Last week, Microsoft held a press event to officially announce their next generation gaming console, the Xbox One. I say gaming console with a great deal of apprehension, because anyone who saw the reveal should know that the Xbox One was less of a gaming console and more of an all-in-one media console. Despite the massive hype surrounding the announcement, now that the smoke has cleared, Microsoft didn’t exactly have the reaction they wanted. Complaints ranged from lack of videogame announcements to lack of reverse compatibility to questionable videogame resale plans, the full extent of which have still not been revealed. Reaction to the announcement was so negative, that Sony’s stocks went up after the reveal, and sales of Nintendo’s Wii U jumped up overnight. Microsoft spent most of the week’s remaining days doing damage control, trying to assure consumers that they would not have to pay exorbitant fees to play used games.
At the crux of complaints is the simple fact that most of the features showcased really don’t appeal to gamers. The Xbox has always been a console that catered mostly to hardcore gamers with titles like Gears of War and Halo being their flagship titles. Simple, casual games like Wheel of Fortune are fewer and farther between than, say, the Nintendo consoles, but the focus on the hardcore community just…didn’t seem to be there. The reveal spent a good deal of time showcasing the Kinect 2.0, which will be required for Xbox One use. It really doesn’t make sense for Microsoft to require this peripheral, as their original Kinect shipped only 24 million units. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that the Xbox 360 sold over 75 million units, consumers proved that barely even a third of them even actually want the Kinect functionality. I know I certainly didn’t, and I still don’t. Yet Microsoft decided to make this one of the keystones of its reveal event, showcasing how the menus of the Xbox One could be navigated entirely with voice and motion controls. So I suppose if you want to feel like a medieval wizard, making things happen by simply chanting a few spells along with absurd gesticulations, then the Xbox One will be right up your alley. As for me? I think I’ll stick with my buttons and joysticks.
On the subject of lack of major videogame focus, the Xbox One’s compatibility with television was possibly touted more than anything else. The ability to switch instantly to your TV, simply by saying “Xbox: TV,” was apparently a big deal to Microsoft, but gamers really don’t care that much. Sure, it’s nice to be able to go straight to television, but again, there’s a controller with a series of buttons for that, and it’s worked pretty well for the past half-century. In addition to swapping between television, you can also vocally instruct your Xbox One to play music or stream videos. It actually just seems like Microsoft wasn’t interested in making a videogame console, so much as a home media center. I suppose there’s something to be said for that, but gamers aren’t that interested, and I can’t help but feel that gamers aren’t going to be wowed by such things. An all-in-one home media center is something that would interest my parents, and as soon as they hear the word “Xbox,” they’d assume it was a videogame console. I can hear the conversation between my mother and the Best Buy employee now: “I wondered if you had anything that let me watch TV, play music, and watch movies, all in one device.” “Yes, ma’am, the Xbox One is great for that.” “Oh, no thank you, my son already has an Xbox.” The Xbox One is so focused on TV that the only plans that were announced for Halo, Microsoft’s perennial flagship title, was only mentioned insomuch as the new live action television series that is being directed by Steven Spielberg.
As far as showcasing videogames actually goes, Microsoft had a few things to say, but nothing entirely new or completely unexpected. They revealed a bit about Call of Duty: Ghosts, the next installment in the Call of Duty franchise, as well as a good deal of sports games from Electronic Arts. The only really interesting note came from the announcement of Quantum Break, a videogame being developed by Remedy (Max Payne), which aims to, you guessed it, “blend TV with gaming.” I’d question Microsoft, but I think I’ll let my friend The Miz do it for me. As potentially exciting as this, it was only revealed in a small trailer that showed very little of what the game would be. I understand it was a teaser, but after the letdown of titles, I was hoping for at least something to be excited for. Perhaps Microsoft has a plan of excellent game lineups that will redeem their poor showing, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait for E3 to find out.