Roundtable: What to Make of Xbox One

How effective was Microsoft's "all-in-one" console reveal, and how did it compare to the PlayStation 4?

After months of build up, Microsoft on Tuesday announced its next-generation console, Xbox One. The event provided an effective to February's PlayStation 4 unveiling; where Sony spent its time focusing on the system's ability to play games, Microsoft took a more holistic approach to entertainment, pushing its new console as an "all-in-one" entertainment hub.

Set for release around the world later this year, Xbox One will feature more integrated "intelligent TV" options, a revamped Kinect sensitive enough to measure users' heartbeats, and an overhauled, cloud-driven Xbox Live service. Little was shown in the way of new games, with Forza Motorsport 5 and a teaser for Remedy's Quantum Break wedged between early glimpses of next-gen Call of Duty and EA Sports titles.

And while it didn't happen at the event, Microsoft also provided a bit of light on two issues gamers had fretted about for some time. First off, rumors that the system would be "always online" were addressed, with Microsoft confirming that Xbox One will allow developers to create that requirement if they wish. On top of that, used game sales will likely be curbed somewhat; Microsoft has said it will support second-hand options in some form, but the policies on how it will work are being hammered out. Lastly, Microsoft confirmed that, much like the PlayStation 4, Xbox One will not be compatible with the games of its predecessor.

So with that all laid out, what did the GamesIndustry International squad think of Microsoft's showing? Have they trumped the competition? Is this the one set-top box to rule them all, or was Microsoft's first step more of a stumble? What about that name, or the box itself?

Brendan Sinclair

Microsoft just didn't seem to understand what I care about. I don't care about the number of transistors in the console. I don't care about making the act of watching TV a social experience. I don't care if Steven Spielberg rubberstamps his name on a TV adaptation he has next to nothing to do with. I don't care about Skype on a console when voice chat is already a standard feature.

"Instead of coming clean, Microsoft half-addressed issues afterward, inviting potential customers to assume the worst and become more entrenched in their distrust of the company"

I care about games. And when it came to games, Microsoft gave me almost nothing to get excited about. Quantum Break's cryptic teaser has my interest, and Call of Duty fans likely got enough new information on Ghosts to get stoked for the shooter, but what else was there? Four new sure-to-be-multiplatform EA Sports titles and Forza Motorsport 5? A cloud-based video recording feature like what Sony showed in the PS4? A Kinect sensor that isn't terrible and a redesigned controller D-pad that actually works?

And perhaps worse than not talking about the games, Microsoft didn't even address the always-online, used-games-blocking elephant in the room. Instead of coming clean during the conference, Microsoft half-addressed the issue afterward, essentially inviting potential customers to assume the worst and become more entrenched in their distrust of the company.

I might be a bit negative here. Much like the Xbox 360's gamerscore and achievements, features like TV integration and multitasking might be really cool and compelling in practice. But as featured promises for a brand new system, they fall far short of mind-blowing. It's possible the Xbox One is worth getting excited over, but Microsoft's big unveiling failed to show why.

Matt Martin

Xbox One isn't a video games console. Whether you like that or not, that's the case. Xbox One is the collective Microsoft entertainment and communications business sitting under your television. Games are part of that, sure, but Skype is just as important for Microsoft. So is TV and sports and music, so is streaming movies and everything else the Xbox reveal batted around the stage last night. In that sense Xbox One is a good brand name, it's about a new start, it's the one place for everything that falls under Microsoft's entertainment umbrella. It's not the third Xbox console, it's the first Xbox home entertainment device.

"The danger is if games on Xbox One are forced to measure up to the NFL, Daft Punk and Game of Thrones. If it's not a mainstream blockbuster it's not worthy"

Clearly that's not sitting well with the core gamer, who has been so incredibly well-served by Microsoft over the past 8 years. None of that is going away - witness Eric Hirshberg's huge Call of Duty Ghosts pitch, a nod to Remedy's new IP and a bunch of EA sports games - but the danger is games on Xbox One are forced to measure up to the NFL, Daft Punk, Game of Thrones and The Avengers. If it's not a mainstream blockbuster it's not worthy. There were no indie developers on stage last night, there's no indication of anything other than the glamour and glitz and camera tricks of the million dollar entertainment business.

