Xbox One Launch Post-Mortem: The Good And The Bad

In the wee hours of the Australian morning, Microsoft finally unveiled its next Xbox to the world. Dubbed the Xbox One, the new machine is set to compete against other next-generation consoles like the Sony Playstation 4 and Nintendo Wii U. Here's everything you need to know from the launch event; both the good and the bad…

The Xbox One launch event was pretty light on pricing and availability details, but otherwise there was plenty to talk about. As per our expectations, Microsoft is pushing its latest console as a multimedia solution for the whole family. We suspect the company would probably prefer it if you didn't call it a video games console at all. Below are the main announcement highlights that got us excited, along with a few damp squibs that we're wary about.

Xbox One Launch: The Good

#1 Improved controller(s)

The Xbox 360 was a troubled beast at launch: it had a dismal failure rate, no Blu-ray drive and a big ugly power supply brick. One thing it did get right though was the controller: the addition of actual triggers was a godsend to FPS fans and it swiftly became our controller of choice. Thankfully, Microsoft has decided to keep everything that was good about the old controller and has also thrown in some extra bells-and-whistles including rumble feedback in the triggers.

The motion-sensing Kinect peripheral will also be getting a significant upgrade: the integrated camera will have a wider field of view, and the revamped sensor is capable of identifying wrist rotation and shoulder movement. The next batch of fitness games are going to be more sophisticated (and punishing) than ever.

#2 It's not just for gamers

While the PlayStation 4 and Wii U can do more than play games, neither have embraced multimedia as thoroughly as Microsoft. The Xbox One is being billed as "the ultimate all-in-one entertainment device": it clearly wants to become the central media hub in your lounge room.

The intro to today's event claimed that the new console will be able to recognise your name, face, voice and the movies you like to watch. One of the major new features is Live TV, which boasts everything from an inbuilt TV guide to exclusive NFL content. However, this will initially be a US-only feature (more on this later).

MORE:How To Get The Best Xbox One Features Right NowXbox One Internals: What Are Azure And Hyper-V Really Doing In There?

#3 Sexy specs

While we're sure hardcore PC gamers will sniff derisively at the Xbox One's processing chops, there's no arguing that the Xbox One is a supremely powerful video game console. The new machine is powered by 64-bit architecture boasting an 8-core CPU and 8GB of system memory (compared to 512MB on the Xbox 360). It will also come with USB 3.0, Wi-Fi Direct and a Blu-ray disc drive — something that the Xbox brand had previously refused to adopt. One thing's for sure: the divide between reality and the uncanny valley is about to narrow.

#4 Inbuilt voice control

Taking a leaf from the latest smartphone technology, the Xbox One will boast voice functionality straight out of the box. For instance, you'll be able to turn the console on by simply saying "Xbox on". You can then quickly access your games, movies, web browser and live television feeds via voice commands. In other words, you don't need a remote or game controller for console navigation — instead, all commands can be spoken.

It will be especially interesting to see how this functionality will be integrated into games in the future — imagine playing a spy/espionage game where your captor can sense if you're lying by the tremor in your voice? There are a lot of possibilities here and we hope game developers use them.

#5 Snap Mode

The Xbox One will be borrowing some software tricks from Windows 8, including Snap Mode, which allows separate applications to be run on screen simultaneously. This is real boon for fans of multitasking: it means you can play a game while chatting in Skype, read online game guides onscreen and browse IMDB movie trivia while the film is playing, to name a few examples. This is made possible by Hyper-V hypervisor technology which allows users to switch between intensive applications on the fly.

While this might seems like a minor addition, it really does open up a whole new way of consuming media. In a few years, we'll probably wonder how we ever got by using a single application on our TV screens.

#6 Halo TV show directed by Steven Spielberg!

Steven Spielberg will collaborate with 343 Industries on an exclusive Halo television series to be brought to Xbox One. This is big news for gamers and movie fans alike and should help to ship plenty of Xbox One units. (It's Halo! Directed by the guy who made 1941!)

