Jo Wylie ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
The Xbox Conference last Tuesday started normally. A little talk about why we love gaming, followed by why gaming loves us, before some spiel about Xbox’s history and how much they rock. Three minutes into the conference, however, the tone began to change – rarely was the word “gaming” mentioned without “and Entertainment” tacked on, and swiftly the first half of that pair began to be fazed out. There was still excitement, of course, when the – initially puzzlingly named – Xbox One was revealed. The confusion over the chronology to the name of what is actually the third system from Xbox was cleared up quickly, however. The speaker promised that the new Xbox was “The one system for a new generation”, along with a number of other vague statements with the word “one” in them. The Xbox One’s wide range of uses was played up considerably. The system’s previously primary media, gaming, was somewhat muscled out of the way by it’s ability to host internet browsing, play movies, connect to the cloud and, most of all, play cable TV.
It was this extended discussion on TV that spread fastest amongst gamers, over twitter and blogging platforms, as the community chafed at the large percentage of the conference that focused on the Xbox One’s television capabilities. Admittedly, these capabilities seem promising, allowing users to watch and control cable TV, using gestures and voice commands. Hopefully the new Kinect, now bundled with the Xbox as standard, will actually understand those commands, where the 360 Kinect sometimes failed.
Tellingly, there was very little reference to how the Kinect would interact with the new games revealed for the Xbox One.
That is, not to say that the conference was completely bereft of games. Two teaser trailers and two longer features were shown, but three of those four games were the latest installments in already popular franchises. There was very little new and interesting stuff revealed, the only entirely new game shown at the conference being a teaser for Remedy’s Quantum Break, which consisted of a strange hybrid of animation and live action, which mostly just left anyone watching scared that even here, in the small gaming part of the conference, TV had infiltrated.
From a business perspective, this movement away from gaming seems unwise. Even if this new direction does interest new customers, who is it that’s going to be lining up until midnight to buy the new system? Who is it that’s going to be forced to buy the Xbox One to stay up to date? It’s probably not the family of four looking for a new system to watch morning cartoons on. Even though the system might, very possibly, be bought and used by these potential customers, those kinds of home entertainment systems age. Nothing forces someone to upgrade their home entertainment system every few years. The people looking for these systems will buy them on an as-needed basis, and that isn’t going to help the Xbox One in its pivotal opening sales.
The Xbox One will inevitably be pitted against the latest Sony console, the PS4, in the latest incarnation of the “console wars” that break out with every new console from either company. Xbox will be competing against Sony for the next generation of gamers and game producers, and in that competition existing gamer customers could be pivotal.
However, despite how puzzling these decisions from Xbox might seem when compared to Sony, it is possible that the gamer point of view is not the one needed to understand what can be, at first, an aggravating decision from Xbox. If the gaming community could step back from Xbox and look, instead, at Microsoft, a larger competitor than Sony comes into the light – Apple, and in turn, the Apple TV. With that in mind, the Xbox One becomes much more than a gaming console with too many extra parts. It’s evidently not meant to complete only with the PS4, but also all of Microsoft’s current competitors; instead, it is aiming to really be the “One System”, a synergy of technology that can contend with PlayStation, Apple TV, and cable providers simultaneously, and possibly catapult Microsoft to the top.
This could be a terrible idea, and many gamers seem to think so. It could be that disgruntled gamers will leave Xbox for the PS4, while people looking for entertainment systems ignore the Xbox One for being ‘just a gaming platform.’ It could, however, go the other way; if Microsoft does this well, and works out when to sell which parts of the system and to whom, they could have a lucrative machine on their hands.
The gamers, of course, aren’t all going to be happy, and they have the right to be a little angry. Microsoft is dragging the Xbox through our controller-crooked fingers from the basement to the family room. In the process they’re inevitably going to annoy some fans and completely loose others, especially with the PS4 right there to scoop up any flagging Xbox fans in a comfortably gamer-focused safety net. However, these fans are evidently a part of a calculated sacrifice Microsoft has decided to make in their goal of creating the Xbox One. This is a telling move by the Microsoft executives, showing that PS4 might win the “console wars” this time, but only because Microsoft has made such a drastic move towards creating this One synergic system that can fight on all fronts at once for them. Gamers who do stick with Xbox might just be in for a treat.