At long last, Microsoft unveiled its next-generation gaming console today, the Xbox One. As expected, its hardware stacks up well with the Wii U and PlayStation 4, and the launch event showcased some slick new software, too. With tight fantasy sports integration, Windows 8 and Skype support and cooperation with live TV, the One looks to have taken the next step in transforming the Xbox from a gaming rig into a true home entertainment console. It's a rare thing to get to opine on a new game console, so head on past the break and allow us to indulge this opportunity.
Tim: As a child I would get so excited about subsequent console generations that I couldn't sleep, couldn't think about anything else when their releases drew near. I would read and re-read Nintendo Power and EGM and any other source of news about the next gen that I could find. I'm a bit older now but I am still fired up for new video game generations, and we've been forced to wait far too long for this iteration.
And the Xbox One, was it worth the wait? I'm still not sure, but I am convinced that I want one. What few games we saw looked good, but not great. And, while I'm the first person to say that graphics aren't everything, we certainly didn't hear much about new gameplay advances. Sure, it looks like it'll be nice for watching TV, but I don't watch TV. I also don't care about fantasy sports and I really couldn't care less about Twitter on my Xbox. What's there for me to get excited about, then? The new Kinect sounds compelling; what we saw of the new Forza looked good; and, frankly, I'm just really glad I'll finally be able to stop getting up off the couch to switch games.
Yeah, I'm excited about the Xbox One. I can't wait to buy it.
Darren: I'll go ahead and say it: I love the look of the Xbox One. It reminds me of the original. And more than that, it's not trying to be futuristic for the sake of it. I wish the whole thing were doused in a matte coating, but it's a pretty clever design overall. Now that we're beyond that, I think it's going to be an excellent system if it sells for under $400. Including a Blu-ray drive was a great step forward, and the graphic prowess is obviously laudable.
But, I've got some issues with it: it's using an HDD instead of an SSD. For a machine that'll be on shelves for eight or nine years, this is not okay. The painfully slow HDD in the PlayStation 3 routinely grates my nerves; Microsoft should've thrown a lower-capacity SSD in here and let users add external HDDs if they needed more space. Secondly, where's the built-in wireless display? This thing should've had WiDi (or similar) baked right in. In a lot of ways, the Xbox One is too gentle an update. It strikes me as the Xbox 360S, if you will. That said, aggressive pricing could make it a surefire hit, and there's no question that the Xbox ecosystem has a lot of steam behind it.
Ben Gilbert: What is that thing? Is that a little computer? Maybe a Steambox? Oh, right, the Xbox One (not to be confused with the first Xbox, that is). Jokes aside, I'm with Darren in digging the new look of the next Xbox compared to the Xbox 360, but boy does that thing sure look like a game console. It honestly doesn't matter that much if I like how it looks -- from what Microsoft's saying, it matters much more how the larger masses take to it. The focus on live TV, voice and Skype clearly indicates that Microsoft's aiming to computerize your living room with its game console. Will the public shine to the computer-looking box with an always-on camera? That remains to be seen. But hey, I sure like it.
Richard Lawler: The Xbox One certainly stands up, spec-wise, as a successor to the Xbox 360 and it's capable of bringing the bigger experiences that will become a hallmark of the next generation of games. Microsoft has consistently lead the way in online console gaming and it appears it still will with a slew of new Xbox Live features. This time around however, increased competition and focus from Sony in that arena will make it tougher than ever to justify an Xbox Live subscription -- we'll see if it finds enough innovations to keep its business model thriving.
The biggest question marks are reserved for its TV integration. The fragmented content and provider market doesn't leave a lot of room for electronics companies that want to push their own experience over existing premium content, but Microsoft is ready to try anyway. The OneGuide is certainly pretty enough, and the overlays popped up smoothly during its presentation, but we've been down this road before with Google TV. Even with the addition of HDMI-CEC, IR blasters and older cable boxes may restrict the flow of information and leave us in a situation where we still need to use a different interface to access things like recorded programming on a DVR. Partnerships with existing providers will be key and Microsoft already had some on the Xbox 360 (Verizon, AT&T and Comcast in the US), but there's no assurance that will carry over as it brings its own UI, search and third-party content.
