So after all the news about Amazon, I’m going to return to what I had intended to write for the beginning of the week – my reactions to the XBox One (which is the third Xbox, try not to think about it too hard) and what it means for careers and creativity.
To say the least, the reaction to the announcement is not exactly positive, and even the Onion got in on the act. Kotaku is in their usual form on these things with a pretty good roundup of the features.
But you’re here to see what I think, and watch me talk endlessly about it and career repercussions. So let’s get to it . . .
Ironically, the Specs are things I care little apount. Improving a machine, upgrading the specs before release, etc. isn’t really going to be an issue. It obviously plays DVDs, which is important, as I’ll cover, since pretty much this thing isn’t really a “gaming console.”
Initially I was surprised anyone cared what it looked like, but right there it tells you that consoles are really part of one’s self-image and furniture at this time. Looks, like the look of a television or other media device, does matter to people. I can say it looks rather slick and definitely consumer-device like – which, as I’ll cover, is probably the point.
The Permanent Kinect:
Yes, this is kind of creepy, originally it seemed the XBox kinect was mandatory and always0on. Really. You have to connect the voice/video/motion control system up to use the X-Box. Penny Arcade has already gotten in on the mockery of how weird this is going to be on a media device, and I can certainly tell you I’m not exactly feeling fond of it, but . . .
It seems that there will be customizable settings so it’s not as much of a worry as it seems. This announcement comes a wee bit late so my thought is this wasn’t exactly part of the original plan.
I get a few things out of this:
- Microsoft is seriously dedicated to video/voice/facial recognition technology. Enough to have considered it something to make mandatory, which really to me says “we’re going to make it work even if it’s a pain.
- This feels like an invitation to potential malfunction. The device is not self-contained, so any issues with a Kinect peripheral deny you the ability to use your device even when you don’t need it. I can see this causing problems and possibly being removed.
- The fact Microsoft is jumping on this despite the potential problems and jokes seems a tad clueless.
- I don’t know if anyone will risk being dependent on this technology for their games for the very reason it’s not likely to be popular (or easy to use)
Snap and a Media Focus:
The “Snap” feature lets you use your television through the device, use voice commands, and combine media feeds. THis is actually a rather neat feature, though I’m not sure how in demand it is. Clearly they think it will/should/may be. This is a pure media consumer move and really isn’t something I see gamers wanting.
It’s also a computing feature – Skype is mentioned in the presentation as something that you might be seeing as part of Snap. Again, not part of a gamer agenda, but part of a living room computer agenda.
- Look, it was obvious the X-box was going to become more of a media/living room machine. This is it. This is intended for media use, not gaming use. That is the direction Microsoft is going.
- I think one of the goals is to make the Xbox a kind of central gathering thing much as TV once was. Snap would be perfect for that.
- Snap might be very interesting for developers to work with.
- Sure gamers may not use it, but it is kind of neat.
Microsoft is jumping into media deals with it’s IntelligentTV. There’s deals with the NFL, a new Halo TV series, and doubtlessly other efforts. Microsoft is working on becoming a media company.
- Of course they’e becoming a media company. There’s the possible bid for Nook. Microsoft’s goal is not just to be Apple as we’ve often joked. Microsoft is taking on content – we should stop thinking just of Apple and start wondering how much of Microsoft’s goal is to be Amazon.
- This content involvement also throws down the gauntlet to other media providers – Hulu, Netflix, etc. That potential purchase of Hulu by Yahoo gets a lot more interesting in this light.
Microsoft also is cagey about how used games work (apparently there’s some kind of registration system yet there can be trading) and the device needs to be connected to the internet once a day or something. It’s also not backward compatible.
This feels a bit ham-handed and clueless. After Sim City, we know mandatory connectivity is something people are further skeptical about. It also limits ownership of said device.
Some big titles were announced, but I didn’t see a lot of excitement about the titles. However the story did get re-iterated that indies won’t find it easy to publish on the XBox, though later there was some . . . well, not quite correction.
So big named stuff, indies in the background . . . my takes?
- The games almost seemed played down. Again this is a media box.
- The games played up were big name stuff like Thief and Assasins Creed IV. Sounds like a focus on AAA titles.
- The lack of mention of Indie support, plus the indie limits, and the later half-baked not-correction makes it sound like indies jus aren’t going to get much play on Xbox One. I never felt they exactly had great support on the 360.
XBox live is there, and some new reputation systems. Not a lot of details.
So what do I see?
This is a living room computer and media system that evolved from a gaming console.
It’s not exactly friendly to gamers, it’s got a lot of features gamers don’t want, it’s obviously media oriented. Microsoft’s play is for the living room space, built on the game space.
Now I always figured that would be Microsoft’s goal, but this is frankly a blatant, obvious ttempt and a pretty big shift for them. I had expected something like this, but not this blatant; this is about 50% of what I’d expect in the Xbox AFTER this one.
What we really have here is a revelation of Microsoft’s focus:
- They want to be more media oriented.
- They want to own the living room, and are using gaming as a foundation.
- They’re willing to make some painful and controversial decisions and choices to get what they think they want. I’ve once heard it said Microsoft will do painful and inconvenint things to ride them out, I think this may be the case.
- They’re interested in content, and that probably won’t go away – and could lead to some interesting alliances and purchases.
- They really like their sports alliances.
So what Microsft is doing is taking on Apple TV, television, and Amazon. They’re moving into general media and moving pretty fast.
I can’t say that I think this is the wisest choice. Oh, there is some nice stuff here, but the package of media orientation, AAA-focused gaming, strange limits, and generalism doesn’t impress me as something that’s going to go over well with the core audience. So in short, I’m predicting this isn’t going to do as well as Microsoft hopes.
However, I do suspect that coming after/around the XBox One will be a smaller, cheaper, non-gaming/limited gaming media-oriented system. There’s too much here you could strip off and put into a living room box. The XBox may just be the first delivery system.
Me, I’m going to PC, thanks.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.