A Look at the Xbox One – A Week After Reveal

xbox-oneEvery so often after industry announcements, I feel it’s best to sit back and not make a post right away on the topic.  That was definitely the case with the Xbox One reveal May 21.  While I found some of the things shown on Tuesday to be pretty awesome news, there was a lot of things I wanted more information on before I posted anything.  Patience was key and being patient – at least for me – paid off.

Before I go into detail, there’s a nifty little chart immediately below this paragraph for those that will say this article is TLDR that will break down my thoughts on the what’s been revealed thus far for the XBox One.  If the chart breaks it down enough for you, no need to read further, otherwise, I’ll go into why I feel things fit into each area.

The Good

The “Meh”

The Bad

The Ugly

A number of game developers are using new game engines to make the games look and interact better.

The number of servers required for the new XBox One Live Experience

Very little actual game play was shown at the reveal.

Indie Developers may be unable to self publish

Halo live-action TV series announced

Dog as a companion in COD: Ghosts

Name confusion – Microsoft didn’t learn from the Wii – Wii U naming confusion.

Not backwards compatible

15 Games, exclusive to XBox One, will be launched within the first year

Internet connection required

Confusion over “regular” internet connection required

EA Partnership with Microsoft for exclusivity on Xbox One

8 of the 15 will be new franchises.

New Kinect will be coming to Windows*

Price points not mentioned

Features seem to be U.S./Canada centric, not international

Skype integration

Snap mode

Only one game mentioned so far as “available” at launch.

Kinect could be used to charge based on number of viewers in room

NFL partnership

Kinect 2

Everything is saved to the cloud so you can play what you want anytime, anywhere.**

Fantasy league info and stats interactive while watching TV

Everything is saved to the cloud so you can play what you want anytime, anywhere.**

Improved parental controls

Interactive TV

* Listed only because the technology is linked to Xbox One and ships with Xbox One.

**Listed as both good and bad, see explanation in article below.

Before I go any further though, I want to remind everyone that all of this information is very tentative.  Larry Hryb, aka @majornelson, posted on May 22 via twitter the following statement, which I believe fairly applies here too:

We are months away from the launch of #XboxOne & policy decisions are still being finalized. When they are, we will let you know.

Translation: much of what has been said in the past two days could, and likely will, change.   A number of statements made by Microsoft Vice President Phil Harrison have been revoked by someone else at Microsoft – aka saving face – within the past few days.

Now for the nitty gritty.

Initial Impressions

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I was impressed by certain things that came up in the conference, but in all honesty, the things Xbox One offers is nothing spectacularly different that would make me go out and buy it for those features alone.  For us, a gaming console is just that – used for gaming.  At this time, while we’ve talked about getting Netflix and getting rid of cable, we haven’t crossed that line yet.

My initial thought, after the event was over, was kinda brutal.

“This is a next-generation console that is really just a fancy computer.  It let’s you search for information, buy movie tickets, watch shows, and play games if you want on your TV.  Okay.  Great.  But as it stands I can hook up any of my PCs to the TV with an HDMI cable and play the same games and watch the same shows that way.  So, what’s the point?”

Of course, in the next breath, I also realized not everyone owns a PC/Mac and a Console – and many gamers are just console players.  They use their cell phones and other handheld devices to search for stuff online, etc.

However, my assessment of it being a next-generation computer (not console) seems to hit the mark.

What I found surprising – and yes, while this is my opinion on it – that there are almost an equal number of items I categorized as Good, Meh or Bad.  And here is where the article gets long – dissecting each part of the table.

The Good

imgres1.  Game developers are using new game engines to improve how games look and interact with the players.  EA announced it was using a new engine, EA Sports Ignite, for the sports games FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, NBA Live 14, and EA Sports UFC.  A little research shows that they praise the engine, promising that iit will “deliver a new level of innovation, further blurring the line between the real-world and the virtual. Developed by EA SPORTS™, games powered by the new engine will be alive: players think, move and behave like real athletes, with environments as dynamic and ever-changing as real-world stadiums.”

Of course, without showing gameplay of any of those games, that’s a pretty bold statement to make.  EA’s guy is a salesman, plain and simple.  He will tell you what you want to hear and hope you believe it.  Until I see actual gameplay – which is promised to be at E3 – I’m skeptical.