Microsoft's only hope to solve this appears to be some magical combination of tech and deal-making, which I'm doubtful it will be able to pull off, at least in time for launch. While I'm still hopeful (hey, I'm still optimistic about Google TV too), things may change down the road as it Trojan Horses into living rooms; potential launch success for the One will be tied far more to its gaming prowess and pricing than anything else.
Jose Andrade: With the Xbox One, Microsoft hit the mark. In my humble opinion it is just what we were expecting and a little more, but not a revolutionary change. Just on the hardware side, it's apparent they didn't want to move too far away from what we are used to: the controller is practically the same as the one from the Xbox 360, which was similar to the one from the original Xbox. Kinect also looks very similar to the original one from the outside, though now it can process more data.
It seems clear Microsoft did not want to risk too much with the Xbox One. The design of the console is simple; so simple that it couldn't go wrong. It even reminds me of a VCR or any other set-top box device from the past 20 years. On the other hand, the strengths of the new system are on the improvements to existing technologies. Faster chips, better voice processing, better graphics, standard ports; all those are safe bets that are right and will guarantee success. There, I said it. By playing it safe Microsoft is guaranteed to have a successful product.
People are not looking for a "new" device, simply for a device that really works. That works better. The Xbox One is the right evolution. It is not a something new to learn. It is not money a consumer could be afraid of investing, because it is simply the replacement of the current device, with new features and tested technology.
Philip: I'm still concerned. After nine years and 200-plus titles spread across Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone (and Zune HD!), I was bracing to part ways with Microsoft's ecosystem. Thankfully though, the question of an always-on internet requirement appears to have been met with a resounding "No." That would've been the kicker that pushed me out the door. But there are still lingering questions about connectivity and whether the Xbox One needs at least an initial connection to make sure things are on the up and up.
I love bringing my 360 to my parents' home, especially during the holidays. Kinect has allowed me to play games with my folks, bridging a generation gap I never imagined would be crossed. My mom has a Gamerscore, for crying out loud. And she tends to trash talk while racking up the strikes in Kinect Sports bowling. Still, they don't have much need for WiFi or high-speed internet and I've no intentions of suggesting they break into their nest egg just so the Xbox One can make sure I didn't steal stuff on the way to Thanksgiving dinner.
If I'm being honest with myself, then yes, I'm likely going to pick up the Xbox One on launch day. Just like I did when I waited outside Kmart for the 360, and like I did when I waited for classes to end before picking up the OG Xbox. Today's event has upgraded my sentiment from "prepared to abandon ship" to "cautiously optimistic." Here's hoping my mom has many more years of video game trash talking ahead of her.
Edgar: As a consumer that's an avid user of the Xbox 360, it would be pretty hard to express how excited I was to find out about what Microsoft had planned for today's "A New Generation" Xbox event. Was I surprised at any of the announcements? Not really. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. To me, the Xbox One is a solid and fine heir of Redmond's brand, which, as you may have noticed, is now being touted as more than just a console. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, however, given how the Xbox 360 has evolved into more of an all-around entertainment system over the years, and with the integration of TV features, Microsoft's taking its beloved set-top to a whole new level. Oh, and there's now a Blu-ray player, eh? Well, say no more -- count me in for one.
Jon Fingas: Hardware-wise, I love the Xbox One. Rather than risk creating what amounts to an off-the-shelf PC in a prettier box, Microsoft took humdrum x86 architecture and spun it into something that should excel in a console. I don't have Darren's misgivings on storage, as it sounds like Microsoft is doing its best to keep the new Xbox responsive. Besides, what would irk gamers more: slow loading speeds, or running out of space for game downloads within months?
My real concern is Microsoft's focus. I remember Microsoft in earlier years being emphatic that the Xbox was "all about the games." I'm not so sure that's true anymore -- a large part of the Xbox One event centered on TV, not gaming. We all know that Microsoft sees the Xbox as its ticket to controlling media in the living room, but I'm worried that this is distracting the company from what made the Xbox great in the first place: a killer gameplay experience. Hopefully, Microsoft addresses my misgivings at E3.