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How I Feel About Xbox One
Now that my two previous Xbox One hubs, highlighting the system itself and the announced games, are out in the wild, I wanted to dedicate a hub focused solely on my personal feelings on the console and waited for some of the hubbub to die down a bit before commenting. Xbox One had possibly the most polarizing console debut ever and has garnered receptions ranging from cautious excitement, to outrage and anxiety. Here's my take on it.
I'll start on the surface. I love Xbox One's design. It's simple, sleek and sexy. I've heard several people call it boring and uninspired. Why does it need to be some outrageous design? It's not like you'll be staring at the box while as you play. For me, it just needs be easy to transport and to fit comfortably in my entertainment center.
Like Wii U, the name Xbox One is confusing to the average consumer. It sounds like you're referring to the original Xbox and I guarantee some poor kid is going to ask an uninformed relative for an Xbox One for Christmas, only to receive that big black box with the X on top from two generations ago. I get the reasoning behind the name, but that doesn't make it better. Somehow the name 720, which I was never fond of, would have better.
Bundling the new Kinect with it is the smartest move they can make. Ensuring people have the device gives developers incentive to make games for it, which hopefully means we'll finally see some great games that validate Kinect's existence. I'm sure I'll use the gesture/voice commands for novelty's sake before grabbing the controller five minutes later. Swapping out the packed-in headset for Kinect is a mistake, especially when Sony is including one with the PS4.
Many felt the Xbox One presentation was a disappointment, and I can't say that I entirely disagree. I'm a gamer first and foremost, so new games are what most excite me about new hardware. In that sense, Microsoft failed to deliver. I rarely play sports games, so EA Sports' next-gen offerings didn't exactly light my world on fire. The same goes for Forza; it's hard to get pumped up about improved graphics when racing sims have become indistinguishable from each other (to me) in terms of realism. Quantum Break looks intriguing and...that's all I got for it. I'm one of the few that enjoy Call of Duty mainly for the campaign and while Ghosts looks fun, it doesn't look like a huge shake-up from the tried-and-true formula.
Microsoft announced 15 exclusive games currently in development for Xbox One with 8 of them being new IP. For a platform long-criticized for lacking meaningful exclusives, that's great news. If they had shown some of them, even just some title logos, maybe people wouldn't be accusing Microsoft of no longer caring about games. Hell, kicking off the conference with a game trailer (instead of the medley of media features) would have made a better first impression for Xbox One.
Unlike more unreasonable gamers, I don't believe the Xbox One should focus solely on gaming. In a world where multimedia and multitasking are kings, machines that only perform a single function simply won't succeed, and besides, game consoles have been multitaskers for years now - remember how the PSone could play music CD's? This is simply the world we live in.
I think anger at the conference overall has blinded some people from the fact that some of the media features shown were pretty darn cool. I love the idea of being able to run applications simultaneously; no more having to shut down a game to use Netflix, Internet Explorer or whatever. Yes, my PC and smartphone can perform the same function just as admirably, but it's something consoles have needed for a while now. Skyping with the snap mode is something I likely won't use, but it's a nifty feature that will surely catch on. The ESPN/NFL stuff is useless to this non-sports fan, but people that do enjoy it should get a kick out of it. Kick. Football. Hey, I made a funny.
I haven't had cable in two years, so the TV streaming features are of little importance to me. Those features look promising though and hopefully work as well as advertised, but that also depends on how many cable providers Microsoft can get on board. As far as the Halo show goes: Sure, why not? It didn't need to be announced at the conference at all, but a Halo series could be promising.
The main problem with these features is that most if not all of it can be best described as bonuses, but not necessarily selling points. Most of this stuff will likely be used by me once in a blue moon, if ever. I expect these extras with any new device now, so I'm more interested in the new gaming experiences a console brings to the table, as opposed to how Hulu will stream WWE Smackdown better than than my other 19 devices with the app. I obviously can't speak for everyone, and there are those that likely love these features, but making them the focal point in what's supposed to be the debut of a video game console was a letdown and clearly rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
The used game debate is a hub for another time, but regardless of whether Xbox One charges a fee or goes through annoying authentication checks, the fact that I can seemingly no longer buy a used game and play it, no strings attached, bothers me. I've yet to encounter a good argument for why gamers should be punished or inconvenienced for purchasing second-hand. I'm all for supporting developers, but consumers should come first at the end of the day. Ticking off your customers by threatening to ruin a perfectly normal consumer practice isn't exactly the best way to attract players to your console. The fact that Microsoft hasn't been able to get it's story straight on the matter is also cause for concern.
Hopefully everything will be sorted out at E3, but until then, my stance on the console will be cautious optimism. I'm sure the games shown there will be great and there are several aspects about the console I like, with hopefully more cool features to be announced soon. Some of the less-savory rumors about Xbox One worry me, but will hopefully be put to rest. What I know for sure is that I'll almost assuredly be purchasing a PS4 before getting an Xbox One. Microsoft has an uphill climb ahead convincing gamers turned-off by the presentation to give Xbox One a second look. Here's hoping they can pull it off.