In Redmond, WA, yesterday, Microsoft held their big press event to unveil their new console, officially named Xbox One. Overall the specs are pretty similar to the PS4: 8 gigs of RAM, cloud storage, no backwards compatibility, 4K output for movies (games unconfirmed), built-in motion tech, DVR ready, blah blah blah. Unlike the Sony conference, which ran long at two hours, Microsoft's was barely one, and to say they left us wanting is an understatement - their boldest move was actually showing the console. (Sony has only teased their plastic box in a recent commercial.) During those 60 minutes, most of the time was spent talking about the All-In-Oneness (oh, I get it now) of this miracle device they hope will be the main hub of your living room.
Games? Sure, the new Call of Duty: Ghosts, some sports titles and maybe one more. That was it.
So here's what I dug and what I found disappointing:
5. It's Official: Original Programming is the Future of Everything.
We can probably look to Netflix as the one getting the ball rolling on this, but the future for streaming services is killer brand-name programming. (Can't wait for Arrested Development this weekend!) So Halo as a live-action series was a no-brainer, but having Steven Spielberg oversee its development is a nice surprise. Yes, the last show he produced was the floundering Smash on NBC, but a sci-fi setting is way more in his wheelhouse.
Plus, the Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn web series that launched alongside Halo 4 was solid. I'm making assumptions here, but I would think the key is to use the live-action storylines as a way of expanding on the insanely huge online community of wannabe Spartans and Covenants, which probably means the Master Chief (or at least the version we're used to) will only show up sparingly. If you're a fan of Halo and buy the Xbox One, why wouldn't you watch this?
Added bonus: MSN is looking to revive Heroes for Xbox Live. Would the main cast come back? I'm betting not, since the cheerleader stars in Nashville and another is Spock nowadays.
4. A Built-In Blu-ray Player! Yay! Welcome to 2007.
Never a good sign.
I still only play the Mass Effect trilogy on the 360 but I've become seriously annoyed that if I had created my FemShep on the PS3, I could do ME2 or ME3 on one disc. Disc swapping is more tedious than mining for Element Zero. So really, unless Microsoft was gonna cut out retail discs altogether, this was pretty much a foregone conclusion. I've heard about the "red ray" 4K discs but info on them is as hard to come by as the Shadow Broker.
My only concern is whether this means hi-def films will load faster than they do on current Blu-ray players. As limited as DVDs are, they have drives that run up to 12 x speed. Blus are at best 6 x. I for one am fine with still having physical copies of something I pay for. Of course, the whole used thing is still annoying (see below) but at the very least, the 50 gig discs will have some resale value, right? Right?
3. Microsoft Actually Showed the Darn Thing... Looks Like a DVR Player.
One of the biggest complaints by gamers about the recent PlayStation event was that Sony never showed the actual PlayStation 4 console; a somewhat strange thing to whine about since we all knew it would invariably just be another square-shaped, black plastic case. So here it is: Microsoft showed off a much bigger black, plastic case! I was sorta hoping Microsoft bought the rights to the TiVo "pop" sound, since the monolith looks a lot like the brand name DVR.
The front-loading disc drive, the now familiar Xbox circle and I assume three USB ports that I couldn't see are all that's visible. A clean look. I just hope it really is whisper-quiet and doesn't come equipped with a power brick that burns out from overheating. Seriously, those stones got mad hot, yo.
2. Controller Looks Great = Same Awesome Piece of Buttons and Sticks.
This I was pretty sure they wouldn't screw up and they didn't. In fact, I love that as an added bonus the bulky battery compartment on the back is now not at all bulky any more. The buttons and sticks look pretty much the same. (Sigh of relief.) Those triggers: awesome and triggery. Always a good sign. I've heard the whole thing is light, but I'll hopefully see for myself in a few weeks at E3 2013.
I'm never ever gonna be a Kinect-only gamer. Not gonna happen. Well, unless cookies are involved, or some kind of All-Star Bake-Off game.
1. All in One: The Evolution of Achievements + New User Interface + Instant Mode Looks Cool.
Sure, most of this is all just the kind of speechifying that can ultimately add up to zilch but I'm willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. Look at how much the 360 changed from 2005 to the present. (The blades dashboard was upgraded to Minority Report-like gestures!)
I'm extremely happy to see that my gamertag and all those points and other customizations will transfer to my new box. I'm very interested to see how game achievements will evolve as they say. Curious, indeed.
The Instant Mode doesn't sound necessary but who knows? If I were a sports guy... maybe that would be a cool way to quickly check the score of my team? Likewise, instant Skyping is a good feature too although I barely use Skype on my MacBook.
The bigger question is will I actually use the Xbox One as my all-in-one device for live TV viewing, gaming, etc? I dunno, I'll still have an Apple TV and some sort of PlayStation to hook up and I doubt MS is gonna let me integrate them into their great experiment to evolve my living room, but you never know. Can you hear that? That's the sound of teenagers everywhere thinking up ways to say "Xbox [insert profanity]." The battle for the remote is so 20th century.