Of course, EA wasn’t the only company to talk about having a new engine for their game.  Activision says the same thing about Call of Duty: Ghosts.  The game is being developed on a new COD engine.  It will be interesting to see how it looks and plays on all the systems out there.  And while there was some Game Play shown in the show, it wasn’t as much as I would like.  I know how Game Plays work – so do most of you – they show you their best work, which isn’t as good as half the game is.  Once again, show me something a little more real please.

All of that criticism being said, the fact they are moving on from the old engines to newer, better engines speaks volumes.  The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are limited by the engines that can be used to create games for those systems.  A new graphics engine for at least those two developers can only raise hopes that other developers are working on or purchasing engine upgrades to improve the quality of all games coming out for the next-gen consoles.

games_halo_header2.  Halo Live-Action TV Series Some might ask what this has to do with a gaming console.  Seeing the interactive TV options, it’s understandable and seeing as Halo is an Xbox exclusive, it really makes sense.  The TV Series would serve a dual purpose – draw more players in to play the existing franchise.  And with a new Halo game due to come out in the future, the show would likely serve as great advertising for that as well.  It would be really neat to see something similar to Defiance – where actions in Halo effect the TV show.  I might be having my hopes up a bit too high, but who knows, it might happen.

3.  15 Games, exclusive to Xbox One, will be launched within the first year.  This one is a bit of a surprise, until you realize at least six games were already revealed at the Xbox One reveal.  Still, 15 games is a good number for year one.  It makes you wonder how many partnerships they have with other game developers (besides EA and Activision) to make that happen.

4.  8 of the 15 games will be new franchises.  Wow.  More than half of the fifteen games promised to come out within a year of launch are going to be new franchises.  As the number of unique franchises seem to be getting smaller and smaller, it will be interesting to see what those 8 games will be, more so since they will be exclusive to Xbox.  Here’s hoping those will be revealed at E3.

imgres-15.  Skype Integration.  I’ve always been a big fan of Skype, and considering MSN recently bought Skype and merged MSN Messenger into Skype, it’s not a surprise that this was a part of the functionality in Xbox One.  Especially since MSN Messenger has been discontinued.  If it does audio and visual on the Xbox One as well as it does it on the PC, it will be a nice addition for chatting with fellow gamers on the same team.

6.  NFL partnership.  This one is more good than bad.  While I’ve heard the stereotype that most gamers don’t’ care about sports, I think statistics will prove that to be untrue.  Being a gamer is a “cool” thing now and many gamers now days aren’t just the nerds in the basement.  They are people who play sports and do other things outside as well as play games on their consoles.  Let’s be honest – if gamer’s didn’t like sports, there wouldn’t be as many sports games as there are each year.

7.  Improved parental controls.  This is the best news I’ve heard thus far, though the details on what has been improved are not solidified yet, I have hopes for the best.  For anyone with an Xbox Live Gold Family account, you know how hard it is to do anything with the account.  It’s almost like pulling teeth.  According to an article on Polygon with corporate vice president of interactive entertainment business Ben Kilgore, they want to make it less confusing and more like the parental controls found with the Windows Operating system.  Here’s hoping for more good news to come about this.

107106_64678.  Everything is saved to the cloud so you can play what you want, anytime, anywhere.**  This point is listed as both good and bad.  This one will only cover the good, to see the bad, keep reading.  The cloud is a great place for games and game saves to be stored.  We all remember accidentally deleting something or breaking a disk.  Or wanting to pick up your game from a friend’s house – or to show them their game, but you didn’t bring it with them.  For this reason alone, the cloud is the best thing to happen.  No longer do you have to bring your games with you.  No longer do conventions have to worry about someone wandering off with game discs when they turn their back or having disks break   However, this is just about where the “good” ends.

The “Meh”

1.  The number of servers required for the new XBox One Live Experience.   The talking head (sorry name eludes me) talks about how the current Xbox Live experience runs on 15,000 servers.  Not surprising.  Not at all.  But then goes on to say the Xbox One Live Experience will be running on 300,000 servers.  Three.  Hundred.  Thousand.  Servers.  That number might be impressive for those that are not techies, but let’s really think about that for a minute.  We all know that as technology increases, servers should be able to handle more.  Let’s be honest, servers now have 100s of terabytes of space.  Why do they need 300,000 servers to run the Xbox One Live Experience?  Other than having to have space to store all the games for each gamer, I dunno.  It seems almost an insane number.  I would assume they are using top of the line servers, but still, 300,000 sounds like a helluva huge jump from 15,000 servers.