I suspect that's the message Microsoft has tried to get across with its first showing, and at E3 (a games conference, remember) it will go large on video game content, with those new IPs and exclusives it hinted at last night. Maybe Microsoft doesn't need to interest the indie scene and it can afford to shrug off competition from mobile and tablets at this stage. Maybe it's going to go all-out on the high-end $60 games. After all, this industry has split off into multiple businesses over the past five years, and at this point it's clear where Microsoft is placing its money.

Steve Peterson

Microsoft has clearly said that while games are important, they are planning to sell this as "the ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system." That's different than Sony's "Games, games, games" stance for the PS4. Sure, gamers are going to care about what the console does for gaming first and foremost. The Xbox One will be right up there, power-wise, with the PS4. The Kinect will no longer be restricted to casual games; lag issues have apparently been solved, and every Xbox One will come with Kinect, so we may see it integrated into any kind of game. The cloud potential may also lead to design innovation down the road.

"Gamers alone won't be enough for Microsoft to call this launch a success"

The big question of price was not addressed, and likely won't be for a while as Sony and Microsoft hold off until the last minute. Microsoft will want to see how excited they can make gamers over the device, and hope to charge the highest price possible. Really, though, gamers alone won't be enough for Microsoft to call this launch a success. The company wants and needs the broader market of TV watchers, sports fans, and general entertainment junkies to see the Xbox One as something worth shelling out hundreds of dollars for. I hope Microsoft can be willing to take a hit on hardware profits to get the Xbox One out to the largest audience possible as fast as possible; at least Microsoft has the cash to throw at this (which Sony doesn't).

The name Xbox One is not going to be a help; it doesn't in and of itself signify an advance over the Xbox 360. If anything, it suggest the original version of the Xbox; it's about as poor a name choice as the Wii U. The name is much less important than the device itself and the amount of money Microsoft plans to pour into marketing and products. It sounds like Microsoft is going all-in on game development, and the Halo TV series, and the NFL partnership. With a matching marketing commitment, this looks like a strong launch... if people feel the price offers a good value for whatever the final package includes. It's going to be an epic cage match between Sony and Microsoft this fall.

Rachel Weber

Where was the razzle-dazzle, Microsoft? You teased with your talk of 15 exclusive titles, but what I actually saw were some cars, some sports, Quantum Break and Call Of Duty. And some really expensive suits.

"The focus on the non-game elements of the machine was a basic misunderstanding of its audience, a presentation that would have been better given to TV manufacturers and investors"

Sony's presentation for PlayStation 4, with its cast of developers, felt like gamers talking to gamers about a new machine that would make playing more exciting. Microsoft felt like a company trying to sell to gamers a box that lets you watch TV and check your fantasy football league at the same time. (As if your smartphone isn't always in your pocket, allowing that sort of multi-tasking without the need for a big song and dance about it.)

A quick flash of the box and then an explanation of the dashboard, a look at Skype and then endless talk about TV - the focus on the non-game elements of the machine was a basic misunderstanding of its audience, a presentation that would have been better given to TV manufacturers and investors.

But for all the talk the crucial details were left vague. They evangelised constantly about the online connections, but didn't clarify if it needed to be on all the time - by trying to avoid that topic they've made it a singular obsession for fans and journalists picking through the aftermath of interviews and press releases. If Microsoft really wanted to distract us, all it would have taken was a montage of pretty games, some overly loud music and a few hints about the next Rockstar or Respawn game. We're that easy to please.

You have to question your presentation skills when your audience leaves not thinking "I want an Xbox One" but instead "I want a Call Of Duty dog!"

James Brightman

I'd agree with Steve that Xbox One is a terrible name, but the Xbox brand itself is incredibly strong, so I'm not too concerned with it since it's still Xbox. What does concern me, however, is Microsoft's obsession with syncing up my TV watching habits with the Xbox. As cool as the interface may be, and as seamless as the functionality might be, I don't need any assistance in watching TV or playing music or Skyping, thanks. As Michael Pachter pointed out to me, it's a move squarely aimed at capturing a mass audience, but it's a delicate balance indeed to retain a core audience while also expanding outwards. Microsoft is clearly at risk of losing some of the core audience to Sony and the PS4, which has put AAA games and indie games front and center.

