UPDATE: Xbox One Revealed: Confused, Conflicted Talk About DRM
A Total Entertainment Box?
The biggest take-away from today’s presentation is that Microsoft is going all-in on the idea of a total entertainment device. “For the first time, your TV and you are going to have a relationship,” Microsoft’s Don Mattrick said. This pretentious descriptor may have players insisting they would like to just be friends, but it ably explains a device designed, so we were told, to create a nearly seamless interaction between the consumer’s various media.
Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President of Microsoft’s Online Audience Business, demonstrated how Xbox One makes heavy use of Kinect technology. Voice commands like “Xbox On”, “Xbox, Go To TV”, “Xbox, Game”, “watch movie”, “watch TV”, allow the user to access various functions of the device rather quickly. This is assuming the presentation showed the device in action of course. Several slight delays during Medhi’s time on stage led some of us at Game Front to conclude that the system’s voice activated features were actually managed remotely via a Microsoft technician. We will look forward to testing these features ourselves at E3.
Whether the all-in-one entertainment box concept comes at the expense of core gaming was unclear. Electronic Arts and Activision were on hand to show off some of what they have planned for Xbox One, but overall the presentation was defined by a paucity of actual gaming. The focus throughout was on what Microsoft staffers continuously called “intelligent TV’, by which they mean full integration of cable TV and Internet, the ability to make phone calls via Skype, the voice command system and so on.
Perhaps the biggest reveal from the presentation was the announcement of a live-action Halo TV series, produced in partnership between 343 Industries and Steven Spielberg. Details about the show were not revealed, though it was stated it will be a “premium television series”. Almost certainly, this means viewers will purchase it on Xbox Live. Either way, I stand corrected: It seems the fate of Trion Worlds may not serve as cautionary tale after all.
At first glance it would seem this is a device less for gamers and more for people who are sick of relying on remote controls to use their television sets. Ok, we kid, but given how little the presentation actually focused on play as a component of the Xbox One experience, it does look like Microsoft believes its future lies with people who don’t necessarily enjoy video games. We’ll be playing close attention to whatever comes out of the company’s E3 show.
Hardware, Peripherals, Specs
Microsoft was bullish about the tech, but upon closer inspection Xbox One has some familiar-sounding specs: An 8-core CPU, 8 GB of RAM, Blu-ray, and USB 3.0. Sounds a lot like the PlayStation 4, no? While the RAM type and speed might be different, we’re betting the CPU and its five billion transistors are similar to its Sony rival. To put the transistor number in perspective: Both the AMD FX-8350 and the Intel Core i7-3770K have 1.2 billion transistors. The system will come built with 500 GB of storage, but the bulk of that will surely be wasted storing installed games.
As for continuing your 360 experience, this will be a mixed bag. Microsoft has confirmed the system will not be backwards compatible with 360 games. In fact, their answer suggests 360 games might never be available for download. (In addition, they will continue to produce new games for 360 well into the One era.) However, you will be able to keep your current Xbox Live profile, including all achievements and Gamerscore. Weak tea, but at least you won’t have to start over from scratch on everything.
Xbox One will also have more than 300,000 servers for the latest version of Xbox Live, and it was clear from the presentation that this is meant to support a vastly larger cloud save environment. There will be a dedicated gaming DVR, editing tools, and what they called “dynamic” achievements which will be more personally tailored to individual player behavior. The device will also allow use of features simultaneously; while waiting for multiplayer matchmaking, for instance, you can watch a movie. Even if you’re a skeptic, this is definitely an improvement over 360′s one-thing-at-a-time functionality.
As for peripherals, as has been known for some time, Kinect is built into the system on massive level, so much it’s difficult to even call it a peripheral anymore. But at least some things will remain familiar. For instance, here’s a look at the new controller:
For more, see Devin Connors’ fuller look at Xbox One’s hardware.
So, It Still Plays Games, Right?
So, ok, we’re hard on Microsoft. This presentation was a disaster, devoted mainly to the presentation of the console’s general entertainment functions, and managing to obscure some rather contentious issues. Even so, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least acknowledge that Xbox One does, in fact, actually use the video games the kids like so much. So far, there hasn’t been a next generation killer app game reveal; presumably, Microsoft plans on more than just popular sequels at launch, and we expect to see more at E3.
We do know, however, that Destiny, Assassin’s Creed 4, and Battlefield 4. Are confirmed. We can also assume that publishers are looking forward to milking the system’s online functionality to the fullest. Electronic Arts presented some of what it has planned for Xbox One. In short: A ton of DLC-heavy sports games. Activision was also on hand to show off their first public Call of Duty: Ghosts presentation (see our coverage for more.) They promised exclusive content for Xbox One.
Two exclusive titles were revealed – Forza Motorsport Five from developer Turn Ten Studios, and Quantum Break from developer Remedy – but Microsoft confirmed that there will be fifteen exclusive titles within the first year after launch. For a full accounting of today’s revealed titles, see Ian Miles Cheong’s breakdown.