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Xbox One Reveal: What Did You Think?

17:1924/05/2013Posted by D+PAD Staff7 Comments

It says a great deal that Microsoft can stir the emotions of so many, having developed a loyal fanbase (as well as its critics) over the course of the 360’s lifespan. Although D+PAD has already posted some thoughts on Microsoft’s announcement of the Xbox One, a few more faces from the team wanted to weigh in on what’s fast become the most controversial gaming topic this year. Whether you’re feeling pleased, confused or betrayed, sound off in the comment section below…

Chris Braithwaite:

Well, that didn’t feel like a console launch, did it? The marked absence of games saw to that. The most interesting parts of Microsoft’s presentation were the non-gaming aspects of it – Xbox One as an entertainment and communications hub. But as this is a games website, I’ll focus for now on what we know of the gaming parts of Xbox One… which isn’t much really. The marked absence of games was disappointing, and it feels like a rather large misjudgement on Microsoft’s part. It’s extremely odd that a product reveal press conference would essentially ignore the core demographic (apart from the announcement of a Halo TV show). However, with E3 just around the corner, Microsoft should be able to recover from this fairly quickly.

Despite the absence of actual games there were some interesting titbits on offer. The small but intelligent improvements to the (already decent) controller all sounded good (especially vibration in the triggers), but the main part of the presentation that piqued my interest from a gaming perspective was the focus on voice control through Kinect. I think voice control is a much better input method than motion. Motion control is vague; voice control is precise (or at least it can be). Assuming it recognises non-American accents, if there are well-defined controls (such as the “Xbox, on” and “Xbox, music” examples in the presentation) there’s a lot of potential here.

I can’t see anything replacing controllers in the foreseeable future, but voice control could be excellent at supplementing the controller. In the (few) games shown, there are some obvious simple applications, such as calling for covering fire in Call of Duty, or for attacking runs from team mates in FIFA. Those are things that can be done with traditional button inputs, but voice controls have the potential to make actions like this much more intuitive. I’m not sure this is a game-changing exclusive feature though. If it works as I hope it might, Sony should be able to replicate it fairly easily. A software update and a Bluetooth headset could provide similar functionality.

Now I’ve mentioned the word “exclusive”, I’ll go onto my other main gaming thought from the launch event: the emphasis on exclusives. We didn’t get much information on what the exclusives were, but it was the major gaming-centric focus of a thoroughly non-gaming presentation. The four games shown were either billed as Xbox-exclusive, or as having Xbox-exclusive features. Exclusives annoy me. I understand the reason for them: Sony and Microsoft need something to differentiate themselves from their competitor, and exclusive games are a big factor in this. They really only serve to disadvantage part of the overall consumer base, stopping gamers who chose to buy one brand from being able to access a marquee piece of content on another. We wouldn’t be happy if there was only one brand of freezer that was allowed to store particular flavours of ice cream and that’s how console exclusives feel to me. In this metaphor I’m not really bothered what kind of freezer I have, I just want the ice cream!

Exclusives are here to stay. I know that. It’s just a bit disheartening that in a presentation so notably lacking in anything to do with games, the only direct gaming news of note was that there’ll be a host of games you can’t play without this brand of box.

Of course, the other big news was that there’s a dog in Call of Duty. Don’t worry, Whiskey from Commandos 2. He’ll never replace you in my heart.

Charles Etheridge-Nunn:

I had some difficulties watching the presentation. I came home early from work and got ready to stream the show on my 360 while on a G+ Hangout with Dave Stuart. The streaming video was fine for about 30 minutes (up until they were finally starting to show games) and kept pausing to buffer. In the end, Dave pointed his camera at his television where he was streaming the video. Nice one Dave. Here are my thoughts on what I saw, pretty much as they happened.

* An opening montage of people talking to camera about how inspirational the new Xbox is. “The first time you and your tv will have a relationship”? I’m pretty sure I’ve had a relationship with my television before. I mean, it’s huge. When I first bought it… actually, you don’t want to know what I did to it.

