October 2021
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The Xbox One Reveal: A Series Of Unfortunate Events

I have debated all week whether or not to write this post.  The internet is already being flooded by people who were disappointed (to put it mildly) by Tuesday’s reveal of the successor to the Xbox 360.  But in the end, I think I need to write this out to get it out of my head.  So while I still hope you enjoy this post, realise that this one is more for my benefit than yours.  I’ll make it up to you, I promise.

As most of you know, I am admittedly more of a fan of Sony’s systems than any others.  They just seem to do things more in line with my way of thinking.  That’s not to say I’m a Sony-only guy tho, if I were to list my favorite games from last gen (and oh, I will, don’t worry) I’d have at least one entry from all three of the major systems.  I owned them all, and while the PS3 got the majority of my playtime I found enjoyable games on the others as well.  That’s my disclaimer.  Now even before the Microsoft event yesterday I had a bad feeling about their new system.  The negative rumors were flying left and right about it, and it seemed like a new one popped up every week.  But even more than that, it’s clear to me looking at the last couple years of the 360’s life the direction that Microsoft has been heading – services such as movies, streaming TV, etc. first and games second.  I still held out hope tho.

This is next-gen: The Price Is Right

This is next-gen: The Price Is Right

That hope was quickly shattered.  For more than thirty minutes of the one hour presentation, games were not even mentioned.  What was mentioned was how the system will tie into my cable TV subscription and make my television viewing a wondrous experience.  Of course, I cut the cable two years ago and haven’t looked back.  I doubt I’m the only one.  What’s most ironic is that streaming apps on the 360 & PS3 have encouraged me to go in that direction.  Why should I pay $75 a month for cable TV when I can pay $8 to Netflix and $8 to Hulu and get more than I can possibly watch?  Even if you could use these features, isn’t this first and foremost a game console?  Shouldn’t the focus be on games, and everything else that it does be considered secondary?

Judging by what was shown, their apparent target audience for the device is the casual gamer who will play Madden and/or Call of Duty – both of which were shown – but will be equally if not more interested in watching TV and streaming movies on the device.  There were a total of two exclusive games shown at the event of a promised 15 in the first year.  More on that number in a minute.  Of the two that were shown, only one was an original IP:  Quantum Break, a new game being developed by Remedy.  This game was touted as having ties to a TV show, tho few details were given.  But again, there’s TV being pushed.  The other exclusive was a new entry in the Forza series which is sure to please fans of the franchise but was hardly a surprise.

Always watching…

There’s also a new version of the Kinect which will come bundled with the system.  In fact, a Microsoft executive was quoted after the show as saying that the device has to be connected for the system to even operate.  The Kinect has a built-in processor and will never truly turn off but rather simply go into a standby mode where it will listen for you to say “Xbox On” to power on the system.  I will let you make your own Orwell jokes about a hi-def camera and mic that is constantly on and connected to the internet in your home.  Rather, I’ll just say that voice recognition is sketchy at best and my current Kinect constantly mishears what is said to it.  It has even been known to pickup sounds in movies we’re playing and interpret them as commands directed at it – so expect your Xbox One to turn itself on at random times when it thinks it hears an on command.

So that was basically the show – huge focus on watching TV, presentations from EA Sports and Activision regarding games that will be on both systems anyway and a grand total of two exclusive games shown.  Oh, and that 15 exclusive games in the first year that they mentioned?  Who’s taking bets on how many of those will be Kinect games?

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough – and it really, really is – the after the show buzz says that one of the other system’s “features” of requiring every game to be installed & then no longer needing the disk means that used games are right out.  Unless of course you pay some sort of “fee”, which according to the Xbox VP may just be the price of the game again.  So don’t plan on trading in your games or even loaning them to a friend.

All of that, plus it looks like an 80's VCR

All of that, plus it looks like an 80’s VCR

The 360 started out very strong.  Microsoft was actively courting exclusives and trying to build up their stable of first-party games.  In the early days, strong Japanese exclusives such as Dead Rising, Lost Odyssey and Tales of Vesperia helped give the system some strong core gamer appeal.  But since then Microsoft has decided to change their focus to the casual gamer.  They have more of an interest being your living room TV & movie box, and if you decide to play some games occasionally well that’s ok too.  Any interest I had in their new system was decisively stomped out with that presentation.  That’s just as well, Sony is giving the exact opposite message saying that their system is primarily about games and openly courting game developers.  That works for me because I buy a game console to play games.  Shocking, I know.

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