Yesterday Microsoft unveiled their newest XBox console. This is suppose to be the next generation of console gaming, and in some ways it is. In fact, for the first time in quite a while I was actually not only excited about a console system, but a Microsoft product too! Which is a rare occasion. My excitement later diminished into bitter disappointment; I will get to that a bit later.
This is an initial impression. Obviously the new XBox isn’t available for purchase yet and you never know what might change between now and then. Microsoft seems to be trying to respond to consumer concerns more frequently lately, perhaps they will respond to the criticisms, depending on the reception (and the jokes and trolling has already begun).
I know when the Kinect was released for the XBox 360 it started adding voice commands to the user experience. The XBox One took that to the next level and voice commands have become fully integrated into the system. You can speak “XBox On” and the system will power on and take you to the home screen (which will have a vague resemblance to something of greater tumult). The familiarity of the home screen is something I easily looked past.
So from the home screen you can “command” the XBox to “go to game”, or “Watch TV”, “go to SciFi channel”, etc. The feature that really pulled me in (and probably blinded me to the Cons – which I will get to later) was the sports features. You can tell the XBox to “Watch ESPN” and, while watching the game, you can say “Show Fantasy” and it will display your fantasy team in real time, alongside the game. Yea, that pretty much gave me a “geek-asm”.
Basically, to me, the biggest attribute that I like about the new XBox is the futuristic, Star Trek-ie feel of “speaking to the computer” as a means of interaction.
I will start with the more minor of criticisms. I was a little disappointed with the name. XBox One seems more regressive then progressive. I was a bigger fan of some of the rumored names like XBox 720, XBox Infinity or NextBox. The console itself is larger and bulkier then I expected. I was expecting something more sleek and unobtrusive. Even blu-ray players are becoming more difficult to spot on home entertainment centers. The new XBox has a more 90s stereo receiver feel, then it does a 2013-future-of-gaming feel. I mean, in comparison to all the home entertainment devices that are getting smaller, the new XBox is humongous.
I think the issue that the community is going to have the biggest problem with is the fact that the new XBox will NOT be backwards compatible with XBox 360 games. I think that is a big mistake! Microsoft was pretty vague on their reasons for this decision. They started quoting technical excuses about architectural differences because the new XBox will be 64-bit, however 32-bit software can run on 64-bit architecture. I’m not sure what their angle is, but it looks greedy as their suggestion for those with XBox 360 games is that they will continue to sell the XBox 360 console. So if you don’t own an XBox, but you want to play old XBox 360 games and new XBox One games, then you have to buy both consoles. The same rules apply to games that you have downloaded or will download using your XBLA account. In my opinion, that is a pretty dick move on Microsoft’s part.
It’s still early so who knows what they could change between now and the actual release. I really hadn’t intended on running out and buying the first one off the shelf anyway and now it seems it might be worth waiting a couple of iterations until they get the bugs and garbage worked out. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some updated specs at E3 in a couple weeks.