"Microsoft is clearly at risk of losing some of the core audience to Sony and the PS4, which has put AAA games and indie games front and center"

To be fair, we have to reserve judgment until we get a better sense of the lineup of games Xbox One will have at launch, and the news about Microsoft Game Studios investing much more into development is definitely encouraging, but the overall tone set during this initial presentation had to leave a bitter taste in core gamers' mouths. Remedy's Quantum Break, a new Forza and some EA Sports titles certainly don't give Xbox One any major advantage over PS4 as far as I can tell. Perhaps E3 will enlighten us.

The real elephant in the room for me is how Microsoft is handling used games. So far, the information available seems to indicate that users who purchase a pre-owned game will have to pay a fee to be able to install it to the Xbox One - and Xbox One will require games to be installed. This means that anyone hoping to pay less money for a used title will have to give up that saving on a fee. Developers and publishers may like the idea if those fees generate revenues for them, but it's an incredibly anti-consumer stance on its face. And that's coming from the company that's historically emphasized the power of "choice" and how consumer friendly it is. Even more shocking is that it appears that Microsoft hasn't fully figured out what its stance on used games actually is. It insists it's not blocking them, but the idea of each game disc being tied to one Xbox account is almost as bad. Microsoft notes that full details on its used games plan are forthcoming, but for now this is looking like a weakness that Sony can capitalize on.

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Latest comments (10)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago

I just wanna play games DAMMIT!!!!

Why does that to be so hard all of a sudden!!!!! cat even go to a friends house with a game and play, now you have to log on register and shit.... ughhh!!!!

I cant lend a friend a game cause they are now gonna charge him.

It was a games machine, what the hell happened??? Now its the NFL football fans ultimate dream machine :/

I cant just pop in a game press the power switch and thats it, now I gotta speak, flail my arms and brows through all these apps.

Why is it that I look at this system and feel frustrated.

Hope i dont get a cold and lose my voice or break my arms doing tricks on a skate board. And if you dont speak english your pretty much screwed how many languages does it understand anyway?

I dont know.... Im feel dissapointed, confused and gutted.

then i gotta have an internet connection, tablets smart phones.. ugghh god...

Oh and yeah now you have a mandatory install... NO microsoft its not just plug and play....

Its not as simple as you say nor is the remote control as dreadful as you claim.

What about living room conditions, what if Im in a bright place? can i play in a small space????

The mandatory install, plus internet connection, plus having to sign in to use games, plus additional fee for using a game on another console... sounds like a pretty draconian form of DRM... you actually went through with the whole gotta be online DRM crap...

what happens if my xbox breaks? I gotta like register, and install all my crap on it, since i cant play from the disk? Will it still recognize me. Does it understand spanish, lots a people in my family speak spanish, will it recognize them????

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 22nd May 2013 4:11pm

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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago

You know its not even the fact they didnt have many games. What bothers me is how they want to control every aspect of how you use the device. The fact that you cant lend your games, share your content, they are tied to your account and single machine, you need to install every game and the disc becomes virtually usless after you first use it.

Its obviose the machine can play games. Its just not as easy as they claim it to be.

My girlfriend has two boys, one is married and lives next door, he often lends his games to his little brother. Now that just got so much harder.

So what now? Xbox1... is expecting the little brother to pay everytime his older brother lends him a game?

Im sorry at this point Xbox one is beyond redemption... Im simply not getting one. Its a device that offers alot of features but limits you in a very harsh, draconian way.

And Im sorry if this is the future of games Im ready to just drop out entirely from them.

For now my money is on PS4 and WiiU (after a price drop).

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 22nd May 2013 5:30pm

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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 4 years ago
Too many articles saying similar things on here now.

What did everybody expect from Microsoft?
They have to protect their business model and make money, the have to extend the Win8 ecosystem with its cloud infrastructure and they have to protect their back from the people from Cupertino. So they couldn't have done much else. The machine has a very nice specification with more RAM than they could have got away with and a hard drive that doesn't need to be bigger because of the cloud. Programmers are really going to like working on this. It will be a breath of fresh air after the 360/PS3. And with more processing power and memory available for middleware overheads their life will be easier still.

