Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Xbox One Reveal

Several months ago Sony revealed their vision of the future with their announcement of the Playstation 4. They talked a lot about semi-interesting social features, weird and wacky things that most people probably won't care about, and how much easier it will be for developers of all kinds to make games for their system. They also showed a decent amount of gameplay footage, real gameplay that was not pre-rendered, including footage from a brand new IP. At the time reactions to Sony's conference was mixed. Some people were optimistic, many were unimpressed. The conclusion that I think a lot of people came to was that we will wait and see what this all means for games.

Today Microsoft held their own conference, and I wanted to talk about my immediate thoughts. Full disclosure: I've owned every Sony console ever released, and none of the Microsoft consoles. While I'm not the Sony fanboy I once was, it would be naive to claim I didn't still have some bias.

Firstly on a superficial level; Microsoft actually showed their console. So we are fully aware now how sleek it is, and how much room it will take up on your shelf next to the equally large Kinect 2.0. Also, it's called the Xbox One. Why? I know laughing at console names has kind of become the thing to do these days, but still... Playstation 4 is safe, it's unimaginative. Xbox One is confusing and doesn't really seem to be based on anything. So what do we call the original Xbox now? The original Xbox? Xbox fat? XLBox? For that matter, what snappy name do we use for this new console? XOne? XBO? XBone? Yea, let's go with XBone. Anyways, I digress.

On the whole, I would say Microsoft's console started out strong--ish. Very quickly I got the impression of a console which transforms your living room. It acts as the gateway to all the media you need, and in this capacity it seems like an intriguing device. However at the same time, it's an embodiment of the ADD society we live in. Being able to instantly flip between media with a voice command is undoubtedly cool. However pressing the input button on my remote isn't particularly troublesome. Being able to open up a secondary application on the side of the screen is quite nifty. However if I'm going to control it with my phone, why not just run said application on my phone to begin with? Not to mention, how do all these media features function if I don't have cable? Or I don't have Xbox live gold? Or Netflix? Or... INTERNET.

After that whole shebang was out of the gate, Microsoft's conference took a real nosedive though. From that point there was little to see other than how awesome sports are, unrelated interviews with Athletes, a Halo TV series, a partnership with the NFL, and gameplay footage of the next (multiplatform) Call of Duty, which wasn't actually gameplay footage. The talk of actual video games was surprisingly minimal, even more so than was the case in Sony's conference. As a result of all of this, a lot of people are decrying the console as nothing but a media box aimed at fratboys and casuals. What's more, it has been confirmed that there will be an activation fee for playing used games. Of course this also comes with the claim that users will be able to trade and sell games through the console, which is intriguing, but the used games thing seems to have caused enough rage that people don't read far enough to see the reselling games bit.

The immediate reaction to this reveal seems to be the internet freaking out, because their favorite console has turned into a media box aimed at frat boys. At first I was right there with this viewpoint, but I don't think I am any more. Sure, the demographic has changed so that I'm not a part of it any more. Dudebros and casuals probably make up the majority of the market these days, so it makes business sense to me. What does being a part of that demographic do for me, anyways? Why do I care if I'm being marketed towards? There will be video games right? Sure, we will certainly see what's up at E3. If anything the biggest problem here is that the demographic that watched this live presentation is likely the core gamers and not the dudebros. Now, the core gamers feel scorned. Sony's stock is apparently soaring, and a significant number of people are leaning towards the PS4 now.

In the end of the day, all I care about are the video games. Sure, Microsoft's presentation didn't do anything for me, but they have to sell their product. In today's market where virtually every title is multi-platform, it's exclusive titles that sell consoles, and I was promised 8 new exclusive IPs at E3. Features are cool. PS4 has features that are aimed at playing video games. XBone has features that are aimed at media consumption and general use. At this point we haven't an inkling as to which box will have the best library of games, and that is ultimately all I care about. Even in terms of usability and features, there is still a lot to be seen. Microsoft's conference was a small disaster, but this battle isn't done by a long shot. The internet just has to remember that the people watching the reveal live are not representative of the other billions of people on the planet.

I do have to admit though. It's incredibly disappointing that the most interesting part of the entire presentation, the segment they used to cap off the entire thing, was about Call of Duty. Which, beyond just being Call of Duty, is a multi-platform title.

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