Yesterday’s Xbox One announcement couldn’t have been more different from Sony’s PS4 announcement earlier this year. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to think of a single way they could have made it more different.
The Xbox event was short and to the point. That left numerous gaps that people have been furiously trying to fill in over the last 24 hours. I’ve collated some interesting tidbits of information that have been floating around.
From the Xbox One FAQ:
Q: Does Xbox One require an “always on” Internet connection?
A: No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet.
So it doesn’t, but it also does. Excellent. Kotaku clarified this with Microsoft VP Phil Harrison:
The Xbox One doesn’t have to be online all the time, but it does have to be online. Not just once in a while—once a day, according to Microsoft vice president Phil Harrison.
That’s pretty close to always online.
There were rumours that Microsoft would kill the used games industry, and it looks like they’re building in the opportunity to do this. When you receive your Blu-Ray you have to install the game. You can play the game whilst it’s installing, but you have to install. Then, you can play without the disc. This would open up the opportunity to buy a game, sell it, but continue to play it. But Microsoft has that covered:
Microsoft did say that if a disc was used with a second account, that owner would be given the option to pay a fee and install the game from the disc, which would then mean that the new account would also own the game and could play it without the disc.
This puts an end to lending and swapping games with friends, taking a game round to a friend’s house and the used game industry.
Bear in mind that this is only a week after EA killed its hated Online Pass anti-feature.
The future of TV
A lot of people seemed rather excited about the Xbox One’s ability to interact with your service provider. However, when you explain the limitations this excitement turns in to crushing disappointment. The Verge explains:
The problem is that the demoes weren’t real — the Xbox One’s TV integration is the same familiar nightmare we’ve known for nearly 20 years now. Instead of actually integrating with your TV service, the One sits on top of it: you plug your cable box’s HDMI cable into the Xbox, which overlays the signal with its own interface. If you’re lucky enough to own a newer cable box, you’ll get to change channels directly through the HDMI connection, but most people will find themselves using the One’s included IR blaster to control their cable or satellite boxes — a failure-prone one-way communication system that stubbornly refuses to die.
It’s a horrible solution, and one that demonstrably doesn’t work. However, the biggest problem is that the technology isn’t there, it’s that this is a concept that’s passed its sell-by date. This is only useful, in even in its limited state, for live TV. Watching something on your DVR? The Xbox remains unaware. Time shifting? Nope, sorry. Xbox One and cable box get out of sync because the IR blaster failed to work? Good luck with that!
This is something that failed even when people were watching a lot of live TV. Now they’re not, it stands no chance.
The speed and responsiveness of the Xbox One is impressive. Or should I say compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3 it looks impressive. Compared to my iPhone and iPad it looks average. It’s all relative, I guess.
The Kinect is by far the most impressive aspect of the Xbox One. Take a look at the video Wired shot to get a feed for it’s capabilities.
It can track multiple people, understand their mood, their heart rate, who is holding a controller, where they limbs and fingers are, the rotation of their limbs and which muscles they’re using. It can do most of this in near pitch darkness at 30fps. It’s very impressive.
Yet even the Kinect isn’t a home run. It appears to be always on, listening out voice instructions and watching for certain gestures. There are clearly privacy concerns here. It’s also ugly as all hell. I don’t know if I want to have that thing visible in my home cinema set up.
The biggest issue is that the original Kinect has been out for three years and there still isn’t much compelling content for it. There are lots of badly implemented dancing games and lots of novelty features in other games, but nothing compelling. Can refining the technology change that? Possibly.