The Big Three at E3: Microsoft’s Xbox One has a 1 out of 10 Chance of Succeeding

Bobby Miller

Editor’s note: [There is an update to Microsoft’s original decision on the console’s needed Internet connection and used games. This update is at the end of the story.]

Every year, video game publishers and developers get together at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles, Calif., to show off their upcoming video games and systems. Its importance to the hardcore gaming community cannot be underestimated. It’s as if the video game developers stand before the gamers and offer up their works, and gamers play god in judging what they have accomplished.

Victories have rescued companies. For instance, the excitement around the Wii’s reveal turned it from the system with the stupid name into one of the best-selling consoles ever. Sony’s announcement that the PlayStation 3 would initially cost “$599 U.S. dollars” dug it into a hole that took years to recover from.

There’s a lot at stake this year especially. Sony and Microsoft must release new systems that are capable of wowing gamers who are increasingly shifting over to the PC thanks to Steam’s low prices. Nintendo must show that, despite the Wii U’s disappointing launch, it will continue to release the quality games it is known for while utilizing the GamePad in clever ways.

Nvate’s summary of the latest from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony will be released in three parts, with the first about Microsoft’s Xbox One.

Xbox One: An All-Inclusive Platform, but at What Cost?

The Xbox One, revealed a few weeks before E3, received nothing but ridicule from hardcore gamers. Microsoft focused mostly on extraneous features the system has, such as the ability to act like a cable box or play Blu-ray Discs, as opposed to what gamers want—games.

Nvate Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3Microsoft Xbox One

And with the hardware itself, it’s clear that Microsoft thought it could get away with ignoring most gamers’ desires. The system will require a broadband Internet connection that hooks to Microsoft’s servers at least once a day to make sure there’s nothing illegal on the system. So if the user doesn’t have a reliable broadband Internet connection, they can’t play any games on it. Microsoft recommends that, if the user doesn’t have the Internet, then they can buy the redesigned Xbox 360 instead.

Microsoft will give software publishers the option of making it so that, if a company doesn’t want people selling used copies of their games, they can make the console prohibit them. In addition, they can make it so that if used game retailers want to sell used games, they must pay a fee to the companies who made the games. Similarly, if a gamer wants to loan a game to a friend, or even just play it at their house, they’ll have to pay full price to have it installed onto their system if the developer of that game decrees it.

Some video game makers, such as Cliff Bleszinski, the creative mind behind “Gears of Wars,” have defended Microsoft’s policy. According to GamePolitics.com, he has said that, with development budgets so high, publishers can’t afford to lose sales to used games. Nintendo has commented that, if you don’t want gamers selling their games, then you should make games they want to keep.

Nvate Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3Microsoft Xbox One

While the updated Kinect should detect movement and voice commands better, some gamers are concerned about it “spying” on them. Credit: TheVerge.com

Also, people are not happy that Microsoft is collecting users’ data to supposedly improve user experience. With the required Kinect sitting up there watching, that might be creepy in an age where privacy violations are becoming daily news. Microsoft promises that it’s just recording movements and voice usage to improve the software—in no way will the user be identifiable. Plus, the user can manipulate privacy settings as soon as they get the new console. But gamers don’t seem to buy it.

And many gamers really don’t want to buy it since it costs $500.

Before writing off Microsoft as stupid for charging such a high price, try keeping its goals in mind. For it, the Xbox One is not just a video game console, but rather an all-in-one entertainment center, the one entertainment device a person or family would need. That’s why it’s called the Xbox One. On Amazon, Microsoft stated the “Xbox One was designed from the ground up to be the centerpiece of every living room.”

Special Features, Kinect and Hard Drive Space

Microsoft believes that the new-and-improved Kinect bundled with it will enhance the experience even further. Almost everything can be controlled through voice commands, making it simple enough for non-gamers to browse different menus, jumping from games to TV channels to music and to videos easily.

Nvate Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3Microsoft Xbox One

This is the Xbox One interface. Credit: TeknoConsolas.es

It will allow music playback, video viewing, Skype usage and web surfing through Internet Explorer. Plus, it can act as a set-top box for HDMI output, which basically means that users can watch cable or satellite through it rather than through the box that is supplied by the provider.

Using its split-screen features in “Snap Mode,” the users can Skype while watching a football game. In addition, users can use voice commands to start recording gameplay and commenting on it, they can then use the Upload Studio app to share it with others.

Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, showed off these features at a press conference shortly before E3. His voice commands and hand gestures worked perfectly. He showed that it is easier to browse TV channels with commands like, “Xbox, what’s on HBO?” No more memorizing channel numbers.

There are other facts about the hardware I should point out too. On the bright side of things, the user’s old Xbox Live account and Gamerscore from the Xbox 360 will carry over to the One. But, unfortunately, the system is not backwards compatible, so users have to keep their 360 unless they want to kiss their hundreds of dollars worth of games for it goodbye.

Nvate Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3Microsoft Xbox One

You’ll either have to keep your old 360 or invest in the redesigned version of the console if you want to play 360 games. Credit: CinemaBlend.com

There’s also the issue of hard drive space. Whenever the user gets a game on a disc, they must install it onto the system’s hard drive. While the Xbox One sports a 500 GB hard drive, that could fill up quickly. “Assassin’s Creed III,” an Xbox 360 game, had 17 GB of data. If that’s the average data usage for every One game, users could only install up to 29 games onto the system—and that’s ignoring how the system’s memory will partially be used up by built-in software.

Gamers could use an external hard drive, though, in order to get more space. A 1 TB, external hard drive would add about 58 games for the price of $70 to $80. A 2 TB, external hard drive would add about 117 games for the price of $90 to $130. So, unless gamers plan on playing fewer than 29 games, they’ll probably end up spending more than $600 on their Xbox One.

Console-Exclusive Games

The fact of the matter is, great games can’t solve the Xbox One’s problematic treatment of used games, high price point, need for online connection and alleged spying abilities. Most people watching Microsoft reveal the One’s upcoming games simply figured that they would buy them on different systems. Many people online have commented that they would be willing to leave Master Chief, the protagonist of the beloved Xbox-exclusive ,first-person shooter “Halo.”

At E3, Microsoft showed a solid lineup of games. It revealed the Xbox One-exclusive “Ryse: Son of Rome,” the start of a brand new series in which action is blended with role-playing game elements as gamers fight in ancient Rome. Capcom’s “Dead Rising 3” with its zombie-bashing action will also be exclusive to Microsoft’s new console. A brand new game called “Quantum Break” will somehow combine gameplay with TV narrative, though the details of this experiment are unclear. But we do know it’s a third-person shooter with the ability to manipulate time. Other notable exclusives include “Crimson Dragon” and, of course, some sort of “Halo” title, which is due out in early 2014. There were also plenty of impressive-looking multiplatform games such as “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain” and “Battlefield 4.”

Nvate Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3Microsoft Xbox One

But if customers don’t like the expensive hardware behind Xbox One games, they can find plenty of games elsewhere.

Microsoft also faces the challenge of advertising the Xbox One as an all-in-one entertainment center as opposed to just a gaming console. They need to show that this is something everyone in a family would want.

Our summary of Nintendo and Sony’s developments are up next. Look for the summary on Nintendo’s latest in the July issue of Nvate and Sony’s in the August issue.

Update June 21, 2013

According to various gaming websites, IGN, GameSpot, and GamePolitics, Microsoft renounced a number of the Xbox One’s controversial features. On June 19, about a week after E3, it announced that a daily Internet connection would no longer be required to play games. Users will only have to connect the system to the Internet once when they buy it.

Moreover, the company will allow used games to be loaned to others and sold at the buyer’s discretion. Video game rentals will also be an option. Finally, Microsoft is backing away from region-locking, so the Xbox One will play games from all around the world, which is good news for import gamers.

Does this mean that the Xbox One will make a huge comeback and conquer the PlayStation 4? It’s doubtful. To begin with, Microsoft has already shown that it’s apathetic to its customers. It was willing to try these controversial features despite everyone begging them not to, and it only changed its mind when it saw Sony garnering so much love. Some people wonder if they will reinstate the used game and Internet connection policies after the system begins selling well. A reputation is a difficult thing to mend.

There are other problems as well. The Xbox One still costs $100 more than the PlayStation 4 due to its integration of Kinect voice commands with menus and channel browsing. That might be too steep of a price for too little benefit.

With all the enthusiastic support the PlayStation 4 has received lately, it’s difficult to imagine many people suddenly switching sides. While the Xbox One now stands a chance in this next set of console wars, it’s starting out with a clear disadvantage due to its tarnished reputation.

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