That being said, the number is a “meh” point because the number of servers should not be a selling point for the Xbox One.  It should be a standard to have the best and exceed what is needed to handle current demand and have more than enough to grow on.

call-of-duty-ghosts-kinect-dog2.  Dog as a companion in COD: Ghosts.  I get it.  I do.  Dogs are companions for military troops overseas as well as police units throughout the United States.  But let’s be real here.  COD isn’t the first game to have a “companion” pet.  Should I start naming?  Having a pet companion is something a number of players could give a “rat’s behind” less about.  Using it as a selling point and an “impressive” feature for a game on the Xbox One is just lame.

3.  Internet connection required.  Ahhh the fun one that a VP said, paraphrased, oh yeah you’ll need a regular internet connection and connect once a day, then PR came around and said, “that hasn’t been firmly decided and is just one scenario.”  I’m going to call BS on this one.  What I think the VP said is the truth and PR is trying to save face by saying otherwise?  Why?  Let me point you to point 8 in “The Good” section above and point 6 in “The Bad” below.

Now, to play Devil’s Advocate – I’m not really sure why so many people are complaining about the so called “always required connection.”  For most gamers, that isn’t an issue.  You’re connected to play team matches in COD or other games.  You download games from the store.  You have always been required to have an internet connection for the Xbox to activate all features.  More so now with everything being saved to the cloud.

Is it inconvenient?  Yes?  But at the same time, it’s something you already have, already use, and already pay for.  And they’ve already stated you will be able to play without a connection – which I question down in Point 6 in “The Bad” section below.  Almost every person screaming probably hasn’t thought about the fact that they have used the Internet at least once in the past on their Xbox.

4.  New Kinect will be coming to Windows*  This is a meh because it was kind of a given after seeing the new design for the Xbox.  It only makes sense to integrate the Kinect with Windows.  It will be interesting to see how games will be played on the PC with the Kinect. And how much spying will be done with the Kinect.

5.  Snap mode.  Big deal.  I think we call this “Windows” on our PC.  And cascading the windows, or arranging them on our desktop so we can have multiple things on it.  Nothing new here – unless you count porting existing technology over to a console “new”. I don’t.

kinect6. Kinect 2.  So we’re calling it the Xbox One and it ships with a Kinect 2?  Really?  Okay.  Outside of that, I’m one of those gamers who don’t use the Kinect, and wouldn’t really use the TV features that the Kinect 2 will be used for, but it looks like it will be required.  Turn off the spy-mode Kinect will have built in and maybe we can talk about it.  Otherwise it’s just a piece of technology I won’t use much.

7.  Fantasy league info and stats interactive while watching TV.  I think Microsoft missed the memo.  Fantasy leagues are something people waste time working on in the office not when they’re watching Football/Basketball/Baseball games and definitely not when they have the Xbox on.   I could be wrong here – but how many gamers really care about this feature?  Better yet, how many gamers care about fantasy leagues?  Unless it’s League of Legends, I think maybe 10% of the target audience cares.  That may change with the partnership with NFL and trying to draw another audience into the Xbox, but realistically, having this as an uber new feature for the Xbox did not impress me.  Not at all.

8.  Interactive TV – Because really…all the features I can already do with my cell phone without pissing off other people who are watching stuff in the same room on the same TV as me, by telling the Xbox I want it to do all these nifty things.  Thanks but no thanks.  P.S., you guys forgot to mention if this is a paid service, or am I still required to have cable for all the nifty things you showed.  This is why I’m unimpressed.  It does nothing I can’t do without it.

About Grace "Kayhynn" Snoke

Grace Snoke is a corporate journalist and author who enjoys gaming, reading, writing and jewelry making. Outside of her day job, she writes for a number of sites including: Video Game Scoreboard.com, Obsolete Gamer, SciTech Nerds and for a couple blogs and sites she owns. You can learn more about her adventures as an author here.

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