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Microsoft’s confusing reveal of the Xbox One

by William Schwartz on May 21, 2013

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Microsoft is extremely good at making people believe in their vision. Today, the reveal of the Xbox One felt more like a company trying to show us what they want the next generation to be, and not what the Xbox One actually is. The reveal of the Xbox One was both confusing, and at the same time, laser targeted at a very specific consumer. If you are that consumer, you probably walked away with a smile from ear to ear. The futuristic all-in-one device for the living room appears to be the Xbox One, and it’s got a ton of interactive features that make the current gen stuff look like child’s play.  TV controls and interactive fantasy sports leagues, enhanced Xbox Live, and multi-tasking to boot, the Xbox One sounds like a great addition to the living room if it does what it’s billed to, and does it well.

However, if you were looking for the cold hard facts, you might have walked away scratching your head. Is the console more powerful than the PS4? By how much? Gamers traditionally want to see that technological leap in graphics from generation to generation, and never once did Microsoft show this.  But between today’s official reveal event and a secondary tech panel, Microsoft did manage to cover most of their bases, when it comes to the power behind the Xbox One, they just didn’t harp on it.

The Xbox One Specs

  • 8-core CPU
  • 8GB of System Memory
  • Blu-Ray Drive
  • 500GB HDD
  • Built-in Wi-fi
  • HDMI in/Out ports
  • Kinect in Every Box

Where power and architecture were of primary concern to Sony in their PS4 reveal, this wasn’t the case for Microsoft.   Instead, we heard about the innovative “Xbox One Architecture”, a custom build that use three different segments of the sytem to power apps, games, and instant swapping and multi-tasking in the console’s “snap mode”.  It wasn’t too surprising really, it was all about the console, and Microsoft’s vision for the Xbox One isn’t entirely dedicated to games anymore.

So what about all the questions and rumors that have been popping up for months about the Xbox One?  The always online connectivity, used games, Microsoft had no definitive answers for these.  This lingering confusion has prompted Microsoft to release a question and answer segment that touches on some of the burning questions, but still fails to address some concerns.

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Xbox One Q&A

Editor’s Note: Today is an exciting day for Xbox. This morning we shared our vision for a new generation of games, TV and entertainment. We wanted to address some top questions we’ve seen from our fans, so here we go.

Q:    Does Xbox One require an “always on” Internet connection?
A:    No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet. We’re designing Xbox One to be your all-in-one entertainment system that is connected to the cloud and always ready. We are also designing it so you can play games and watch Blu-ray movies and live TV if you lose your connection.

Q:    How do consumers benefit by being connected to the cloud?
A:    The cloud makes every experience better and more accessible.  Because Xbox One is powered by the cloud:

  • Your games have more power available to create new gameplay, persistent worlds, and deeper experiences.
  • Your system and games can update automatically, so you shouldn’t have to wait for downloads or updates.
  • Your games and entertainment are stored and saved in the cloud, so you can access them anytime, from any Xbox One.*
  • Start a game, movie, or TV show on one console and finish exactly where you left off on another.
  • You can play multiplayer games with your friends, stream movies or TV shows right away, and enjoy the community and social features of Xbox Live.
  • Xbox One can recognize you, log you in and tailor your home screen just for you.

You can discover what your friends are playing, watching and listening to if they choose to share.
These are just a few examples of how customers benefit from our platform being connected to the Internet. It brings the future of TV and games to our consumers—and it’s designed for today and the decade ahead.

Q:    When will Xbox One launch and in what markets?
A:    Xbox One will launch in markets around the world later this year. We’ll have more to share later.

Q:    Can I use my current gamertag on Xbox One and will my Gamerscore and Achievements transfer?
A:    Yes. Your current Xbox Live Gamertag will stay with you on Xbox One if you choose to keep it, and your hard-earned Gamerscore and Achievements will indeed carry over from Xbox 360.

Q:    Will Xbox One be backward compatible with my existing games?
A:    Xbox One hardware is not compatible with Xbox 360 games. We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games—games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud. We care very much about the investment you have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future.

Q:    Will Xbox One allow players to trade in, purchase and play pre-owned games? 
A:    We are designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games. We’ll have more details to share later.

Q:    Will my current Xbox Live Gold membership work with Xbox One or will I have to buy a new one?
A:    You do not need to buy a new Xbox Live Gold membership. Your current membership will work on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Q:   Why require Kinect with every Xbox One?
A:    The all new Kinect is now an essential and integrated part of the platform.  By having it as a consistent part of every Xbox One, game and entertainment creators can build experiences that assume the availability of voice, gesture and natural sensing, leading to unrivaled ease of use, premium experiences and interactivity for you.

Q:    Do I need to have a specific cable or satellite TV provider to watch live TV on Xbox?
A:    Our goal is to enable live TV through Xbox One in every way that it is delivered throughout the world, whether that’s television service providers, over the air or over the Internet, or HDMI-in via a set top box (as is the case with many providers in the US). The delivery of TV is complex and we are working through the many technologies and policies around the world to make live TV available where Xbox One is available.

Q:    Xbox One is a more powerful product compared to Xbox 360, but does it also use more power?
A:    No. By providing multiple power states in Xbox One, we’ve balanced energy efficiency with functionality. We’ve taken a completely different approach to how Xbox One consumes power. It only uses the power it needs at that particular moment for the task at hand.

The reveal is only getting more confusing as official responses from Microsoft stay vague

See, after reading this entire post, you’re asking yourself two questions still.  Does it play used games?  And will it charge you a fee for doing so?  There have been numerous reports, quoting various sources, making vastly different remarks.  Out of the gate, Microsoft has a confused marketing message that seems like its trying to hide something.

The problem is, you have multiple parts of the company saying entirely different things.  You’ve got the official Xbox support Twitter account saying that there will not be a “fee” to play used games.  Then you have others reporting that the used game situation is very much up in the air.

The simple fact is that Microsoft needed to relay facts to its fan base if they wanted to steal the next-gen hype from Sony.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, the reveal event left many with more questions than they got answers. Especially in the “always online” and “used games” departments.  The marketing message was not only mixed from an internal standpoint, but now the internet is awash with so many different variations of today’s events, that there will need to be some serious clarification before we can begin to assess what the actual changes mean for the next-generation of games and the gaming industry at large.

So why hasn’t there already been clarification?   That’s simple.  Because it’s probably bad news.  Because these answers will likely dominate the conversation about the new console, and not the innovative new features that were announced.  No matter what features Microsoft announced today, a definitive shift away from the traditional way that consumers have bought and sold games for decades will be a dead weight on the hardware.

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