* Let’s look at the old 360 and describe how that was. Looking at the old 360 ‘blades’ actually made me nostalgic. I remember that time, the 360 in my bedroom, unhindered by being trapped away from the internet. A simpler time, where I only had Oblivion and Dead Rising.

* Look! It’s the console! Take THAT Playstation 4! It’s blocky, a bit like a retro look at something science fictiony, and it’s called Xbox One? Odd name. I don’t know why, but I was trying to keep a straight face while calling it that.

* Apparently no one was ever able to use Skype on a television before, or to watch a film and do something else at the same time. You can do these things with Xbox One! You don’t need to use your phone, tablet, laptop, netbook or Wii U tablet, instead you can do it all on your Xbox One. Pfft. Sorry. It can also do the Kinect things now, only they’re slightly more advanced. Some of this is great, like picking up games where you left off and instantly launching in or out of things. Being able to tell your Xbox to turn on is okay, but it has a hard enough time interpreting things and not messing around when you’re talking to friends in the room already. We had a moment of panic when it thought the words, “Mock rape” in a conversation with friends was something to search for. There was a lot of yelling “CANCEL!” before Bing found… God only knows what. Kinect is going to be totally essential to use the 360, and that unblinking evil SkyNet eye apparently knows a lot more about what you’re doing.

* Sports! Look at all the sports! Don’t you like sports? Why the hell not?

* There’s an example of the TV schedule and they’ve got The 700 Club on there. Ew.

* There’s a lot of talk about The Cloud here, and connectivity. Given that there’s no talk about the ‘always on’ rumours, it makes me think that this is their admission that it’s always on, but as a feature instead of a bug. Smartglass sounds like it’s going to actually work this time. I like the idea, but it’s not really worked on the 360.

* More sports! But this time it’s games (finally!) and EA Sports is making 2014 versions of their usual games, but with prettier graphics. Athletes have been brought in to speak about sports. Not the game, just sports… all while wireframe tech demos play.

* Microsoft Studios! Another Forza game! It looks very pretty, but doesn’t look like a gameplay video, though it’s not as creepy as the racing game presentation on the PS4. Quantum Break has some live action footage featuring Lauren Stamile of television’s The Secret Circle and The Event, then some CGI footage of a ship smashing into a bridge. But who cares, fifteen new, exclusive IPs! That actually is interesting, as long as at least half aren’t hoo-rah-ing macho shootybangs.

* They’ve brought a woman on stage! and it’s a definite step forward from some of the creepy guys from the PS4 presentation. Apparently TV is going to become social, and while I don’t know what that means, it’s okay, because apparently they don’t either. Halo is going to be a new television series by Stephen “Boomblox” Spielberg. They name check Breaking Bad, Band of Brothers and Game of Thrones. An interactive Halo TV show sounds exactly like that.

* More sports? Don’t get me wrong, some of you might love sports, but there was a bit for that earlier, wasn’t there? They’re talking about fantasy football and NFL exclusives but I have no idea what any of this is.

* The new Call of Duty will release DLC first on Xbox One. I admit, I was having problems with my video, so I thought this was the new CoD being an exclusive for the Xbox One, which would have cost Microsoft a bazillion dollars but sold a LOT of systems, even if it was just a month’s exclusivity. Dogs! Muscles! Filthy men’s fingernails! The multiplayer maps having dynamic events sound interesting. Apparently America’s fallen and you’re part of a Spartan-style fighting unit, plus their dog. Now you can lean out from cover and shoot! The fish are smart! Smart fish, you guys! There’s a look at Modern Warfare 3 to show that the new CoD looks better, which surprises no one. Also look at @CollarDuty on twitter. The dog already has a joke twitter. I love you, internet. All flippancy aside, it looks pretty and the story sounds okay, but it’s bound to be full of all that hoo-rah macho nonsense. That aside, it could still be pretty good.

