Whilst this blog in primarily to do with tech that I have in my life and how it affects me day to day, Xbox one will be in my life eventually, so here are some facts, figures and opinions on Microsoft’s next gen console.
Alright, so its not going to win any beauty contests. It has the look and arguably size, of what a modern day VHS/VCR would like. Roughly 10 years ago I used to work in ‘Game’ the UK high street store. I was there for the Xbox & PS2 launch, and lets face it, at the time the PS2 was the nuts. It looked futuristic, had about 10 games per week coming out (though many were dire at best) and come Christmas I would deal with parent after parent asking for a PS2.
I always asked why?
Whilst being a firm believer of the Xbox platform, I genuinely wanted to sell the console that the child would want best, in addition to taking into account parental funds.
Remember, the Xbox had a built in hard drive, played DVDs off the bat and was ready for Xbox Live, although it hadn’t yet been launched. In comparison Sony required that you buy a 8mb memory card to save your games at £32 a pop, and to get the best of your DVD you had to buy the remote, another £19.99. Already the pricey PS2 was outstripping the Xbox on cost.
So in answer to my question, the parent would inevitably answer because my son/daughter wants one. When I mentioned the Xbox, the parent/customer would always reply, ”but its so big”., if only that’s what she said. Simple as that because the Xbox looked large it was relegated to second place in the eyes of the general public, not to mention the PS2 had a good years head start to begin with!
Whats a console release without some sexy spec’s? Well the Xbox has that to boot! 8GB DDR3 RAM, 500GB hard drive, an Octo-core processor based on the AMD ‘Jaguar’ design, yes folks, this thing has 8 cores, plus a whole host of connections on the back, Ethernet, 2x usb3 ports + 1 on the side, a HDMI in & out, Kinect, and the all in important power port. Inside there is of course the Blu-Ray player, WiFi direct multichannel modem, which in theory will enable you to connect your WiFi enabled devices to the Xbox directly, ala’ Smartglass perhaps? It may also be how the Xbox Controllers directly connect to the Xbox One.
So lets face it, compared to the 512mb RAM and 20GB hard drive of the Xbox 360 at release, its quite a step up, but how does it stack up against the PS4? Pretty well actually.
The PS4 will also have an Octo-core Processor based on the AMD ‘Jaguar’ design, Blu-Ray, an unknown hard drive size, and 8GB GDDR4 RAM. Now GDDR4 I believe enables the processor to handle more complex processes, where DDR3 enable better streamlining of software and multitasking, hence the snap to, and channel changes of the Xbox reveal demo.
Its all About the Software
If you look back over the years, everything was about graphics. Does this console look better than that one, has the newest iteration of the last generation shown an astounding feat of progression in graphics, well, I feel this has now changed. With the advent of the iPhone, and the following mobile technologies, everything has been about what your software can do for you, not how impressive it looks. Sure consoles were still going, and the games got progressively shinier as developers managed to coax more and more out of the aging consoles, but slowly, graphical capability took a back seat to how smooth or fluid a system UI became, and more importantly what media connections it had. Tablets, and mobile phones suddenly became the new consoles, whole websites and RSS feeds were built dedicated to the next new phone or tablet. Mobile games saw an enormous surge of popularity with start ups going for millions when really, they may have only been worth thousands.
The Xbox One is based on Windows 8, and Microsoft state that it runs 3 Operating Systems.Windows 8, The Xbox OS, and a third that enables them to talk to each other. Having listened to Paul Thurrot on his podcasts and his hugely resource rich website winsupersite.com it seems the Xbox One is really running on Windows 8 with a Hyper-V instance (only available on Windows 8) and then running a Virtual Machine within that. Whilst that may not not mean a huge amount to you, or me its damned clever.
So software, the Xbox One dashboard is an obvious evolution from that of the current one (in fact there is rumour that a new update will be available for the current Xbox 360’s dashboard this summer, a sort of interim version if you will) and it looks slick. It appears to be fluid, and is hugely customized to the user, showing friends, what games, movies and TV shows are trending etc..
In addition to all these goodies, The Xbox One features an HDMI in & out, this means you can plug the Xbox One through your existing cable box and use the Xbox overlay as your TV guide, and instantly switch between the two, as well as that Skype has finally be announced (it had to come eventually right?) and you can multitask with various task running with one in a window on the side, and the other on the main screen.
