On May 21, 2013, Microsoft revealed details of their highly anticipated new game console, the Xbox One, scheduled to be available for sale near the end of the year. The first major hardware overhaul for the Xbox in over seven years, gamers have been eagerly awaiting details since rumors of the new console began to circulate last year. Yet in the end, it’s what Microsoft isn’t saying that has many gamers up in arms.
With its new console, Microsoft aims to give users a more complete media experience. It communicates with cable and satellite, allowing users to watch live TV on their Xbox. At first this seemed a little strange – you use your gaming console to play games, right? Actually, Xbox 360 users currently stream movies (though apps like Netflix or Amazon Prime) and TV (thorough apps like Hulu and HBO Go), they just can’t access content stored on their DVR or see live TV without navigating out of the Xbox console and to their cable or satellite menus. The Xbox One eliminates this, allowing users to access TV and even watch their favorite shows waiting for a game to load or to be matched in a multiplayer game.
The Xbox One will ship with a Kinect sensor and the voice and motion control features were heavily touted in Microsoft’s live press demos. The idea is that with its integration with your home theater, you can control your entertainment experience without a remote and without ever leaving the Xbox One interface. Simply speak to turn on and navigate to games, Internet, TV, etc. Facial recognition will automatically load your saved content so you can pick up where you left off.
However, there were some finer details that Microsoft has been less clear about. They announced that game play will be tied to your online profile. When you buy a game and load it in your Xbox, the game will be installed on your device and you’ll register with your Xbox Live profile, making the disk no longer necessary for game play. If you take your disk to a friend’s house, you can install the content on his/her Xbox and log in with your Xbox Live profile to play. How about when you’re done with the game and want to hand the disk off to your buddy? No dice. Your friend will be prompted to pay “a fee” (the amount remains undisclosed) to register and play, even if the game is loaded on their console.
Microsoft’s Larry Hryb has since clarified that they do plan to allow gamers to “trade in and resell games at retail,” presumably through partnerships with large second hand game distributors such as GameStop (and its affiliates). Yet concerns linger for gamers who rent titles through services such as Gamefly or Blockbuster, or those who prefer to sell or trade games directly between friends and family.
Many are upset by rumors that the console will require near constant access to the Internet to enable gameplay. While Microsoft has yet to clearly confirm or deny, one can assume that playing a game – even one you’ve installed on your hard drive – may require online authentication of your Xbox Live profile to play. This will make gaming more challenging for users without stable broadband Internet.
Hot on Microsoft’s heels, Sony held a press conference on May 20th to announce sparse details of its anticipated new console, the PS4. While showing only the controller, they have not disclosed any information about the hardware or what it will be capable of. Perhaps Sony will use the controversy stirred up by Xbox One to fine tune the details of its own device.