Yesterday Microsoft revealed their brand new console for the next generation called the “Xbox One” and we have a full summary for the event here.
It was clear from watching the event that Microsoft has a very different strategy for their console and the market they intend to go for with their new Xbox One. Not only is it TV but it’s a very mass market approach presented through their very targeted messaging yesterday.
From the first moments of the conference the new console was not introduced as a gaming device or some type of supreme innovation of gaming but as Don Mattrik put it “We are proud to reveal a home entertainment system”. Once this sentence was said and the presentation continued it was clear that the focus of this new console was entertainment. It’s an entertainment device, Microsoft then moved on to show off all the brand new television features the Xbox One will have.
They also showed off their brand new console and controller. At first I thought the design was a bit basic and bland. But even though the console does look a bit like my Foxtel IQ set top box (which is actually made for TV) I still like the design. It’s simple and you can’t really say much about it. That’s either good or bad depending on your own taste on what is good design.
There was no mention of any new games for over half an hour (33 minutes) which is considerably long considering the main audience I think that was watching was most likely the Xbox hardcore gamer audience. Especially in Australia with the event at 3am, you needed to be quite devoted to watch it live. So the message of entertainment television device was given to everyone who was watching. Was it the right thing to do? Do Hard core gamers and serial fans of Xbox like this message? Or do they just want games?
First impressions are very important I believe for anything in the world. This was Microsoft’s chance to create a unique first impression to their dedicated audience as to their intentions for the next generation. In comparison to Sony’s conference a short a while ago there was a distinct difference in first impressions. Sony positioned itself as not only a console for gamers with all the game titles they launched, but they also chose to emphasise that they were working with game developers to create a better development environment, they included consultation at every point. Sony’s message out of their event was a console very much focused on games. Microsoft’s message was much different, in contrasting the two companies, Microsoft consulted people from CBS (television network) and converted their game franchise Halo into a live action TV series. Microsoft’s message in the end was a games console that focuses on watching TV.
As foreign viewer of the event I’ve learnt not be drawn in by American TV offerings for devices such as the Xbox One. Much of the TV features like the NFL application that you can have beside the game that shows you your fantasy league statistics not only likely cannot be used, but nobody in Australia (or a very few anyway) watch the NFL. Things like Netflix aren’t available either in Australia so that also cancels out that point. I’m not sure what differences there are between other regions such as Europe and regional availability for the TV services on offer but what I do know is that they are going to be very different regionally and likely will take time to negotiate. While I think the Xbox One is very well positioned for the US market I don’t know how well all of its entertainment services and its now entertainment device will be received globally. I guess they have a lot of deals needing to be made!
Post the event I sort of wanted to know what other people were thinking about the TV announcement and the overall coverage (I will address the games in a moment) but from what I read there was a lot of confusion from people about what the new Xbox One was and is. It’s an entertainment device that also does games was my impression after watching the live stream As a gamer I feel this sort of insults the audience slightly because I think what it should be presented as is a gaming device that also does entertainment. As for innovation for the TV platform, the Netflix and watching TV on the device I am almost certain that most people not only have TV already on their TV but the features of watching shows on a console isn’t necessarily new, it’s my understanding that in USA you can watch Netflix not only on Xbox 360 but also PS3.
So my first impression of the new generation gaming console from Microsoft was, it’s a entertainment television device. Or maybe this viral YouTube video from yesterday better summarises the events first impression for many.
The next thing that was emphasised the most after the TV features was all the sport features that accompany and complement the TV features. So we’re shown things like the statistics on the NFL, or “Snap Mode” which is the ability to do two things at one like make a Skype call while watching something. While this likely blows away many a viewer, I only really see this as minimising or multitasking. Something I can do and have done for a long time on PC and sort of just something I would expect out of a new technology. Not only this, but in my life I can’t imagine ever switching between game, sport or chatting to someone on Skype while I’m trying to watch a movie. While I think this is a good gimmick and probably does have uses for people lives, if I want to watch a movie, I’m not going to take a call. I’d rather pause the movie so I don’t miss out and have to rewind it.
Continuing with Sports and the sports games. I thought it was good that they mentioned what sport games are coming to the console and what new features those games will have on the next generation. The EA ignite engine was interesting as to its development of sporting games and their appearance for the next generation but these sports games also coming to the PS4!
Two exclusive games are then mentioned which include Forza 5 and Quantum break, but so little time is spent on these games during the conference that they disappear from my memory. Also it would have been good I think if Microsoft actually demonstrated some gameplay for a moment to better show their next generation graphics. I know in Sony’s conference they showed Watch Dogs for some time and I know it wasn’t an exclusive title, but many want to see and know how a game plays on the new console. I think this was something that Xbox missed out on and didn’t present well to the audience.
The final game and finishing point that was left in the conference was of course the new Call Of Duty Ghosts game. This game had the largest amount of coverage compared to any other game combined but in my view wasn’t executed very well. I have two reasons, firstly it’s a multi platform game also available on the PS4. But secondly because of the graphics comparison given. Call of Duty modern warfare is not the most graphically superior game known in the current generation, but they chose to compare its graphics as if it was, to the new Call Of Duty Ghosts. I am very unsure about their decision and from a gamers perspective I didn’t understand it. If a graphics comparison should have been shown about the power of the next generation Xbox One, why not base it on a graphically known game like Forza! What’s the difference between the cars, what about the exclusive they mentioned? What’s it’s graphics like?
As a gamer the next generation to me ever since the days of the Sega Mega drive has always meant graphics. Each generation there is always a great increase in graphics from that companies console to the next. Playstation during their conference emphasised this perfectly, there were multiple graphics based presentations from multiple developers. In this conference there was one, from one developer for a franchise not really known as graphically intense. With all the focus on TV I was left bewildered.
Overall what I believe Xbox and Microsoft are going for with their console is the strait mass market. On one hand they have the TV masses. Some people might just buy this console for all the TV functionality it has in America, they may occasionally play games to. Gamers who I think will buy this console are the same masses of gamers who buy the franchises this console showed. Those people who buy Call Of Duty every year and FIFA every year. Those types of gamers who really aren’t the hardcore gaming market but represent the sales and repeat purchases of the big game franchises
After all my opinion on whether or not I like the console as a gaming platform it doesn’t matter because Microsoft is smart. They went strait for the mass market (TV, COD, FIFA), they want the sales, they want money and from watching this and thinking about it for a long time. I think they just might get it. Will it be enough though compared to the competition offering the same games though? Time will tell, but it’s certainly very interesting positioning.