It’s 4:30am and Microsoft’s reveal of their new system “Xbox One” finished not too long ago. While I sit here letting the tidal wave that is Twitter flood in front of my eyes I find myself still just as clueless about how the next generation is going to play out as I was when I went to bed last night.
Over the past few weeks I have seen multiple posts on various social media sources asking people which system they’ll choose, the PS4 or the new Xbox. All of these proceeded to degrade almost instantly into flame wars, as you would expect. We have seen some of the details of the PS4, but not enough to make an informed decision as consumers, and now we have seen a little about the Xbox One. I’m sure over the next few days internet battles will rage between Sony and Microsoft loyalists but we really haven’t seen anything yet.
Microsoft chose to centralise their press conference around TV/Media integration and a whole lot of sports. Perhaps that was wise, or perhaps not depending on your perspective. I can’t say I’m surprised given the push by Microsoft to present the Xbox franchise as your one-stop source for entertainment over the past few years. Sure, if using Kinect to watch TV piques your interest then the Xbox One is probably attractive (depending on pricing) but as a gaming system the reveal definitely fell short.
Throughout the presentation which lasted just over an hour (about half as long as Sony’s long-winded PS4 announcement) they displayed only a handful of games. Of those shown there was not a single gameplay demonstration, only pre-rendered footage and a bunch of buzzwords. Disappointing. While the announcement of 15 exclusive games currently in development for launch release (including eight new IP’s) is exciting, the lack of any information about them except for a cryptic half live-action trailer for Quantum Break is disheartening. Sure a number of third-party developers such as Eidos and Ubisoft have come out confirming their games are going to be coming to the system but as a gamer it didn’t feel like Microsoft were targeting me for the One.
A lack of games wasn’t the only thing which was noticeable about the announcement, they also failed to mention a few elephants in the room. The always-online rumours which were flaring prior to the reveal had no mention during the show, although in interviews after the show it has been “confirmed” that the One won’t be always online. Handy for those of us who bother to research after watching conferences right? I’d say a large number of gamers out there missed that fact if they didn’t jump online afterwards and may have been misled by the constant mention of the Xbox One being “always connected and ready” during the presentation.
The next big question was around pre-owned games which have been thrust into the limelight recently with EA’s announcement that they are scrapping online passes. Gamers everywhere cheered when that was announced, then EA said they are forming a “special partnership” with Microsoft for the new Xbox. Perhaps exclusive games or content? Who knows, because they didn’t give any details during the announcement but straight after the reveal it was confirmed that the new Xbox will force players to pay a “second user fee” of some type to play pre-owned games. Good timing for EA after scrapping the online pass right? Convenient. No details have been released on the cost of this fee except to confirm that games will require a mandatory installation and the fee will be required to use that disc on a second system.
I don’t want to just slam Microsoft with this piece but I’m struggling to find positive things worth mentioning from their showing. Sure like I said, 15 exclusive games sounds promising, and the new Kinect’s 1080p HD camera will be cool but the majority of the content shown was US-centric. Sports, Netflix and cable TV integration with the One all sound great for those interested in that kind of thing but here in Australia what services can we expect? Hopefully we will find out more at E3, but as things stand right now from a gamer point of view the PS4 is looking a lot more attractive. I’m not the only one thinking that as well, with Sony’s stock prices having risen by 9% in the last 2 hours…
There are nineteen days til E3 and I’m sure there will be a media frenzy in the lead up as more information for both systems trickles out and the console war heats up. Despite the general tone of this article I want to encourage everyone to keep an open mind and a “wait and see” policy for these systems before picking sides. We haven’t seen anything yet really, and there is much more to come.
If you want to know more about what Xbox presented and hear what we think of it so far then be sure to listen to our next podcast episode which will be up in a couple of days. There is a tonne of information flowing out the press as I write this so we will definitely have more to discuss. In the meantime, keep calm and carry on.