Carl Kloster: Scott and I wanted to do a podcast after the Microsoft Xbox One announcement yesterday like we did for Sony’s Playstation 4 announcement before.
But Scott’s in Portland, Oregon at DrupalCon for work so we couldn’t align our schedules to get it done. So I’m going to write my thoughts down and then get his response as well and we’ll pretend we’re doing an old school text adventure of a podcast.
Scott Heinowski: So Hold on to yonder hats and lets “> Examine Xbox one.”
CK: The Xbox 360 has been a really fantastic console. I’ve owned it since day one and it’s the current gen system that has gotten the most playtime from me. I think Xbox Live is better than what I’ve experienced of the Playstation Network or the Nintendo Network, even if I have to pay for it. So I was really looking forward to what Microsoft had up their sleeves for the next generation.
Yesterday, they announced the Xbox One, a living room entertainment hub that wants to be your one media source. And it left me a little cold.
SH: Microsoft clearly had Apple TV and Google TV in their sites with this, but left me thinking: Are they leaving a weak side exposed their weak side to their rivals Nintendo and Sony?
CK: Let’s talk about the one thing Microsoft showed us that Sony didn’t. The System itself. Its very boxy. I like designs with straight lines and angles, but this looks literally like a box. I thought the inward curves on the original 360 looked awesome, and the Xbox 360S kept that feeling but with sharper lines.The Xbox One looks too much like a PC case and just seems to lack a little bit real style to it. Granted maybe it looks better in person or tucked into my shelf.
SH: Well, design wise I’m actually kind of liking it, but I’m not blown away. They went with a style that is very reminiscent of high end hi-fi gear, which actually to think of it is kinda telling. I think that as you said its all about how it looks in your A/V Stack, and I think a clean panel is a good idea, but I kind of liked the idea that the face of the xbox could be giving you more information than just its power status. That might be kind of far out there request though. I do like the fact that, from a usable functional design the ports on the back are well spaced and there are seemingly few propriety ports unlike the big AV out port like on the 360.
CK: I will say the controller looks really nice. Moving the guide button up makes it look kind of unbalanced, or like it’s wearing a hat, but the new sticks and little differences look really nice. The “impulse triggers” sound really cool, and I wanted to hear more about them and how they could impact my games. I think they could have added some kind of feature to it to make it something newer as well. Sony has the touchpad, Nintendo has the touch screen, Microsofts controller looks like it’s pretty much the same deal with just some revisionary tweaks.
SH: I think this might be where the best thinking on Xbox one happened. The 360 controller is still my favorite controller of the generation and not messing with it too much shows either intelligence or dumb luck. I love the idea of feedback on triggers, if it works well. For one thing, it can give you feedback on whether an action happens in a game, for example if you could tell if you fired a gun or if it needs to be reloaded just by feel, that would be cool!
CK: I own a Kinect, and I really hope the new version of it can get some actual decent use out of it compared to the lackluster games and support we have now. Voice commands that can be reacted upon faster is a nice change, a wider field of view and higher resolution image is great. But I need to see it used in a game to make it really impressive.
SH: While I am still a touch skeptical, The only way that Kinect is going to be successful is by doing what they are doing with bundling the hardware in. The fact of the matter is that while voice commands and body tracking are cool wiz-bang features I dont think that those will ever take over for buttoned interfaces in their current incarnations. That said it should be interesting how these things work on the new Xbox.
CK: But now I want to talk about the one thing Sony showed that Microsoft seemed to forget to show, Games. Yeah, we heard about 15 exclusive titles in year one, and 8 of them being new IP’s (which is great). We saw a trailer of EA sports, some Forza stuff, and Call of Duty. Not being much of a sports gamer, I could care less of the EA sports and Forza. I’ve never gotten into Call of Duty so that wasn’t a big deal to me (but I do understand it is to many people). Quantum Break could be interesting as I love what Remedy does, but I have no idea what the game is about let alone how it will play. And that was basically everything Microsoft showed. I understand the event was more of a hardware event than something to showcase software. But hardware sells because of software, and I was hoping they’d showcase at least one really cool game with a onstage demo or something. All we got was videos.
SH: My biggest fear going into this was seemingly realized here. Microsoft is not smart enough to do multiple things well, and seemingly they lost focus on the core market. Games should be the focus of this box, and anything else taking priority shows a basic inability understand what the market wants. Media is frosting, games are cake. According to what we saw Microsoft is planning to deliver a 10 gallon bucket of frosting and a shopping list where they hurriedly scribbled cake mix on the bottom. They gave so little of an impression that they were going to do anything of intrest in the gaming space by highlighting the two least innovative generes; sports and racing. I’m also pretty damn tired of shooters, so I can’t get excited about a COD game.
CK: Can I also mention how lame it was for the Call of Duty showing to end by comparing Xbox One’s Call of Duty: GHOSTS to Xbox 360 Modern Warfare 3 instead of say, Xbox 360′s Call of Duty: GHOSTS version? Why not do a direct comparison like that instead of to an older title? Seems like a wasted opportunity.
SH: It’s dishonest yeah, the implication is simple, they wanted the biggest possible comparison, but in the end that implies that the difference between the platforms is not that notable.
CK: So you mentioned whiz-bang features, and I feel like that’s all the system really amounts to right now. I liked some of the snapping multiple windows and being able to multitask. How much I’ll really use it? I don’t know. And to me that doesn’t sell me a system. It’s a cool feature, but it’s not a game changer. I could care less about all the sports stuff they showed, the Skype feature didn’t do much for me, and I don’t use a cable box so my live TV that comes from an antenna with coax won’t get to go through the Xbox One at all it seems. There is a lot of features there for media and making it more than a game console, I guess that’s neat but I really just wanted a sweet game console.
SH: They copied the one thing from Google TV that was not quite fantastic enough to be a motivating marquee feature: the cable box control. It shows real shortsightedness in my opinion, which I would guess from their prospective is about being realistic about where we are, but in my opinion its not “skating to where the puck will be.” the other media features might make up for it but they seemed to really push the cable box thing. Multitasking is cool, and I could see it useful if I want to keep an eye on a TV show or live video but I will have to see if it can be used how I expect it to.
CK: Overall, I think Microsoft showed too much media features, and not enough games. The systems design didn’t impress me upon first view, but that’s not a huge deal. I need to hear more about what games I’m going to play, how I’m going to play them, what new things they’ll deliver for me before I can get excited. Hopefully they do that at E3 in a few weeks.
SH: The appearance to me is that despite the fact that Microsoft showed their hand where the console hardware they still haven’t really haven’t communicated why I should buy this over competing game boxes, especially if gaming is my number one point of owning a gaming console. Media and user experience is important, but it’s not the foundation. The foundation is games, and hopefully that will be their only message for E3: It’s all about games.