Xbox One Launch: The Bad

#1 Where are the games?

If there was one thing that stood out about the Xbox One launch is was the lack of fresh gaming announcements. Forza Motorsport 5, Call of Duty: Ghosts, a handful of new EA Sports titles and a sci-fi game from Remedy Entertainment were the main showstoppers, none of which scream "killer app". We criticised Sony for much the same thing during its PS4 launch, but at least they had a large collection of games to show off.

#2 USA! USA! USA!

In stark contrast to Sony's internationally-flavoured PlayStation 4 event, the Xbox One's launch was a highly localised affair. Most tellingly, the Xbox One's hotly-touted 'TV Live' feature — which took up a large chunk of the event's running time — won't actually be available outside of the US at launch.

Here are Kotaku editor Mark Serrels' thoughts on the US-centric nature of the event:

Whilst watching I was very aware this was not only tailored specifically to a western audience, but more specifically to a US audience. The fact that Microsoft spent so much time focusing on functionality that will only be available in the US without making mention of the fact that said functionality won’t be available at launch outside of the US is dishonest. This was a global announcement.

There are no details on when the rest of the world will get this feature, but considering all the Xbox 360 features that were never rolled out in Australia, we won't be holding our breaths.

For further proof of Microsoft's splendid isolation policy, just look at when the chose to hold the event. While Sony's PS4 conference suited most time zones to a degree, Microsoft's took place at around 3am Australian Eastern Standard Time. And then there were the major game announcements which mostly cantered around a new partnership with EA Sports — Madden, NBA Live, et al. All in all, it almost felt like we were peeking through the windows at an exclusive party held for US citizens. Tch.

#3 Big black and boring

We know console aesthetics aren't that important — it's what's inside that counts. However, there's no getting past the fact that this isn't the most beautiful hardware we've seen. It kind of looks like a cross between an old Xbox Elite, an oversized Kinect sensor and a PVR. At least they've ditched the loading tray.

#4 Restrictions on used games?

In the lead up to launch, most of the hoopla about Microsoft's new console has surrounded whether it would require always-on internet connectivity. Today's launch appears to have (mostly) debunked this rumour, but there is an all-new caveat to be mindful of: apparently, Xbox One games will be tied to an individual Xbox Live account and need to be partially installed on the HDD.

According to a recent Wired report, each game disc can only be installed to a single owner's console. Second-hand owners will be required to pay a fee to unlock access to a game. What this will mean for the used game market remains to be seen but anything that hampers your ability to sell something you've paid for can't be a good thing.

You can read a whole lot more about the Xbox One launch details over at our sister site Kotaku.


Comments

    "#2 It’s not just for gamers"
    Should be #5 in the Bad "Its no longer for gamers"

      Yep. Just like mobile phones become "no longer for people who make phone calls" when they started adding cameras and apps to them.

      There are a few in the wrong category - replace "inbuilt voice control" with "it can pick up and retransmit anything said around it. Oh, and it's always watching in case you ever play on the couch wearing nothing but a robe. Or even just walk in front of it. And the camera won't even work properly in your small house. And listening to music on a radio is going to seriously stuff up anything you're trying to do at the same time. And don't be surprised to find that the X-box has been eating power for the last day and a half because it thought it heard something and turned itself on and you didn't notice..."

      To say nothing of the needing-to-be-online-every-day-whether-you-want-to-or-not junk, which was overlooked here.

      For more people the gamer so people pay 700 like my dad never use the gaming part and why not but a TiVo for like 300$ I mean the ps3 ha an add on that recorded tv just fine for like 40$ why would you pay more. Like to my grandparents why get a 4gb ram i5 CPU for 700$ when you can get a pc with 64gb ram and i7 3.60 ghz. Just gamers are going to buy this its a good add on but when start saying it not just a bonus it is a new piece of tec I mean wow watching tv this is new play tv ps3. Who said that any way swip to move channels Samsung has a new tv that uses it with out a huge box. When they start charging for tv channels it's a forced add on. I like my console to play games and my TiVo to record them. The Xbox will do good at games just as good as ps3 in the specs but give me a brake the tv feature has nothing against the new tv's with these stuff built in.

