Xbox One: initial reveal reactions

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posted 5/24/2013 by Jeremy Duff
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The future is here, or at least Microsoft says that it is as we have now seen the Xbox One. Microsoft's plans for their next generation console were laid out for the world to see, and although we still have plenty more to learn with E3 just around the corner (June 11-13), some of our staff members put their initial thoughts of the new system into words. Below you will find some of the initial reactions of many of our staff members.

Please note that these reactions have been collected as more and more information has been released, therefore some of the questions and information proposed in these opinions have since been addressed and resolved by Microsoft.

Sean Cahill
There is a lot to like with the Xbox One. I love the look of it and how it meshes with today's home theater designs. It's sleek and doesn't have any kind of weird design. I'm not too keen on the name because I felt that a name like Xbox Infinity would've worked better, but I still think it's better than the Wii and Wii U when they were announced. It's a major upgrade in hardware and processing power and the design of the controller was relatively left untouched, which is definitely a good thing. The HDMI pass-through caught me by surprise a little bit, but if you're going to have a full entertainment device, then being able to integrate with not just a receiver for home theater, but with a cable box, makes sense.  

I would've liked to see more of a presentation with games at the reveal, but I also understand when we're only weeks away from E3, and you don't want to tip your hand completely. Microsoft brought out the big guns in the form of EA Sports, Halo, and Call of Duty, showing that they do understand and know their audience. I am a little disappointed that there was no backward compatibility announced with the Xbox 360, but after the PlayStation 4 was announced to not be backward compatible, it wasn't a surprise.

People need to relax about the lack of games being shown at the reveal. This was one show that was an hour long focusing on the hardware and the entire gamut of what it represents. They have several months before launch to give us everything that we want about games, especially with E3 and GDC still yet to come this year. When grading the overall shows between the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, I have to lean towards Microsoft. They had hardware to show us, they showed off everything that they possibly could without giving away their trump cards, and left people wanting for more. Now we wait for what everyone wants to know: price point.
 

Nathaniel Cohen
I don't care about what it looks like (of course I do, really) or what its specs are (how many graphics does it have?). I want to know if it plays used games, is still playable if my Time Warner Cable broadband flakes out like it did last night for two hours for no apparent reason, and isn't designed to lure me into a trap where, once sprung, allows Microsoft to legally use my bank account as an ATM machine.

Having said that, I think it was smart of Microsoft to design a console that looks simple and understated enough to blend right in with all the other entertainment boxes people have to use and won't embarrass all the non-gamers who buy it as a media device. Surely there will be millions of those. I'm also thrilled by the tray-less disc drive. If there's one thing Microsoft has issues with, it's moving parts, so the fewer moving parts Xbox One has, the better.


Randy Kalista
First off, I like the name. Not Xbox 720. Not Xbox Loop. Not Xbox Infinity. Xbox One. It's as big of a middle finger to chronological numbering as the Xbox 360's name, because, for the second generation in a row, the number that comes after the word "Xbox" isn't a number at all--it's a concept, a metaphor. It comes from the idea (the hope, anyway) of making the Xbox your all-in-one entertainment solution, hence Xbox One. Unless you're still huffing Twitter's post-#XboxReveal high, then you might actually be calling it the "Xbone." What's in a name, right?

Looks-wise, I'm glad it isn't a toy anymore. Its clean lines, crisp corners, and half-matte-black and half-black-gloss finish leaves more to the imagination than the Xbox 360 which still looks like it's waiting to exhale, not to mention the original fatty LEGO Xbox. The Xbox One resembles pretty much every other fill-in-the-blank media contraption already sitting next to your TV, which is effective domestic camouflage. Microsoft's philosophy is to create a media device indistinguishable from every other media device; not only indistinguishable on the shelf, but, more importantly, in customers' minds. The Xbox brand will still be synonymous with video games, sure, but Xbox One wants to be my entire home theater real bad, and I just might let it.

