Xbox One Revealed, Almost Gameless

You’re probably asking yourself “what the hell was THAT?”

I did, for more than a little while. This was a gaming console launch that barely had anything to do with games. “Casual”, “hardcore”, pay-to-play or free-to-play, forget all of it. It was about TELEVISION more than anything else.

What that says to me is that Sony isn’t really the target here. It’s Apple, and maybe Samsung. Microsoft knows that the 360 is their biggest asset right now in the consumer space. Windows is doing well enough,  but nobody’s really inclined towards upgrading their existing PCs. They’re buying tablets and phones to accompany their PCs, and Microsoft isn’t doing that well in those spaces yet.

(Though I do still like the Surface Pro.)

No, if MS wants to be a player in the consumer space, their ace-in-the-hole is the 360 and the XBOX brand. They’ve got a solid lock on people’s televisions, and a burning need to leverage the hell out of it.

That’s exactly what they were doing over the last hour.  It’s a broadside at Apple and Samsung/Google. They focused on TV because their main consumer device attaches to televisions The face that it’s theoretically a gaming console is incidental; games have almost nothing to do with their vision for the XBOX One. Games are an incidental means-to-an-end, and it shows.

They’re probably more interested in free-to-play tablet-style “casual” games than the big ol’ console experiences in the first place, since they’re cheaper to make and are seen as a more profitable and safer investment right now. That may change, as we saw with Facebook gaming, but it’s where things are right now, and this is a console that only looks at gaming right now.

This provides a huge opening for Sony. Almost every time a console is successful, the manufacturer gets arrogant. In the case of Sony with the PS2 and now Microsoft with the XBOX One, they start thinking they can leverage it into control of the living room. Sony backed away from that, which is a large reason why the PS2 was as successful as it was. They made it into a gaming console, and it turned out to be a really good one.

What Sony realized and MS needs to realize is that people neither want nor need a gaming console to be their “All In One Device”, especially when they live their lives surrounded by a multiplicity of screens. They might want those screens to coordinate, but they don’t want some sort of single device dominating and controlling them. There IS no “All In One”, and there probably never will be.  Sony gets that this time. Nintendo’s understood it since the get-go.

Leverage or no, I guess the question is whether MS will figure it out before they get trounced.

(Edit: Oh, and the fact that it’s not backwards compatible is absolutely ridiculous. The 360 is off-the-shelf hardware. This was a cynical business decision that is only going to hurt their brand.)

(Edit 2: And it blocks rental and used games, too! This just keeps getting better. We really are in “everything that’s terrible about PC gaming with none of the good stuff” territory. At least PC games are backwards compatible.)

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4 thoughts on “Xbox One Revealed, Almost Gameless

  1. Hello says:

    Did you follow the reveal event at all? There are currently 15 Xbox exclusives in development, out of which 8 are entirely new franchises. That is, in addition to an unknown number of games being developed for other platforms too.

    The lack of backward compatibility isn’t and never is a business decision. It’s obvious Microsoft realizes that the lack of backward compatibility will upset consumers. That choice is implemented, as many times before in past console generations, due to a fundamental difference in the hardware and OS architecture between Xbox One and Xbox 360.

    • craigbamford says:

      Ah, console warring. It almost feels nostalgic these days, though I just can’t get into it without Sega involved.

      Yes, the backwards compatibility was a business decision. The “architecture” was a business decision. Granted, PowerPC isn’t really at all viable now, but emulation solutions DO exist.

      (They’d have to, or else MS wouldn’t be able to make those hints about being able to download 360 games later.)

      And, sorry, but saying “we have games!” without SHOWING the games isn’t terribly impressive. They spent the majority of this presentation talking about television, of all things, and not even streamed television: over-the-wire CABLE television. In 2013.

      That isn’t even “casual”. Casuals sneer at that.

  2. digifracture says:

    Nice post.
    First of all PC MASTER RACE!

    I would like to say that the xBox one even if it’s going to be this shit, people are going to buy it and you know there will be many.
    Kids these days don’t care about backwards compitable games, or renting games or even bying used games.

    They want everything new, so their target group isn’t only a bit casual NFL (sports or w/e) funs but mostly the “new gen” of kids.
    From my personal point of view I see kids like 5yrs old having ps3 and xbox 360. All parents are bying them and of course they are all brand new.

    Anyway the point I wanted to make is that they will get money like the money grabbing whores they are, they will surely lose some gamers, but in the end there are the fanboys that will suck Bill Gates dick for a free game and the new gen who doesn’t know anything about this or the consoles before them, so they think this is normal and pretty good actually.

    • craigbamford says:

      Thanks for the compliment. I’m not so sure it’s an automatic sale. Leigh Alexander was making a lot of good points yesterday on Twitter about how consumers are used to having TV et al on multiple screens around the house; this “all in one solution” has nothing to do with the consumer of 2013. It’d have made sense back in 2000, but that’s why Sony was pushing it then; it made sense at the time.

      If the all-in-one thing doesn’t pan out, though, then MS is in a dangerous situation where they’ve created a device that doesn’t really have too many advantages as a gaming device over its competitors. Sure, they have the name, but Sony had the name back when they launched the PS3, which is why they were so damned arrogant about it. Sony seems to recognize what they did wrong. MS, I’m not so sure.

      (Which is strange, since by-and-large they’ve been making sensible moves. They aren’t the arrogant giant they used to be. This is an Old Microsoft sort of move.)

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