But overall it could actually be offering rather more than people want and need. A bit like a professional SLR when most people just want to point and click.

Microsoft could have created a more purely game centric machine for the fanboys. But that is hardly a viable mass market.

And when the people from Cupertino come after this market their device won't have a rotating memory drive, never mind two. It will use an app store and the cloud. Apple understand that distributing digital content using plastic and cardboard is just plain silly. Unfortunately Microsoft didn't have the cojones to make the break and that is the biggest weakness of the One.
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Johnny Hsu Employee, EA4 years ago
I wonder how many customers are expecting DLC add-ons to transfer from an Xbox 360 purchase over to Xbox One or PS3 to PS4. I think the lack of full game downloads transferring is already driving angst, but what about other forms of DLC for in-game content?.

That is, if someone buys FIFA Ultimate Team packs in FIFA 14 on their Xbox 360, what is the assumption that they would expect the same save state and team profile to be available when they load up FIFA 14 on an Xbox One (under their same Gamertag)?

Similarly, if a customer buys a map pack for CoD Ghosts on a PS3, and then then upgrades to a PS4. How angry would they be if their DLC would have to be repurchased?
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Axel Cushing Freelance Writer 4 years ago
I will agree that Microsoft has to make money, though (like anything in business) there is no guarantee they actually will. But when "protecting the business model" becomes more important than not alienating the existing customer base, it's a problem. Likewise, "extending the Win8 ecosystem" seems like an equally unpalatable notion, particularly since Win8 itself is selling so poorly on PCs. What, they're trying to chase their losses in the PC space by foisting it on Xbox owners? Just doesn't seem smart.

Only an idiot would deny the history, rivalry, mutual antagonism, and reciprocal jealousy between Microsoft and Apple. That being said, if Microsoft is thinking that this will trump Apple's latest products or cause anybody in Cupertino to lose more than a second of sleep, they are dreaming. Apple's zombie sla-- er, "loyal customers" like the App Store and salivate at the next shiny thing that comes down the pipe that isn't from Redmond. There's a reason why the Apple fan base is referred to as "the Cult of Jobs." They're locked into Apple in a way that Microsoft probably will never be able to reproduce. All of these antics with the Xbox One are brute force efforts to duplicate that.

I think digital distribution is likely going to be the predominant way things happen going forward, but I also believe there is and shall always be a market for that silly, inefficient, utterly human distribution method of "plastic and cardboard." It scratches the itch to gather, to collect, to organize, to build. Showing somebody a long list of titles on Steam or iTunes or the upcoming Xbox One is nowhere near as satisfying to the owner or awe-inspiring to the visitor as showing somebody the shelves you've stuffed with games or CDs or books. And those physical items, rough and inefficient as they may be, have been building connections and creating social networks better than any algorithm or web site you'd care to name for centuries.

I think Microsoft had a chance to create a new sort of digital campfire for the tribe to gather around and they blew it by trying to figure out how to make everybody pay for the "privilege" of being around Microsoft's particular brand of fire.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago
"using plastic and cardboard is just plain silly"
Seriously, digital content is pretty easy to pirate, if I want a song or a movie right now I could probably find it for free on the net right now. Games are more tangeble, but all it takes is someone to hack the hardware or emulate it on another hardware and you can virtually have most games.

But knowing all this I still go out and buy the Blue Ray. I still purchase my songs from websites that offer optimum quality uncompressed PCM format audio files like .AIFF or .WAV files. if I cant buy the CD. Im a DJ. I like buying my music from reliable sources, even when I know I can purchase songs for free. I dont buy .MP3 files. As a DJ, i really like the higher quality of uncompressed audio. Hell... I even still purchase vynil.

But these audio files I purchase have no DRM, Im free to make copies, burn em on CD's convert them to different file formats and listen on any device.

I like that freedom and ease of use. I can use my blu Ray on any player. And finally I feel I own what I spent money on. This chained to the wall product selling business model does not work for me. I find it truly annoying or draconian... I feel like..."I have the money here I am, I want your product, are you gonna sell it to me or not?".

