Video Games

Thoughts on Microsoft’s Xbox One

Three big take-aways from the third Next-Gen announcement.

The Announcement

It has been roughly one week since the announcement of Xbox One and we’ve all heard the “BroBox” / “TV, TV, Sports, Call of Duty” controversy. For an announcement initially marketed toward the gaming community, it was quickly realized that the Xbox One reveal was anything but (as evidenced by one IGN survey showing 75% of people (76,000 people) were disappointed with the Xbox One reveal).

It’s not to say that the features highlighted were underwhelming (in fact, quite the opposite), it just didn’t appeal to the crowd that was initially geared up for the presentation. Had Microsoft marketed the announcement on The Food Network, Esquire Magazine, or NBC, initial reactions may not have been as widely criticized. The opinion of the gaming market would not have changed; however, mass appeal for a device that is clearly geared at revolutionizing the living room would have been boosted.

Always-Online

We still do not have all of the details regarding Xbox One’s “Always-Online” requirement. Reports have varied from continuos connection for community (Xbox Live) support to Xbox One checking for a connection once every 24 hours. While an always-online requirement to play games or watch TV would certainly be a deterrence for many, the idea that Kinect (Xbox’s voice/motion detection peripheral) has an “always-online” requirement makes sense. Case and point: Siri.

While some have probably made the connection, many have ignored the fact that use of Siri requires a data connection, be it cellular or Wi-Fi. Localized voice recognition provides an excessive amount of limitations whereas allowance of an external server to translate and respond to the user’s command offers a slew of benefits without the need for constant updates. It can be assumed that engineers behind such cloud-based voice recognition tools can constantly iterate on accents, slang, functions, personality, and dialects without the need for constant patches. This may be a long-shot but the argument makes sense and it something we are already subjected to.

The Hardware

With the digestion of comparison charts, it is safe to say that Xbox One’s hardware is inferior to Playstation 4. With Sony’s intent to focus on the gaming market, they have decided to mold the PS4 after high-end PCs. Boasting 8 GB of GDDR5 memory and the single-chip x86 AMD “Jaguar” 8-core processor that is so familiar to developers, developers have been extremely vocal about the ease of development for PS4. In contrast, Microsoft has chosen to use of DDR3 memory and a custom 8-core CPU.

While the choice to use a RAM type that is roughly 6 years in age is an obvious oddity, the custom 8-core CPU seems to be the stranger spec. One of the glaring issues PS3 developers run into is PS3’s use of a custom CPU, whereas Xbox 360 harbors a familiar PowerPC CPU. This, in turn, makes it much easier for PC trained developers to translate their skills to the Xbox 360, whereas PS3 development means relearning and retooling. While the issues PS3 developers run into is largely due to the CELL architecture, it is possible that the custom CPU in Xbox One will provide similar hurdles to Xbox One developers. Developers have yet to discuss their experience with Xbox One development at this time.

Conclusion

Like Square-Enix at the PS4 reveal, stringing along fans and potential purchasers, telling them to wait for the E3 conference, is a slap in the face. The gaming audience had been left salivating after the PS4 announcement, and had been waiting for the Xbox One reveal for months on end only to wait longer for game demos. The argument that Sony did not reveal the actual console during the PS4 reveal was quickly forgotten after Microsoft decided not to highlight any true gameplay.

Regarding Kinect, the features we have demanded of our TVs may have finally arrived. Microsoft picked up where Nintendo left off and has seemingly outfitted the living room of the future with voice-recognition, eliminating the crutch of a remote control. The big question lies in how Microsoft will market this feature to a generation trying to get away from cable companies and live in an on-demand world.

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Kyle Starr is the writer of TheStarrList.com and The State of Gaming. Find Kyle on Twitter at @_kylestarr.

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