There's a measure of confusion regarding whether or not the Xbox One must be "always on" (it won't be) or "on, like, once a day, maybe?" Either way, I've personally been always-online for a good ten years now. So, from my haughty place of privilege, unspeakable wealth and unwavering connectivity, it's time for me to stop worrying and love the always-on. I know this isn't the case for everyone, so you (honestly) have my sympathies if you're stuck in an internet dead zone or are saddled with Clearwire as your internet service provider or someone equally awful, but it's something I no longer have the time and inclination to rail against.

It's adorable that the Xbox One controller underwent 40 "innovations." Not sure I'd call "we moved the battery pack around a little bit" an innovation, but there you have it. I hear the new rumbling trigger buttons are awesome, since video games are and will continue to be trigger-happy little buggers. And tires around the thumbsticks will help me out since that's where my thumbs' contact points are. I don't see a Share button, a la PlayStation 4's new controller, but it sounds like the pieces are coalescing to make gameplay footage easy to share too. I'm for it. Taking pictures of my TV with an entry-level Windows Phone in a dim living room, needless to say, doesn't create top-shelf photos for uploading.

I'm waiting for the dust to settle, also, on this "used games fee" thing or non-thing, as it were. If Vice President of Microsoft Phil Harrison, Lawrence "Major Nelson" Hryb and "JB" from Xbox Support aren't on the same page, then I don't know what to say. It's obvious Microsoft is still exploring its options. But I'm not a DINK anymore: I'm not Double Income, No Kids. I am, in fact, Single Income, With Kid. That means I either rent games, or I don't get to play them at all. That's the economic reality I live in right now. All that earlier talk about my place of privilege and wealth? All lies. Connectivity, yes. Wealth, no. I can't drop 60 dollars for a game on release day like I used to. Heck, if my hunch is right, I won't be able to drop 70 dollars on the Xbox One's upcoming games, since I'm anticipating a years-overdue price hike for console games. Can't afford all that. But I can afford to rent a game for a buck or two at a Redbox and have a lovely evening, so that's the info I'm really waiting on. If there's going to be some extra game-rental fees, that's a near-dealbreaker for me. Either that, or I get real cozy with budget-minded Xbox LIVE Indie games, but it's going to be a pricey machine to get stuck playing Minecraft clones on. And with the mass exodus of indie developers, dropping XBLA like it's hot--due to Microsoft's "high-friction" requirements for getting on the platform--I may have to follow the indies over to Sony.
 


I'm ready, though, for them to blow the lid off the games section at E3 in June. Fifteen exclusive titles, eight of which will be brand-new franchises? Yes. And please. Even if four of those exclusive titles are EA Sports--good. Great. Sports ball is popular, I get it, and I'm okay with that. Putting Remedy Entertainment on the case with Quantum Break, however, somewhat piqued my interest. If you've got Max Payne and Alan Wake on your resume, then we can talk. Remedy's got the cure. Silly that Quantum Break's trailer spliced in live-action footage, though. Unless the whole game is live-action footage and then that would be amazing. Just kidding. It won't be all live-action. Unless that ship running into the bridge was real. Which I'm pretty sure it was.

I want to know what "drive direct game computation" will accomplish. Microsoft says it means bigger games with more players, plus persistent worlds. If this unscrews the cap on massively-multiplayer online games for console, cool. But if it's just going to throw a few more bodies on each side of team deathmatch, then maybe I'm less aroused. Drive direct game computation might even be the architecture underlying Bungie's upcoming Destiny, but Destiny is even more of a mystery than the Xbox One at this point.

I'm only buying one console this next generation, and that console has to be more than a dedicated gaming platform. It has to, in fact, be that all-in-one device for my living room media. Xbox One is convincing me it can be that machine, but the PlayStation 4 is equally capable in that respect. From what I've seen so far, between Sony and Microsoft, I'm straddling the fence, and it's not comfortable.


Mike Mahardy
Microsoft's presentation seemed much more prepared than Sony's. Whereas Sony dedicated an hour to shaders and dynamic lighting, which is intriguing, Microsoft didn't bother with that. 

