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Why I have no Xbone to pick with Microsoft’s new console

Posted by Ian McKee on 21st June 2013

Xbox OneAs a dedicated Xbox fanbois, it’s been pretty disheartening to see Microsoft’s new console lambasted on this very blog lately, by my erroneously Playstation-loving colleague Joe.

However, unlike what seems to be the majority of Xbox followers, I don’t feel betrayed by Microsoft. So I thought given all the negativity, it was about time someone stood up for the poor multi-billion dollar corporation.

So what are the criticisms levelled at the Xbox One?

Games not central to the experience

The biggest criticism of Microsoft’s initial launch event was that much was talked about TV and multimedia, and not so much about gaming.

Confession time: I currently use my Xbox 360 more for watching films and TV than I do for playing games.

That’s not necessarily out of choice, but I am a big consumer of streaming content and even with an Apple TV and Sky+ box in my set-up, the excellent Xbox video apps get a lot of use in my house. It’s also my DVD player, so the addition of BluRay in Xbox One is welcome news, even though I really hope all discs go the way of the dodo sharpish.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t play games on it. Of course I do. But I don’t understand why having better capabilities for TV and multimedia is a disadvantage somehow. The games console has a massive opportunity to make a play for becoming the sole device that lives under your TV, why wouldn’t Microsoft make that more of a focus?

And if you don’t like watching TV through your console, then don’t. But you’re missing out.

I know that there are hardware specs which suggest Microsoft have compromised, but the PS3 was always marginally better on spec than the 360 and that didn’t stop it being an inferior gaming experience. Every developer or person with decent knowledge about the technology will tell you with minor differences like these it’s far more about how the software (e.g. games) is designed to take advantage of the hardware.

This argument sums up the whole problem with discussion in the console war so far. It seems a massive deal to everyone following it, because currently the only people interested are the hardcore gamers who are going to take umbrage at their beloved console becoming some kind of fluffy multimedia device. Once these consoles have launched, and mum or dad is looking at an Xbox One versus a Sky+ subscription, the arguments will change.

Kinect always on

First thing’s first: Kinect is awesome. And I mean awesome not in the ‘woah dude this is pretty cool’ sense, I mean in the thoroughly British ‘simply awestruck by what this can do’ sense. It has well and truly blown Playstation Move out of the water.

And that’s on 360. We know Microsoft have put masses of cash and resource into further R&D for Kinect, and the early reports of its integration into Xbox One are encouraging.

So do I want this updated Kinect to come with my Xbox One? Heck yes I do. Its inclusion is the main reason why the One’s launch price is higher than the PS4’s, with Sony having undercut Microsoft by £80, but that price difference is still less than a Kinect for 360 is currently retailing at.

Yes it will be ‘always on’ by default, but do you really think that’s because Microsoft wants to pass images of you on the sofa eating pizza in your pants to the NSA? No, it’s so you can take advantage of the functionality easily, activating the 360 Kinect is currently slightly more hassle than it needs to be.

Oh and if you don’t want Kinect always on? Disable it in settings.

DRM u-turns

Like everyone else, I found Microsoft’s massive u-turn on its DRM policy pretty hilarious. But ultimately, I’m not too bothered.

The Gizmodo assertion that the turn around made Xbox One worse is interesting, and like I said earlier I do hope all discs disappear soon. Get rid of them and games will be cheaper anyway, following the Steam model. Allowing us all to forget about trade-ins and publishers to make some dosh of every game sale.

The Microsoft turn around may have slowed our progress to getting to that point, or it may not have, but either way it’s original approach to DRM was clearly wrong, even just by virtue of its unpopularity. Ahead of its time? Maybe, but either way gaming’s move to the cloud is inevitable, if not overdue.

Always online

So firstly, it’s 2013. You should really get some of that internet, it’s great stuff.

I’m being facetious, but seriously, if you can afford an Xbox One you can afford an internet connection. I realise there are other complications, actual connectivity being one. My old ISP was completely unreliable, and I would never have wanted to be reliant on them for my ability to play games.

Which presumably is why Microsoft have done an Xbox 180 on this one too. But again, in principle we should all be online, and I for one hope decent, fairly priced, high-speed internet connectivity will be globally available sooner rather than later.

Controllers

This one isn’t really a major issue in the Xbone mud-slinging, as it’s fairly apparent that the new is an improvement on the old, which was already far superior to the PS controller.

Sony do seem to have improved their controller too actually, but as far as I’m concerned if you have ever been able to use a Playstation controller for more than an hour without getting cramp, you must be some kind of tiny borrower person with claws for hands.

So there, that’s my flag firmly nailed to the mast.

photo credit: netzkobold

Ian McKee

Ian started out his career working in travel PR, working for tourist boards, airlines and hotel groups. Whilst there he carved out a position as a digital communications expert, managing social media, SEO and email marketing campaigns for clients.

  • Joe McNamara

    Agree the streaming services should be good. My Playstation is my TV, but that’s because I can’t be bothered to sort my TV aerial out. Maybe that’s the way the world should go (Xbox or PS that is).

    The Kinect thing – yeah so what? You have two choices. Sit down and play a game or go and play outside. I can’t move at the moment, as is well documented, but if I could I’d go and play football if I wanted to move around. I dreaded the day I had to watch grown men skulking around their living rooms playing with imaginary guns or lining up golf shots WHAT IT’S SUNNY OUTSIDE AND THEY COULD JUST GO AND PLAY A ROUND FOR REAL! The coolest thing about the Kinect, genuinely the coolest, is it’s potential use for healthcare and pain relief. But I’m sure with motion, gesture technology getting a lot better someone will come up with a more specialist product to replace it in the medical research lab.

    As for the controller – my hands are really, really small and I know they’re really, really small. So I can’t comment. But the PS controllers fits me like a glove. Maybe my hands have mutated accordingly. Good job really – because they’ll be holding a PS controller for the foreseeable future!

    Great post mate 😀

  • Alex Walsh

    I think Kinect works best when it’s use is subtle. Not for me the vigorous arm waving of Kinect Adventures, no I’m much more impressed by the in-cockpit head tracking in Forza. Now you can look for the apex of the corner as you break on the outside- it’s a much more natural experience.

    I think MS made the mistake of assuming everyone would take it for read that the Xbone would be an awesome games machine, and decided to play on the differentiators. Of course hardcore gaming fans that hang out on forums tend to have names like D3AtH5tA1KER and you should never make assumptions like that with this sort of audience…

    • Joe McNamara

      I didn’t know we used the same forum…

      • Alex Walsh

        He’s either the worlds most prolific forumite, eschewing sleep and sanity to post on a million sites, or it’s a fairly common name 🙂