Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Xbox One Announced

Today Microsoft officially revealed the Xbox One, the next generation console that will compete directly with the Playstation 4. Much like the PS4 announcement, Microsoft focused almost entirely on the entertainment and TV aspect of the system with only a slight mention of games. This decision by both companies makes a lot of sense really since E3 is just weeks away and will be entirely focused on video games. Unlike the PS4 announcement, Microsoft showed off more then a controller, they showed off the system itself (image left). No price point was provided with a release date expected around Christmas 2013.

Specs:
- 8-core Jaguar x86-64bit AMD CPU, DirectX 11.1 graphics
- 8GB DDR3 RAM (think old was 512MB)
- 500GB HDD (old started at 4GB and went up), not swappable but external storage supported
- Blu-ray drive (old system was HD-DVD)
- 3.0 USB, 3 802.11N antennas
- HDMI 1.4 passthrough (so HDMI in from cable box, out to TV)
- 1080p and 4k video, 7.1 surround sound

Features:
- Kinect 2: Comes with console, has 250,000 pixel infrared depth sensor (so capable of detecting more details) and 720p web cam (useful for Skyping)
- Instant start: no boot time, starts up right away on command, Kinect is also always "listening" for commands
- Gaming DVR: can record game play, does not extend to recording TV shows
- HDMI passthrough brings possibility of using Kinect gestures and voice commands to control cable or DVR (via IR blasters or HDMI-CEC)
- XBox OneGuide is central location for programming options for TV and information on programming (ex: fantasy sports stats). How this will work with the various network and cable companies is a big unknown.
- Game buys and saves stored to the "cloud", including store bought games so no longer have to re-buy for digital version
- Both digital and disc games auto install to hard drive, result is no longer need disc to play a game
- Since purchases in cloud to your account, can log onto other XBox Ones and continue playing a game from where left off
- Despite rumors, "always on" connection to internet is not required to play games
- Used games are supported, details on how this will work has not been disclosed

Hands-On:
X-Box One
Kinect 2
Controller

From a pure processing power perspective, the differences between the XBox One and the PS4 is so minor as to be meaningless. Because both use an x86 architecture, it means that video game companies will have a much easier time creating a game for the PS4, XBox1 and PC simultaneously. Graphically, there will probably be virtually no difference between the three and I wouldn't be surprised if load times differences are measured in milliseconds.

Like the PS4, the One does not have backwards compatibility. This is for two reasons - one being the switch from HD-DVD to Blu-ray discs and the other being the change from PowerPC to x86 architecture. Microsoft has not mentioned if it will allow for emulation of older software but I would not be surprised if some older games will not be available for download, assuming you are willing to re-buy them. From a gamer perspective, the only reason to choose one system over the other will be the difference in exclusive titles, which we will have to wait for E3 to learn about. It does seem both systems are trying to capture non-gamers with their TV and online features but for the probably $500+ price, that seems like a pipe dream at best since a $100 Roku (and their competition) will do nearly the same thing.

As for the Wii U, as a lifelong Nintendo fanboy, I still feel no choice but to join the chorus and call this a probable death blow. Nintendo just now caught up to the PS3 and XBox 360, only with a slower, clunkier interface, and decade old store implementation that ties your purchases to the hardware rather then to an account, and a crappy social system that doesn't really recognize the concept of "the internet". By announcing their next generation consoles, Microsoft and Sony has not only declared their systems obsolete but Nintendo's too. Sadly the company has nothing to counter this except for the promise of future Zelda, Metroid and Mario games that will likely not see the light of day until mid to late next year if history is any guide. Now that both the PS4 and XBox One align to the PC market completely, there is little reason for game developers to commit the money to converting their game to the Wii U or even bother to make their games exclusively for the Wii considering its current tiny market share that doesn't look like it going to grown much in the face of the true next generation competition. The end result if the only reason to buy a Wii U is for that once every six months franchise we all grew up on but otherwise it will be a dust collector.

Now we know the consoles from the big three, the next big event is E3 from June 11 to 13. This will be the time for Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony to make their case on why you should spend $350+ on their console and not the competition. For Nintendo, it is their make it or break it moment for the Wii U. For Sony and Microsoft, it is XBox One vs Playstation 4. Their slate of game exclusives and system features will be used to make their case for the Christmas holiday season. I can't wait for E3.

Announcement in 4 Minutes

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