But Sony showed off more of their actual games. Maybe Microsoft is biding its time with E3 just around the corner, but all they showed was a new trailer for Call of Duty: Ghosts. A dog is cool, and arm hair looks good in hindsight, but Microsoft's focus on sports and television and TV series--okay, Spielberg directing a Halo series is awesome--hopefully means the 15 games in development will be shown in a few weeks at E3.

Although I didn't see the reveal in person, the graphics looked great, even over a stream. Sports games were shown to exemplify the human side of things, with body animations and emotive faces, but I don't turn to my Xbox for sports. I turn to it for games. And that's where Microsoft came up short. Hopefully, my complaints will be stomped out next month, but as of now, the PlayStation 4 has my vote.


John Yan
I think the console, hardware-wise, has some hits and misses. I'm glad they moved to the x86 architecture and the AMD CPU/GPU should be a solid performer. While you can't change out the 500GB hard drive, at least you can use any hard drive of your own, provided it's in an external enclosure, as you can connect it to the Xbox One via the USB 3.0 port in the back. Microsoft has confirmed that this can be used in conjunction with the internal HDD and act as the same as well. If they got rid of the lag in the Kinect sensor, I'll be more apt to use it.

The TV functionality looks pretty slick and I dig what they are doing on that end. I'm glad it's designed the way it is. It fits into my entertainment center. It's going to need to be a little big to have the air flow necessary to cool the interior without relying on small, loud fans. If it truly does switch between TV, games, music, etc., all in a snap, then this is surely a box I'd love to use in the living room.

But, it's really about the games for me and we won't hear more about them until E3. I don't like that you have to register each game, though, and I certainly am not interested in paying for Xbox LIVE again. We'll know the full picture come E3, but for now, I think it's an okay device that has potential but also a few negatives that are pushing me towards the PlayStation 4 more.
 


Jeremy Duff
Personally, Microsoft didn’t do anything to sell me on the new console with their presentation. Don’t get me wrong, it is a nice entertainment machine based on what was shown, but that isn’t what I want out of my next console. I am looking for my next gaming machine, and that isn’t what was pitched at the reveal. Things could very well change come E3 when they show off that actual games component(s) of the system.

There are just so many things about the new console that I don’t like at this point, based on its size, the stance on used games, and the complete abandonment of everything that I have sunk money into this current generation. I know that the PlayStation 4 isn’t backwards compatible either, but at least Sony acknowledged the concerns and is working towards addressing it from a streaming standpoint. According to Microsoft, having an interest in backwards compatibility is not making progress--to which I totally disagree. I will be watching E3 very closely, but Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up in order to win me over for the next generation.

Charles Husemann
While I understand where a lot of the vitriol against the Microsoft press conference comes from, I do wonder why people are surprised by what Microsoft showed earlier this week. They announced ahead of time that they were holding the games presentation until E3 and then reaffirmed that twice during the first 20 minutes or so of the presentation. The presentation Microsoft gave this week wasn't aimed at gamers, it was aimed at a broader audience to show them the new advancements and technologies they are putting into the new unit.  

Personally, I'm digging the look of the new box and, like Sean said above, it will fade nicely into the rest of an AV setup, which means it won't raise hackles from non-gaming significant others. As someone who buys their games new and doesn't resell them, I'm not terribly upset by the news around how MS is licensing the games. I just hope they take my suggestion from last year and allow gamers to scan a code in, rather than having to enter a 16-digit code when they buy a new game at retail. Then again, hopefully we won't have to buy games at retail stores anymore and can just download them when they are released.

Let's also be honest here, if you're not expecting the PlayStation 4 to have similar limitations to their games, then you're deluding yourself.  This requirement is being driven by the game publishers, and I can't imagine Sony getting away without something similar.  

There is a lot of cool stuff buried in the presentation, like how SmartGlass is baked right in and how fast the new Kinect unit seems to be.  I'm still not 100 percent I'll be picking one up at launch, but I'll certainly be getting one once the second wave of games comes out.

What do you think of the new console based on everything that we have seen so far? Let us know in the comment section below.




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