* I’m torn. I loved my 360 but I went into the PS4 presentation expecting to go into this generation with the Wii U, 3DS and Steam. I still feel that way after both the presentations. Neither console has inspired me. Apparently this is just part one and E3 must be the part with all the game footage. I’m sure the Xbox One is a good media hub, but televisions can do a lot of that now, many people have blu-ray players and a lot of us have PCs hooked up to televisions now. It feels like a lot of this innovation isn’t that much of a move forward from what we have now and is ultimately a distraction from being a games console. While the PS4 felt like a lot of hot air, the Xbox One (to me at least) seems devoid of any reason for a purchase.

Dave Stuart:

By this stage, a good few days after the Xbox One reveal, there have already been more words written, opinions expressed and memes generated from the conference than any one person could reasonably process. So whilst a busy couple of days has delayed me, it has also given things some time to sink in, something unusual in our first-to-the-post culture where every immediate thought must be floated around the internet. As such I won’t harp on recapping everything that was shown, or speculate too heavily on what was held back, but instead all I can really offer is a personal view that may not speak to the long-term success of the console, or even reflect the feelings of those to whom this presentation was clearly aimed, but will give you hopefully some idea of my reaction. It was a shrug. Now that’s an awfully facetious response, and perhaps justifiably so. After all, the machine itself seems an impressive piece of technology, at least on the surface. The improved Kinect certainly seems to have fixed a lot of the problems that left the original model severely hampered and there is a certain Star Trek novelty to the notion of commanding your electronic devices around like some authoritarian Roman Emperor. But as I watched the conference the one thought I kept having was; I don’t really care. None of the big selling points or ideas spoke to me at all.

Which is fine I guess, but it’s not like I’m not the target audience (well aside from not being American and caring about their sports) I would argue I am the sort of gamer who these new consoles should be speaking to directly, and yet I was left unmoved. The lack of actual games certainly was a factor in this, and the fact that the games shown were of little interest, Call of Duty looks like more of the same, not necessarily a bad thing but my disenfranchisement with the series has yet to recover from Black Ops 2 and this didn’t really seem to stem the tide. Of course there will be more at E3, and good games to boot I’m sure, but I’m far more interested in new gameplay innovations, new types of interactive experiences and storytelling, not more detailed forearms or shiner looking cars.

Sony’s conference suffered from this a bit too, but theirs was in a different context and with a different purpose, they appealed to the gamer and were early enough to get by on promises and demo reels. E3 will be the big test and with it being less than 3 weeks away it will be interesting to see the messages both companies bring. Largely though my apathy towards the Xbox One (and it remains a rather clumsy name) is borne from the fact that, like many people, I’m pretty happy with the consoles I have now. I have no doubt I’ll upgrade one way or the other at the end of the year, but the success of the Xbox 360 could be the biggest hurdle here. Incremental improvements and solutions to problems that few people actually have are not the most persuasive tools when it comes to asking people to fork over hundreds of pounds on a machine that won’t let you play old games, and increasingly is looking like has some fairly strict used games policies in place. As a consumer it’s right to stand up and ask ‘how is this better for me’, and whizzy but unnecessary functionality isn’t a satisfactory response. Personally I just want to see games expand, to do things that they couldn’t before and to take advantage of this connected and integrated world we now live in, and for Microsoft and Sony to be flexible and proactive enough to take advantage of these things, rather than lurching forward with one foot firmly in a past that increasingly doesn’t exist any more.

It remains to see how Microsoft will fare in this regard, the presentation was by no means a disaster, but the lack of genuine enthusiasm, and focus on commerce and TV integration was disheartening for someone such as myself, who just wants the best possible platform on which to play new and exciting games. As of now it doesn’t feel like the Xbox One is for me, which does beg the question, who exactly is it for? If Microsoft can’t work this out by the end of the year, then they will have a serious problem.

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