Unless you've been living under a rock, the past three days have been an onslaught of adoration and vitriol for Microsoft’s newest console, Xbox One. Because the recent press conference was so vague, opinions about what the console is capable of is all over the map. For some, the new console means awesome new graphics, better online gaming, and tons of Fantasy Sports support. For others, the new systems’ disregard for indie games, ignorance of backwards compatibility, and obvious cash grab are pushing them away faster than a first date with a hidden snaggletooth. No matter where you stand, the Xbox One has everyone talking about what lies ahead in the next generation of gaming.
With that in mind, we've analyzed all of the news (and rumors), from the past three days and watered it down to the good, the bad, and the ugly of the new Xbox One.
Simultaneous App Running/Instant Input Switching
Despite the trashing the Xbox One is getting in internet forums and Twitter, there is quite a bit to like about the new system. At the top of this list has to be the console’s ability to switch between apps and inputs instantaneously. If the demonstration is to be believed, the Xbox One has thrown a new gauntlet in the gaming console arena. In the demo, the Xbox One seamlessly allowed users to switch between apps and inputs. It also allowed users to multi-task (Bing & Video simultaneously), while using the console. If done correctly, this might eliminate some of the need to use two screens while watching entertainment.
Furthermore, the new Xbox is taking over for the TV remote so that it is the center of your living room. If all works out as is proposed, say goodbye to a pile of six remotes to switch between services. Instead, one smooth set of voice commands will manage your TV. There’s a ton of potential for these features, but the big “but” that resides just under the surface is, "But what if these features don’t work with every App?" If simultaneous apps and instant switching doesn't work for apps like Netflix or HBO Go, then the value of such a feature drops significantly. Let’s all cross our fingers that the brilliant engineers at Microsoft are able to deliver to meet our expectations.
After delivering one of the most modern looking consoles ever made, Microsoft follows up the Xbox 360 with a rip-off of a TiVo. Are you serious? What the hell are they thinking? The designers of the new Xbox threw out everything sleek and sexy about the previous console and designed a generic looking home theater component. While a beautiful design is a luxury when it comes to electronics, they designers could have at least tried to make this system a bit flashier. The took the word “box” in the name way too seriously.
At least they were smart enough to keep the controllers as close to the Xbox 360 controller as possible. No gimmicky touch pads, no touch screens built-in, just a well-designed controller that feels comfortable. Here’s to hoping that a sleeker console design is hiding in the woods somewhere waiting to be released in a special edition bundle.
Kinect 2’s Big Brother Potential
The most under-reported story about the new Xbox One is the console’s ability to scan a room for licensing violations. As is spelled out in this story on ZDnet, Microsoft has applied for a patent that would allow them to take action against users that show video in a way that might violate a license contract. In layman’s terms, if you use your Xbox One to screen a UFC fight for 100 onlookers, Microsoft will know. And, if this is in violation with the terms of your rental license, they can take action. This is some serious big brother stuff.
While the fact that this technology exists isn't surprising, the idea that they’d be willing to actually enforce these kinds of ludicrous licenses is disgusting. It’s creepy enough that the Kinect is always on and always recording information. But that it can report a license violation based on the number of faces in its view, is really an abuse of the consumer. If this patent is indeed approved and this technology is implemented, consumers will be bring a literal video-NARC into their households. That’s beyond a violation of trust, that’s a violation of privacy.
If you’re not pissed about this, imagine this scenario: the new Fast & Furious movie is released on your console early for rental. You decide to invite the members of your Fantasy Football league over to celebrate the season. They bring their domestic partners and kids over for the party. Let’s say you have 13 guests in the room for the movie. If your license says only 12 people can watch this movie at one time, Microsoft can take action. Perhaps, they’ll just shut off the video. Or, what if they get really pissy and report your ass to the MPAA? Remember those FBI warnings in front of your old DVDs? Well, partner, you might be in a stinking lawsuit because your Kinect NARC’d you out. Not cool, Microsoft, not cool.
That’s it for now, look for even more opinion and coverage of all things Next Gen as we get closer to E3!