    "The new machine is powered by 64-bit architecture boasting an 8-core CPU and 8GB of system memory (compared to 512MB on the Xbox 360). It will also come with USB 3.0, Wi-Fi Direct and a Blu-ray disc drive — something that the Xbox brand had previously refused to adopt. One thing’s for sure: the divide between reality and the uncanny valley is about to narrow."

    Should read "It's a PS4".

      You mean it should read "It's almost a PS4". It's memory isn't GDDR5 and they've made no mention of another dedicated chip for streaming or downloading while the main system's turned off.

    It's all about the games really. As far as hardware goes there doesn't seem to be a clear leader between the Xbox and PS4. Both I imagine will have their pros and cons in regards to online services and multimedia capabilities.

    At this stage, I'm not really excited about either, as none of the next gen games announced yet really do much for me. I expect E3 will be an interesting one this year though...

    Spielberg is so not directing Halo TV show. He is just going to do his usual Executive Producer role and at most he will direct the pilot

      Probably true. But Band Of Brothers turned out alright.

        Yes, but The Pacific reeked of quality and yet was so uninteresting compared to the characters in Band of Brothers.

          I'd also argue that Spielberg takes his producing gigs way more seriously than most directors -- everything from Band of Brothers to Poltergeist has his indelible mark on it. He doesn't just slap his name on stuff like Tarantino does.

    If it is tied to a single user account, does that mean I have to buy a copy and my brother has to also buy a copy of the same game to play on a shared console? I doubt any parent with multiple kids will like that idea.

      I don't think so, apparently you can set the parental controls to allow for different accounts to play the same game on one single console.

        Where did you hear this? I've heard the opposite.

          I read what moop mentioned in one of the Kotaku stories yesterday.

    Yeah the whole thing just sounds way too much like they're doing anything they can to make it sound better than it is...I'm all for touting your own wares to make a buck but they've just gone a bit ridiculous IMO.
    - "It can detect your heartrate!"....No. No it can't. We will never see this working to such a practical and accurate way as to be actually useable. Reminds me a lot of the Siri reveal vs reality. I would love to stand corrected in the coming months, but I know I won't be.
    - "...Steven Spielberg!!!"...As pointed out above, it is blindingly obvious to anyone with any realistic sense of popular culture that his association is a "bought one", more endorsement than real input.
    - Also, the creation of original content for specific console/phone/computer is solving a problem we don't have. If you can't find something good to watch through the many different mediums already available, it's not that the medium itself is lacking, it's that the content being produced for it is.
    - The demo video of the new Kinect in front of the press seemed to show that there's still an annoying level of latency. If it's visible in a video of someone else using it, it'll be hugely noticeable in real life.
    - If they (or Sony or anyone) do block secondhand games, I will never ever buy one of these consoles. There is a huge market of gamers who are neither pirates NOR prepared to spend $90 on each game.

    #3 Big black and boring????

    Please read
    http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2013/05/the-industrial-design-behind-xbox-ones-invisible-system/

    It's really good break down of the industrial design aesthetics. I really wish Chris Jager would have read this. It's an excellent article from your colleague at Gawker media- Kelsey Campbell Dollaghan

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

        touche,
        but personally. I think that's cop out for bad writing. I don't buy it.

