours of exactly what always online for the xbox 360 meant it appears that the scenario is that every 24 hours (that could change) the console will check to make sure all the licenses that are connected to your account are valid and that they aren’t connected to any other accounts. Overall this isn’t the worst method of online verification for games, Maxims SimCity was a very bad example. The problem it presents is mainly due to there not being a solid infastructure globally for the internet, where I live in the UK personally I have a very good internet connection which is very stable and quite fast and so could handle having a constantly connected device. But I am very aware that people who live just a couple of miles from me are not quite so lucky, they are yet to receive fibre optic in their areas and the internet speeds are very slow and unstable; for them having an always on console might mean that their device is out for a couple of days at a time if the internet is going down frequently. The issue of situations where internet is not possible has also been brought up i.e. military bases etc. It really feels as if Microsoft haven’t thought through how much of a nuisance this will be.
Microsoft have said that their aim for the XBOX One is to sell 1 billion units (Maybe they watched the social network too much) however if you do some calculations roughly 25% of people in the world have an internet connection (even less have stable, fast connection) that means that roughly 1.75 billion at maximum are able to have a XBOX One and use it. That means that Microsoft have to sell a console to 57% of people who could use one (That’s people, not households) which is a very very tall order, especially seeing as they aren’t favoured by the majority at the moment.
One last thing to mention with these games that require internet and devices that require internet is ‘what happens when the device is no longer supported?’ judging from the specs of the consoles this is going to be another long console generation so it isn’t an immediate concern. But what does happen 30 years from now when i dig my XBOX One out from the box in my attic and the boxes with hundreds of pounds worth of games, plug it into my TV turn it on and receive the message ‘We apologies but these servers are no longer available’. Actual ownership of digital content has always been murky water however the ownership of the license and the ability to use it being dependent on Microsoft having the license servers on is absurd, it defeats the longevity and value of games as you know that they will eventually expire.
So that’s pretty much it on my current thoughts on the XBOX One, currently i’m thinking of switching back to playstation for the next gen. With always nothing is set in stone yet so take all of this with a pinch of salt, at least until e3.