Now a days they want you to spend money on stuff but not really sell it to you, its annoying... and if I cant buy it Ill usually go to netflix and youtube to enjoy these things a different way. But what I truely want is to buy or spend money and own.

Tell me how Xbox1 makes this better and easier.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
TV broadcast friendly controls:
Large expressive swiping motions. Grand gestures from one side of the camera shot to the other. Loud, plain English commands. In short, something that looks good on a screen.

Reality Controls:
Tiny finger movements. A thumb on a remote barely moving. A mouseclick covering a height of 1mm. 16 buttons beneath your fingers, inputs indistinguishable to the human observer.

Historically, control schemes worked when they picked up on less muscle movement than the generation before. Here we have Kinect, which asks us to move way more muscles than we are used to. It will work someday, sure. But on that day, it will pick up signs and gestures which are more nimble than a swipe across a two inch smartphone display.

That and the angry growls of your spouse because you are switching back and forth between CoD and a sports broadcast all the time. Xbox understands angry female growl, Xbox turns off now.
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Axel Cushing Freelance Writer 4 years ago
I strongly suspect that it's a weapon nobody will pick up for a war nobody outside of Microsoft has any interest in fighting. I know they've had those "media hub" aspirations since the first Xbox came out. But it's like Microsoft is deliberately drawing all of the wrong conclusions from their predecessors, blithely skipping down the path, singing, "La-la-la, this can't happen to me, I'm Microsoft!"

Apple TV failed, and yes, the intransigence of the cable companies doomed the enterprise. But give the devil his due, Apple TV probably would not have been nearly so obviously intrusive as Xbox One. Whatever their other faults, Apple does know how to design well, and make things seem effortless to the point of invisibility. Somehow, once the idea of constantly being monitored in your own home by Microsoft finally gets processed by the average consumer, it'll probably already be hacked and or used either maliciously or salaciously. The possibilities for mischief absolutely beggar the imagination.

If I recall, EA tried to do a "once a day" Internet check with a couple of their games, Mass Effect 2 being one of them, I think. It raised a minor furor over a couple of titles and was quickly patched out. That check might make sense in a controlled environment with known and highly consistent reliability for Internet connectivity, like say Microsoft's R&D labs. Out in the real world, where the rest of humanity lives, it's not necessarily a guaranteed thing. If your ISP decides to take down the nearby pedestal for maintenance, you're just out of luck. In an extreme example like natural disaster, terrorist attack, or cosmic events which knock out chunks of infrastructure for days or weeks, you're REALLY screwed.

As an added consideration, what happens to people serving in the armed forces not currently stationed Stateside or at a well developed location like Ramstein Air Base? Contrary to what some folks might think, the Internet does not have complete penetration across the entire globe. They get doubly screwed, both on the daily check and on sharing games with their buddies. If one platoon goes out on a patrol and another wants to borrow Call of Duty for some downtime, they can't snag the disc and pop it in. While similar, albeit less extreme, situations may exist in rural America (and rural other places not America as well), the basic premise is the same.

"AMBITION,n. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead" --Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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Wesley Williams Quality Assurance 4 years ago
As much as I was personally disappointed with what Microsoft showed here, I wouldn't be surprised if things completely or partially flipped at E3. Sony will need to talk about their other features at some point. They also need to talk about Vita. So their E3 press conference will be somewhat diluted from the pure games talk that Microsoft is promising at E3.

My biggest concern is that Microsoft are trying to win a war for a piece of the home that is in a massive state of flux right now. The living room was the center of many people's homes, with the TV the focus of that. Things are diversifying though. Big screens are appearing in other rooms, mobile devices are taking content to other rooms. Microsoft is trying to bring us all back to the living room, much like Nintendo are trying to do (by encouraging local multiplayer). Is that the future, because the future might look very different to the one Microsoft envisions.
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I do not need a console device requiring ANY internet connectivity to check in on my cats whereabouts daily. I just want to stick my game in, play. If it needs to patch, ok - it can go online, does not get any net time. ever! why should it?
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