Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Xbox One reveal - all the details.

The press conference sucked.  Can I say that?

Maybe I'm not allowed to say that.  Let's let the stock market say that.  The Xbox One reveal event began just after 1:00pm, here.  Riiight around where Sony's stock begins to shoot up.

And it ended at 2PM, or just before Microsoft's stock took a little (teensy-weensy 0.3) nosedive.

So the press conference sucked, that much is true, and we'll explore its suckage in a moment - but we did get some actual information, because they did show some actual stuff.

What did they show?  Well, they showed the box!

8GB RAM, Blu-ray, USB 3.0, WiFi direct, 500 GB HDD
No details on price or processing power.
Due out holiday 2013, worldwide

That's the box, the new Kinect and the new controller.

They said the new controller is supposed to be revolutionary, but beyond "programmable triggers," didn't mention how.  Eurogamer's done some digging on that front, and it sounds like the triggers can vibrate, and they've made the D-pad better at "sweeping and directional movements".  Gizmodo was impressed with it - and the D-pad does look better.

Interestingly, if you don't like the idea of having a 3D infrared camera pointed at your living room 24/7, you're going to have to suck it up because the new Kinect is required to do anything with the Xbox One.  As with the controller, they told us it's revolutionary but didn't suggest how it was in any way different beyond "rotating wrists" and shoulders.

Which is a bit odd, given the original Xbox and 360's relatively-simple, PC-esque architecture.  Word is it's because the One uses a "different architecture."

They had a very, very long demo of a guy talking to the Xbox through Kinect, opening up a TV-listings guide, selecting shows, opening an Internet browser, and going into a game that seemed to be on a title screen.  The different applications did open very quickly - quite curious how it performs under less controlled circumstances - but this isn't what I came to a video game console announcement press conference for.

They actually had Stephen Spielberg make a video appearance to say he's somehow involved in a live-action premium TV series coming to Xbox Live - Halo.  There's going to be a Halo TV series!  Gaming hasn't had that since those awful Mario and Zelda TV shows.  Well excuuuuse me, Cortana!

There was like ten minutes of someone talking about ESPN and fantasy football stats that update in real time and Surface and I really tuned out, to be honest.

There's been some confusion over this today, but this seems to be how it breaks down:

If you bought an Xbox One copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts, for example, and ran it on your Xbox One at home, the game is now locked to that Xbox.  You and your family - anyone with an account on that Xbox - can play it.

More specifically, it's tied to your Xbox Live account, and you can play that disc - but you must prove you are you by logging in to your Xbox Live account once a day on the system you're playing it on.  If you take it over to your friend's house, you can play it if you log into your XBL account on their machine - but if you want to lend the game to your friend, they'll have to sign in to your XBL account each day in order to authorize it.

If you then take it in to GameStop and sell it, the next schmoe who tries to put it into their console - or say, your friend if you weren't nice enough to give him your Live account info - will have to pay their Xbox One sixty dollars to play it.

Not kidding.

'Cause the One has to check in with the cloud at least every 24 hours, and if it doesn't?  Well then, tough shit - no playing single-player games offline for you!

A bunch of third-party publishers announced, following the presser, that their already-announced, currently-in-development games were coming to Xbox One, though they weren't actually at the press conference.  Assassin's Creed IV, Watch Dogs, Destiny, and Thief are all coming to PS4 and Xbox One.

The event had a sense of desperation about it, of trying to sell something that didn't quite exist without any proof, of trying to sell us on features we never asked for.  They offered very few details and very few facts, but repeated buzzwords "experience," "passion," "experience," "connected," "experience" ad nauseum.  After each anticlimactic announcement about how amazing this new gaming console was at letting you watch TV, a wave of cheers would erupt, but...


...that was just Microsoft creating an image of enthusiasm which didn't exist.  When they finally got to the games, things continued their trend of disappointment.  Here's what they showed:
  • a sizzle reel for EA Sports' Ignite Engine, but - I'll be honest - none of what they showed looked like real games to me.  It all looked like a mid-quality proof-of-concept attempt - not even impressive enough to be bullshots.
  • A trailer for Forza 5, which looked pretty gorgeous and far more exciting than the Gran Turismo 6 trailer.  Unable to discern if it was genuine footage or pre-rendered, but knowing Forza it was probably real. 
  • Quantum Break is the next thing from (Alan Wake) developer Remedy.  Its trailer is hilarious and awful, as they announced the game as the nexus between the thrilling immersion and interactivity of games and the absorbing drama of a TV series.  Watch this trailer and try not to feel disgusted by the TV portion and disappointed by the lack of insight into what kind of game it actually is. 

Sure looks like "a revolutionary entertainment experience" to me.
That's it.  They announced two games and confirmed Call of Duty was coming to the next Xbox, along with Electronic Arts' Sports fare.  Then they said they'd have a lot more to share at E3 (which I seriously hope is the case), and called it a day.  

Forza, at least, looks gorgeous.

At first I thought it was just rose-colored glasses that insisted Sony's presser - despite not even showing the console - was better, but no.  Sony showed so much more, in terms of what gamers actually care about.  They showed next-gen Watch_Dogs and next-gen Knack.  They showed next-gen indie with The Witness and next-gen Capcom with Deep Down.  They showed real-time, this-is-running-on-our-console eye-popping stuff with Infamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall, and then they showed this:

And we were all like, "there's going to be so many awesome games on this thing!"

With the Xbox reveal, there's this sense that Microsoft either doesn't have nearly enough in its stable to show off, or that they genuinely believe turning the Xbox into a corporate-curated media center is the future.

All this won't matter in a year when the platforms are both real and in our hands and have comparable libraries - but today, Microsoft is looking like a sweaty, hand-wringing used car salesman who really wants to get you in to that Kia, and insists on doing so by talking up all these features you don't give a shit about.

No sale, Microsoft.  But E3's just around the corner - and if the Xbox 360 proved anything, it's that you guys are a force to be reckoned with in Round 2.

News that the Xbox One would feature a black, boxy form factor caused an uproar throughout the world of video game console design, today.  "Lurid," "pornographic" and "immoral" were some of the terms used to describe the box, which boldly turns its back on generations of paisley and polka-dotted consoles. 


  1. To be fair the "24 hour check in" thing has been steam's mo for as long as I've used it.

    My internet has regular conniption fits, yet that system has worked fine for me for two years now.

    BUT steam also goes out of their way to buy my love, like when the goty Arkham city bundle was $7.50. Marvelous.

    I, uh... I don't see Microsoft pulling that off.

  2. Keeping in mind, Microsoft MAY pull everything off, and positioning the One as a general media box for families certainly COULD pay off in a huge way, in the same way the Wii managed to become a defacto family purchase - but that's entirely on the assumption that all the bells and whistles surrounding the One all actually work.

    And hardware that always just works has never been Microsoft's strong suit. Additionally, I'd wager folks like Mogs or anyone who lives in an area with spotty Internet connectivity - or folks like Chamberlain, who game almost exclusively on rented fare - are not pleased with this.

    Keeping in mind, Sony effectively dodged how their system will handle used games - it could be identical!

    1. You are correct about the internet thing. After spending something nearing a week with barely any internet (literally none most days), that 24-hour check-in thing can piss right off. If my Vita had told me to sign into the internet so I could single-player grind Soul Sacrifice, I would've chucked it into the road.