Microsoft has played its cards for the next generation of gaming. Or, perhaps, the next generation of entertainment. All-in-one entertainment. One box to rule your living room – the Xbox One. Is this what we want?
In a naming convention only known to Microsoft and HTC, the third Xbox was last night unveiled as the Xbox One. In many ways the name is apt – Microsoft’s going back to square one, re-imagining what the Xbox brings to gaming. I say gaming, I should say entertainment.
Microsoft’s conference was focused on the Xbox One being an all-in-one entertainment system that would apply to your entire TV experience. This single device will always be on hand for music, movies, internet, games and live TV…
Live TV-viewing experience
TV – two letters uttered tens of times during the conference. What was shown was actually a pretty impressive interface. The Xbox One will let you switch between live TV and games without the need to change inputs. All at the touch of a button. Or should I say, at the pronouncement of ‘Xbox, watch TV’. You won’t need a remote control, you’ll just need your voice or movements to change channels via the power of the required Kinect camera.
Microsoft also showed off ‘snap mode’, which allows you to snap multiple programs alongside one another. Whether you want to see what’s on telly while you’re playing Forza Motorsport 5 (a launch exclusive game), or you want to chat to your mates on Skype while you browse Internet Explorer (‘Xbox, install Chrome‘) – you can. All on one box.
I say one box – you’ll still need your usual satellite TV box according to Microsoft’s post-show press release. That’s all fine and dandy, but the focus of the presentation was on America. One announcement that looked like a boon for the US was an innovation for NFL. In what was called a ‘game changer’ for American football itself, you’ll be able to take part in an ‘immersive’ TV experience where your fantasy football team is integrated into your live NFL watching. In another innovation, which I can’t see happening to our own beautiful game, NFL coaches will have Microsoft tech on the sidelines to enhance your experience further.
So, the Xbox One represents the ‘beginning of truly intelligent TV’. TV personalised for all your tastes and needs, including trending recommendations from social media. Although, Microsoft’s end-of-show press release also contained the disappointing news that much of the TV experience will only be available in North America at launch. The rest of us, it seems, will have to wait.
Dead game-playing experience?
How will all of this work seamlessly? The Xbox One will have an ‘Architecture’ that ‘changes everything’. The change? This one box will require three operating systems – one Xbox OS, one Windows OS, and a third OS to connect the two. So far, so OTT. Running all three is rumoured to take up 3GB of the system’s precious 8GBs of memory, which means less memory for games.
Games. Gaming took second fiddle in last night’s presentation. We’ll have to wait a little longer to hear more (at E3 in June), but there was promising news of 15 exclusive games in the Xbox One’s first 12 months, eight of which will be new franchises. One of these was Quantum Break, which thankfully looked daring and original.
Still, there was no better illustration of Microsoft’s concentration on the whole entertainment experience than an announcement about the biggest Xbox gaming franchise. Except Microsoft didn’t announce a new Halo game, it announced a live-action Halo television series directed by Steven Spielberg…
So, Microsoft’s concentrating on a broader offering than Sony. And although most gamers might be down on the Xbox One today, I remember the same nay-saying about the Wii. By targeting a broader audience, Microsoft might just get into more homes than Sony with the PS4. Then again, although Microsoft might want you to have a relationship with the Xbox One, is it the relationship you really want?