Compare the reveals for Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. Where does the Microsoft reveal rank?
In terms of spectacle and content, the three reveals were essentially the same. Big on emphasizing the bells and whistles, peripherals and gimmicks, small on what gamers can actually look forward to playing on them. But even with that in mind, Microsoft’s reveal was hands-down the worst of the three, for one simple reason: the absolute bungling of the message management.
Nintendo’s Wii U reveal left people feeling like we’d just reached the part of The Aviator when Leo DiCario is obsessively saying “wave of the future, wave of the future”. Sony’s PS4 reveal felt like watching a movie composed solely of trailers. But at least each company managed to convey a clear, organized point to their audiences.
For some reason, Microsoft clearly did not anticipate the level of interest in the rumors that Xbox One will not function without an Internet connection, and that used games won’t be playable. Instead of addressing those rumors, Microsoft hoped that the big take-away from the presentation would be “Wow, ‘intelligent TV’. Gee Whiz!” Instead, it ended up being “So is this thing going to be a tremendous ripoff, or what?” Oops.
Is there backwards compatibility, allowing gamers to enjoy their current generation of Xbox games on XBoxOne?
If Xbox 360 was a bridge to the company’s gaming past, the Xbox One is gasoline and a match. Backwards compatibility has been ruled out entirely, and that includes digital downloads of Xbox 360 games onto Xbox One. “If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards” Microsoft’s Don Mattrick told the Wall Street Journal, presumably while scratching Xbox 360’s name out of his yearbook.
Sony is reportedly working on a way of bringing digital ports of PS3-era games to PS4. Meanwhile, Microsoft will continue to support Xbox 360 with a variety of new games and apps. Let slip the dogs of war.
How important are all the social aspects of gaming that Microsoft showed off?
Clearly, they’re going to be core to the Xbox One experience, almost to the point that Microsoft wants you to socialize with the device itself. The system’s built in Kinect not only allows for more robust voice and motion commands, it’s also always on, just watching you and keeping track of your interactions with Xbox one… and that isn’t remotely creepy.
Actual social features were alluded to, particularly matchmaking in multiplayer and communication between gamers in a wide variety of ways (including Skype), but the presentation didn’t get very deep into them. We’ll need to see for ourselves at E3. Which is just enough time to find out whether you can get a restraining order against a peripheral device .
Microsoft showed off DVR functionality for games. Does it exist for live TV, too?
According to several Microsoft spokespeople, you’ll be able to DVR game play, but the system won’t support DVR from live TV . Instead, for some reason, consumers can take advantage of a HDMI pass through system that allows them to run their cable through Xbox One and back to their provider’s DVR box. Just as convenient, in order to access the live TV functions shown off during yesterday’s presentation, the consumer will need to buy a supported receiver device with HDMI output.
In essence, Microsoft created a console that heavily integrates television viewing into the Xbox experience, and then boldly opted not to include the single most obvious benefit of such integration.
Have we reached the point where gaming on a game console is an afterthought?
No, but that’s because we’ve reached the point where calling something a gaming console is a lot like calling a synthesizer a “pianoforte’. Gaming will almost certainly be essential to the core experience – there will be 15 exclusive titles within the first year of launch and presumably far more second party cross-platform titles. And the system will also have a hell of a lot of additional features on top of it.
Will we still be paying for Xbox Live, and if so, will the cost remain the same?
Aside from confirming that Xbox Live profiles can be carried over to Xbox One, no pricing details or specific aspects of the Xbox One XBL experience have been released. Given the rumors that games will be locked to individual profiles (requiring that anyone else playing that copy of a game pay full price for the license) , assume that if there’s a way to get more money out of consumers, Microsoft will find it.