2013-05-22

Xbox One – Microsoft Takes the Wraps Off the Next-Gen

by Yo Snyder

And so the final entrant to the next-gen console wars has
finally been introduced. This week, Microsoft unveiled the next Xbox, which as
it turns out isn’t called Xbox 720, or Xbox Infinity, or even the NeXbox (which
I always thought was kind of catchy). Nope, the next Xbox is called Xbox One. Kind
of an interesting choice for a company that was gun shy about calling a system
Xbox 2 because the competition had the PS3 and they didn’t want their system to
seem like it was lagging behind. Guess they rethought that policy, because it’s
Xbox One; as in the one-stop source for your living room’s digital media.

First a bit on the tech specs. Xbox One runs on a 8-core CPU
with 8 Gigs of RAM, a 500 Gig hard-drive, built in Wi-Fi (802.11n in case you
care) and a Blu-Ray drive. Yup, after all that fuss back in the day about
Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD, this gen Xbox runs on a Blu-Ray drive (which defuncts some
of the rumors about it being all digital without any drive at all). The
controller has had a slight redesign, but otherwise it’s pretty much the same
controller as ever with some tighter joysticks, more responsive triggers, and
an integrated battery (which I guess means you won’t have to shell out extra to
get the play-and-charge kit, which would be nice). As for the design itself, it
looks like…well, a box. However, it’s not unattractive, but anyone expecting
any sort of radical redesign with any sort of dramatic futuristic design might
be a bit disappointed. Personally, I think it looks fine. It’s note
aesthetically unattractive and definitely looks very functional. The Kinect
system also gets an upgrade in looks and function. It’s touted as being more
precise and responsive, able to detect things like balance and even heart rate.
However, it wasn’t really demoed doing any of those things, or any real game
functions for that matter. Instead, it was the main UI for operating the Xbox.
Voice commands and gestures will be some of the main ways for navigating menus
and getting to content. In truth, that’s pretty much all I’ve used my Kinect for
since I got it, so I’m not terribly surprised that was the main function
Microsoft put on display. Still would like to see that it’s been improved for
gaming uses beyond making dancing fun, but perhaps at E3.

Some interesting new additions include a Windows 8: Snap
Mode. Basically it’s a picture-in-picture feature, or perhaps more of a
side-bar feature. In any event, it’s something that allows to bring up what is
commonly second-screen information. You might be watching basketball and want
to see fantasy stats for your players in a fantasy league. Or perhaps you want info
on a movie while you’re watching a movie. Cool stuff, but after all the fuss
that Microsoft made over their SmartGlass last year, seems like this takes away
some of the need for that.

As for the games, Microsoft claimed to have 15 titles in the
works for the launch. We’ll see how that works out. Many of the usual suspects
were there, including Forza 5 and a
new Call of Duty. In fact, DLC for Call
of Duty: Ghosts
will debut first on Xbox One, if that matters to you. Also,
expect to see some form of Madden on it, and they showed a new game called Quantum Break.

There was a lot of talk about how Xbox One is all about me,
how it puts me at the center of my entertainment world, ready to give me access
to whatever I want with a simple voice command. All that talk about me, me, me
and how Xbox One is all about me sort of made me not want to get one. I mean,
it just seems like it’s something that will feed my sense of entitlement and
feed my self-centered selfishness; or at least that’s the way it sounded at
times while the new console was being pitched. Wouldn’t it be interesting if a
company came out with a console that was focused not on me but on helping me
connect and help others? Helping me to do more for them? Maybe that’s a little
too far-fetched. After all, entertainment and media is all about pandering to
our desires. Still, can’t help but wonder if there’s some way to get beyond
that. Nintendo has made some efforts towards that with some of the features of
the WiiU, but even that is all about “U”.

So, as expected, no price or official release date for the Xbox
One as of yet. Just a general date of later this year (safely assume in time
for the holidays). As for the price, well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
I think the WiiU demonstrated that $300 might be the upper limit for a new
console. The PS3 certainly showed that getting into the $400 range isn’t going
to help things. Thus far, while I think both the PS4 and Xbox One have some
cool tech in them, and as expected, their games look amazing. However, there hasn’t
really been much that makes me in anyway feel like either is a “must-have”
because of how radically it will alter my gaming world. That’s just me though.
Now that you’ve seen both consoled (well, kind of, only the controller in the
case of the PS4), what do you think? Is either really groundbreaking? Which
would you rush out to get?