Microsoft finally raised the curtain on its next generation video game console yesterday, revealing the new Xbox One to the world. The console boasts much of what you'd expect from the next iteration of the Xbox product line, although it hides some nasty gotchas, restricts activities that we've all taken for granted when it comes to video game ownership, and based on yesterday's hour-long unveiling, is aiming to be more of a general living room entertainment box with an emphasis on watching television. While Microsoft surely believes it has the next big thing on its hands, reaction in the gaming community has mostly ranged from tepid to sour. This was probably not the reaction that Microsoft anticipated. I can't speak for everyone else, but I know that as far as my needs are concerned, the Xbox One is not a console for me. Nothing that I saw at yesterday's media event convinced me that I need to buy one, and while I hate to sound dismissive, nothing that the Xbox One will be able to do when it launches later this year compels me to buy it over the competition's offerings.
I've never owned a Xbox product, but I'm not necessarily against owning one in the future. I've just never seen anything that the Xbox or Xbox 360 does that I felt I needed to experience. After yesterday, I still haven't. I buy a video game console primarily for its games, and while the Xbox One's games are surely on the way, the company didn't feel the need to spotlight many of them at the reveal event. The games it did show were all Xbox stereotypes that aren't part of my world: realistic sports and gritty military shooters. A new property, Quantum Break, was teased, and I'd like to know more about that, but the teaser trailer for the game didn't exactly explain what it's meant to be beyond claiming it will blur the line between games and television. I've read people in the community waving the lack of games away with "this wasn't the venue for games", but I expect a video game console to debut with games above all else. Television tricks, video conference features, web browser integration, and so on are nice, but they distract from the ultimate mission of a game console. Tellingly, Microsoft is positioning the Xbox One as something far beyond the media capabilities of current generation game consoles.
The big reveal at the event yesterday was actually that Microsoft has finally delivered on its decade-old promise to conquer the living room with an all-in-one entertainment box. Microsoft spent more than half of its presentation showing off the Xbox One's ability to display live television via a cable subsciption and use the next generation of Kinect to act as a remote control. That's neat, but it's the first thing that the company felt it should show us when debuting its new game console. The presenters then spent over twenty minutes playing with this functionality on stage. I would use it if I owned a Xbox One, but it's not a feature that will convince me to buy the console. Microsoft has designed Xbox One to sit in between you and your TV content and become the gatekeeper and curator of television programming. Here's hoping that Xbox One owners have a cable subscription of some sort or else this enhanced television material is just useless fluff. The Xbox One also will offer Netflix, Hulu Plus, as well as other streaming content services and will play Blu-ray movies (which does interest me, for the record, but can already be done with other hardware I both own and intend to later buy), but little time was spent with those features during the show since they are familiar ones.
It's unfair to judge a console based on its unveiling presentation, and I feel terrible slinging around gloom and disinterest here. I come not to bury the Xbox One, but I can't exactly praise it. Unfortunately, all I have to judge the Xbox One on is based on what Microsoft has announced and shared with the press, and what I've read so far isn't promising. This is a console that requires daily online verification checks with a master server in order to continue to authenticate and allow access to purchased content. It's a console that requires a Kinect camera supposedly sensitive enough to observe heartbeats in order to function, and that camera and microphone pair is always watching and listening even when it's supposed to be turned off (and it's never really off). It's a console that restricts the use of used, rented, and loaned games by requiring extra fees. This is not a hardware ecosystem in which I want to invest. Worse, Microsoft is backpedaling from some of these announcements by proclaiming them to be "potential scenarios" that may or may not come to pass. I don't expect the company to have every last Xbox One detail worked out at this point, but I do expect it to announce true information and not contradict itself with competiting announcements. There's also still a lot we do not know about the console, but with E3 just weeks away, I would hope that there will be more news to announce, new games to debut, and consistent information to share at that event and beyond.
From my perspective, Microsoft's big accomplishment yesterday was to show once again that the Xbox brand is not for me. I'm alright with that. As it stands, I'm not interested in buying a Xbox One. My plans remain unchanged with intentions to buy a Sony PlayStation 4 and a Nintendo Wii U once the futures of both of those consoles are better defined and assuming that those futures meet my needs. The Xbox One, as of now, does not meet my needs and, in some ways, actively goes against what I want in a video game console. That's not a good way to win my business.