Sony threw down the gauntlet first, and now Microsoft has responded in kind. Here it is, ladies and gentlemen – the second of the two major competitors in this decade’s inevitable console war:
The Xbox One.
I’ll just be talking about the new console and its functions here. I’ll leave the discussion of the announced games and services for a different post.
The Xbox One Console
Here are the few technical details Microsoft released for the Xbox One:
- x64 Architecture
- 8 CPU Cores
- 8 GB DDR3 RAM
- 500GB Hard Drive
- Blu-ray Drive
- 802.11n Wireless with Wi-Fi Direct
- USB 3.0
Tech-aficionados amongst you will note that the Blu-Ray player and integrated WiFi are features that have been included on the PS3 for a while now, so it’s nice to see those coming as standard.
As far as appearances go, while a very modern looking piece of gear, it is just another gloss black box from the future, the same as every race car, mobile phone, games console, TV or any other piece of modern technology you’d care to mention. So the design of the new Xbox is nothing spectacular.
The name also confuses me. Xbox One implies that it is the original, first of its kind. Which is probably not how I’d name my latest iteration of an established brand. The PlayStation 4, for example, tells me that this company has refined the idea to its fourth developmental stage, ironing out all the creases, and that the developers have been successful enough to keep producing the technology. The Xbox One makes it sound like they’re rebooting and starting from scratch, sweeping previous consoles under the rug.
Still, the new ‘Xbone’ handle is kinda catchy.
Microsoft’s motion- and voice-capturing Kinect system will this time be a compulsory addition to the console, and will be on as long as the system is. Because the whole console can be controlled just using your voice, prepare to have your every noise and movement monitored.
I quite like the Xbox 360 controller. It’s solid, well designed, and is my first choice for PC gaming as well. It seems that Microsoft haven’t strayed too far from this design with the new one. A few more ergonomic tweaks and changes, but generally, it seems to be the same beast from before.
Microsoft seem to be under the illusion that this is now a non-issue. “No,” they said, “the Xbox One won’t need to be always online.” No instead, it will only have to check in once every 24 hours with
its parents Microsoft’s servers if you want to use any of its functions. Software licenses for games will also be checked online, making sure games are ‘legitimate’ (more on that next), and will use cloud technology to track these licenses.
So, that’s that issue cleared up. Unless you don’t have internet connection, or have an unreliable one. Good job, Microsoft.
Pre-Owned Games and Backwards Compatibility
While this hasn’t been clearly detailed by Microsoft yet, it seems that licenses for new games will be tied to the console on which they are first installed (oh yeah, all software must be installed to the device.) After that, it will cost an unspecified fee in order for the software to be installed on other units. That sounds to me like, while not actively blocking used-games, Microsoft is trying to get a slice of the pie from the pre-owned games market.
Backwards-compatibility is also a no-go, because if there was one feature of the current generation we all loved it was the fact that we couldn’t play our old games on the new system. I don’t believe for a second that the technology won’t allow it, but I’m no electronics engineer. It just seems like a sure-fire way to alienate your fans, if the games they came to love you for no longer work on the reward for their loyalty.
So there we have it, folks – the next-generation, as advertised by those leading the charge. More details are out there on the web, if you’re interested. Personally, I’m not overly impressed with either so far, but as someone who has owned both a 360 and a PS3 in the past, perhaps I could be swayed. We shall see…
At least we got to see the new Xbox console, which is more than can be said for Sony’s PlayStation 4 release. But these are the two powerhouses driving development for the next five years or so, so keep your eyes open. Both are slated for a Q4 release, so the question is this:
Which one do you want most for Christmas?