Ok, so Kinect. When it was initially released it was sort of a gimmick to compete with the Nintendo Wii (at least I believe so) but lets face it, for a 1.0 product, it wasn’t that bad. The Xbox One comes with Kinect whether you want it or not, and its had a serious make over! 1080p wide angle lens (you no longer need to live in a mansion with 50ft lounges) far better microphones that actually differentiates from you and the TV, facial recognition so that it knows your playing or turning on the Xbox and automatically switches to your profile. All pretty sweet. Hopefully in practice it really is a huge improvement as the potential for this is huge, but could be an absolute washout if its not vastly superior to that of the current Kinect.
It’s insane the amount of money that large companies spend on research and development when it comes to controllers, Millions, and yet its easy to understand why.
The controller will sit in your for nearly all the time you are playing a game, its control the UI, and frankly because of some of the hours you spend playing either an RPG or online battlefest’s, it needs to be comfy, it needs to work seamlessly and it needs to work. Microsoft have tweaked the existing 360 design, but that pretty much it, and frankly thats all that was required. The ‘guide’ button has moved higher up so you don’t catch it in frantic play, the triggers have vibrations of their own to improve your feeling and the battery unit is flatter than the 360. The only other minor changes are to the analog sticks, which have a small coating around the rim to prevent slippages (and hopefully wear) and an improved D-pad which is apparently alot more response, and traditional in its design. Take a look at the pictures and see what you think…
When the rumour arose that the new Xbox would require an ‘always on’ connection to the internet, it was as though the whole internet gather up their pitchforks and torches and descended through the ether to Redmond to scream bloody murder.
Personally I really didn’t see the huge issue, so you need an internet connection to run the thing, ok, admittedly its not ideal, but who isn’t connected to the net these days? Turns out, A LOT.
The primary complaints were from rural America where some folks either don’t have the internet in their area (amazing I know) or have dial up if they are lucky. At work today a guy a few desks down was really ranting about it, and I asked why the big deal, you have internet? He response was yes, but the Xbox isn’t in the front room with the router, its in the bedroom and WiFi is for reason or another spotty, sometimes unobtainable. I then understood, that if you required always on connection, then yeah, some, potentially many if the many voices are to be heard, are going to have issue playing games on their new, pricey new toy.
Microsoft via various mediums (twitter, press release’s interviews etc…) have stated that the Xbox One will not need to be permanently connected to the internet, but that it will ping once a day. Again outcry, rage, I don’t want to connect once a day, or what have you. Microsoft have however been silent on how often these periods will be, every 24 hours, every 15.5 hours, and people have asked, can this be changed manually in the settings? Redmond have not elaborated any further at this juncture.
Pre-Owned Games & DRM
I thought the Microsoft announcement went well, however there was question over whether or not you would be able to play pre-owned games or games borrowed from a friend on your console without having to first purchase a new code/license from the Microsoft Store, in the same vein as EA requiring that you purchase a code from their online services in order to play their games second hand, once the initial code in the box had been used.
Personally, I have never seen a bigger Twitter blow-up when Wired, CVG and various other magazines published that you would have to pay for new licenses to play games as the disc installs to the console, and you don’t actually need the disc again (apparently).Microsoft stated on several blogs, media outlets etc… that this was not the case.
The Xbox Support Twitter account even went to far as to answer one tweet stating:
@andylivingston Happy to clarify to best of our ability – was info in Wired article about used games involving fees wrong? Answer: yes ^JD
Venture beat added the following updates to their initial article
Update 1: Jon Hicks, the editor of Official Xbox magazine, has claimed that pre-owned games will be un-installed from the previous owner’s system and installed onto another. It is not clear if this process would negate a pre-owned fee.
Update 2: Microsoft has neither confirmed nor denied the report in a statement offered to Venture beat.
“We are designing the Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games,” a Microsoft spokesperson said, adding: “We’ll have more details to share later”.
Microsoft would do well to get that pre-owned situation sorted quickly as hard core gamers the world over will be outraged if that plan goes ahead without some sort of excellent justification.
Sony have stated previously on the subject, that whilst they (Sony) won’t be charging for the right to play games second hand, or borrowed from a chum, they can’t stop, or speak for their developers on the matter. Reading between the lines, its their if developers want it, and EA tried it recently, albeit they have ceased the program for the time being.
Will I purchase an Xbox on launch day, absolutely. It really is, in my opinion, the next generation of console. Excellent voice recognition, and motion capture, instant switching between tasking, snapping one thing to the side (Skype, TV, Music player etc…) and continuing with your game on the other is just, just, its just cool!
I will most certainly be in line at a midnight launch, somewhere in a cold wet Bournemouth, and I’ll be super excited no matter how drenched i’m getting, because there are going to be some amazing games, and some incredible advancements in the next few years, and frankly I can’t wait to be a part of it.
Credit for pictures goes to winsupersite.com