        By prefacing your paragraph by saying:

        "We know console aesthetics aren’t that important"

        This is a massive worry. I think your take on the modern gamer is all wrong. In the past you probably would have been correct. It used to be that gamers were stereotyped as antisocial, engineering types, fat, balding (or ponytail wearing),have a general junkfood diet, slobs in there mid to late thirties, that could barely hold down a job and probably didn't have a girlfriend. like this guy...

        http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_9vzd2fD5z7o/TQFFc-dqbLI/AAAAAAAAAxs/p_WHoOjm3Vo/s1600/southpark.jpg

        But this guy doesn't exist anymore. Or if he does he is the tiny tiny minority. Most, actually all gamers I know, are sociable design types, that have girlfriend/boyfriend, spend over $50 on a hair cut, have a job that supports them, can cook a home or go out to cafes and as a general rule care about aesthetics. They care about hardware too, but when comparing to systems that are so damn similar spec wise they find this is a largely irrelevant task.

        I guess these same sociable design types when they purchase a smart phone these people will weigh up the aesthetics and design functionality of the operating system probably more so than they will care about the processor or hardware.

        Also from what I've read this console is for everyone. So this should look like a good quality media center. In which case I would rebuff your statement.

        We all know all know console aesthetics ARE important.

          Who spends over $50 on a haircut? I thought my barber was expensive and I only pay $30.

          But really I would say that that Chris' 'big black and boring' remark is quite spot on - as per the video in that article its not meant to stand out, as a device it is meant to blend in with the rest of your AV gear, it is a piece of hardware that is relatively large, matte and gloss black and nondescript. Honestly the only time I look at a console is when I change discs and couldn't care less what it looked like.

            Hey Moop, if you have an awesome Barber that only charges $30 and provides a good haircut, keep going to that guy. Thats a sweet find. I had an old Italian barber who charged me $15 and did a great job, sadly he passed away and I had to find a replacement guy who was a bit more expensive. Maybe that comment was a bit over the top but I kind of wanted to make a point.

            http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/05/daily-chart-13?fsrc=scn%2Ffb%2Fwl%2Fdc%2Fgameone

            The video game industry is no longer niche. Consoles are becoming media centers as well as data storage and a host of other converged devices. Design is important, designers spend days months and years laboring over the smallest of details and I'm really glad you watched the video in the other giz post. It shows how much effort goes into it and some of the reasoning behind the design methodology.

            It's design is not trying to be hip or sassy. It's simple, elegant, understated, minimal design with some design accents similar to Bang and Ouflsen in it's prime. For most designers to be compared to B&O is massive compliment!!

            Your entirely correct the new xbox visual purpose is to fit in it's environment and not stand out.
            Much like Apple TV. You wouldn't say the design of Apple TV is BAD and BORING?

            It would seem to me to be ridiculous statement. Don't get me wrong @chrisjager did a great job in 95% of the rest of this article. Sorry if labored the point a bit, just want you to know for next time when talking about design having an informed view point is key, just as if you were comparing hardware specs. If you want to learn more about design see if you can see Objectified

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1241325/

            it explains industrial design industry very well.

            Last edited 22/05/13 10:46 pm

          So you are saying that people you know will pick the prettiest console because they are so similar spec wise, ignoring what it does and which exclusives they might want to play because... you know, they are all hip, modern aesthetic people...
          I'll take a black box that does what I want and blends in with AV stuff any day, because that's what its meant to do, be used and not just stared at.

            I agree with you @svenz0r, if you are after a particular title Forza, GT6, G.O.W, Halo or even Mario Party or Zelda your probably got your heart set on one console. Chances are you don't care that much about the aesthetic indeed, you kind of made my point you don't really care about the hardware either. Further more I totally agree with your apt description of the black box that blends in with other AV equipment. How is that a negative? How is that fit under the heading of "The Bad".

            Last edited 22/05/13 10:47 pm

    I can't help but feel like a big part of the market would happily forgo a lot of these features for a modchip that will give them what they really want...which is sad

      Are mod chips still used? I used to pirate video games in the 90's when I had no money. Then in the mid to early 2000's friends of mine got jobs at Atari and Big Ant. After then I only bought legit copies. Although it didn't do them much good, which is sad.

      Forgive me for my ignorance though it wouldn't be a pain in the but to play pirated games multiplayer with PSN & Xbox live etc?

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