Xbox One: a new direction, an honest mission

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 11:59 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Xbox’s next generation was shown only as a concept in Seattle yesterday, as the truth of Microsoft’s multi-media intention. Wait for E3 to judge its games component, says Patrick Garratt.

Yesterday was about showing two large pieces of hardware, dropping any pretense that it’s “all about the games,” and saying Microsoft is a company that wants to control living room entertainment.

What do you think?

I’ve been asked that question more than a dozen times since last night. What do I think about Xbox One? What does anybody think? The presentation wasn’t aimed at me in particular because it was apparently aimed at a person in need of everything, and it’s obvious “gamers” are going to be pissed because Xbox One isn’t a video games console. Games are just part of it now.

I’ve seen a huge amount of negativity about Xbox One this morning, as I did instantly after the reveal in Seattle, and, if you’re asking me what I think, I think basing any real opinion about the future of Xbox’s games component on what we saw yesterday is previous. As I said in this video chat with Brenna and Dave earlier, Microsoft’s mission yesterday was to say, “This is what it is.” The original Xbox and Xbox 360 were primarily video games consoles. Xbox One, at least on a concept level, is not. It’s Microsoft in the living room. It’s a media hub. It’s taking Windows 8, and Kinect, and live TV functionality, and games, and DVR, and Skype, and Live, and Bing, and Explorer, and it’s combining it all into an ecosystem that makes sense from the couch. It’s about general media usage, and yesterday’s presentation reflected exactly that. We saw a top-down view of Xbox One’s concept, which is a collage of general services.

Xbox One is going to be expensive, and it’s going to be aimed at an affluent, primarily American consumer. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are different, and they span different markets. The new Microsoft box, in a games sense, will likely be focused on premium “experiences” such as Bungie’s Destiny. PS4 is more open, is more traditional, will almost certainly be cheaper, and is aimed younger. While PS3 and Xbox 360 were so closely aligned they were nigh on indistinguishable in their targeting, this next generation will see the two strategies separate, with “Xbox” attempting to enter the broad, mainstream media market while Sony centres PlayStation on games. From here on, Xbox and PlayStation are in different worlds. They are not doing the same thing.

This is true to the extent that 360 peripherals won’t even work with Xbox One. Xbox 360 is old Xbox, and old Xbox is being dumped. None of your 360 games will work with the new box. Your current XBLA library will only work on 360. Xbox One is a completely new direction for Xbox as a video games brand, one that has captured millions of people with Friends lists and GamerScore and is now revealing true intentions and breaking for the general audience. Xbox 360 started as pure games and became saturated with media apps over time, much to the chagrin of an increasingly disenfranchised core. The dishonesty evaporated yesterday. Xbox One is the truth of Microsoft’s ambition. There’s no ulterior motive. This is it.

What surprises me is that certain quarters are throwing their arms up in shock. What did anybody expect it to be? Answer this question with complete honesty: what did you expect? Did you turn up expecting 720, the ultimate core gaming device? Did you expect Microsoft’s entertainment strategy for the entire home to kick off with a pretend spaceman shooting an alien in the balls and everyone screaming “fuck” at 4K resolution? Did you expect insight into how Xbox is going to embrace bedroom development and fight for small-scale creativity? Did you expect the next-gen Xbox message to be about you?

Microsoft’s E3 will show the games. Yesterday was about Xbox as a general entertainment brand, about Microsoft being honest about its designs on the general entertainment market. It was about showing two large pieces of hardware, dropping any pretense that it’s “all about the games,” and saying Microsoft, as a company, wants to control living room entertainment. It was about sticking a finger up to Apple. It was about binning 360 and going for gold.

What do I think? I think you’ll be able to play Call of Duty on Xbox One just fine. As for the rest of it, ask me after LA.

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