Xbox One: Microsoft focuses on managing content, not gaming

May 21, 2013 | 5:39 p.m.
xboxone ap Xbox One: Microsoft focuses on managing content, not gaming

Microsoft Corp.'s Don Mattrick unveils the next-generation Xbox One entertainment and gaming console system, Tuesday at an event in Redmond, Wash. It's been eight years since the launch of the Xbox 360. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

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Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft Corp.'s Interactive Entertainment Business, reveals the new Xbox One console at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Wash. (Microsoft / PRNewsFoto)

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Microsoft Corp.'s Don Mattrick unveils the next-generation Xbox One entertainment and gaming console system. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

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Microsoft Corp.'s Don Mattrick unveils the next-generation Xbox One entertainment and gaming console system. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

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Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is shown in a video during the unveiling of the Xbox One entertainment and gaming console system Tuesday, (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

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Xbox One users will be able to watch TV while chatting with friends. (Microsoft)

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Xbox One users will be able to watch movies while chatting with friends. (Microsoft)

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A scene from the upcoming Xbox One game "Call of Duty: Ghosts." (Activision / Microsoft)

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A scene from the Xbox One game "Call of Duty: Ghosts." (Activision / Microsoft)

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A scene from the upcoming Xbox One game "Call of Duty: Ghosts." (Activision / Microsoft)

xboxone Xbox One: Microsoft focuses on managing content, not gaming

Microsoft unveiled its new Xbox One console Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (Microsoft)

PERSPECTIVE

At this morning’s Xbox One reveal in Redmond, Wash., the new “Call of Duty” game received an extended preview and a new game titled “Quantum Break” was given a giant promotional push. But the biggest star of Microsoft’s news conference to showcase  its Xbox 360 successor was a film director, one who spoke only via a pre-filmed video.

Steven Spielberg, it was divulged this morning, will executive produce an original “Halo” television series based on the popular video game franchise that’s long been tied to the Xbox ecosystem.

“For me, the ‘Halo’ universe is an amazing opportunity to be at the intersection where technology and storytelling meet,” Spielberg said, adding that he’s been interested in games since the era of “Pong” and that they have now evolved, technologically speaking, to a point where interactive storytelling is at its most compelling.

Details of the series, like much of the content for Xbox One, won’t be revealed until a later date. How it will play with upcoming “Halo” games is also tabled until the future. But that was indicative of Microsoft’s ambitions for Xbox One, which aims to further blur the lines between games, television, film and Internet content.

It wasn’t new games or new ways to play them that dominated today’s conference, but rather ways to integrate a gaming device and gaming technology such as the motion-based Kinect into our family rooms. You turn the device on by saying, “Xbox on.” You find out what is on ABC by asking the machine. Or, if you prefer to game, just say “game.” You can also jump into a game while watching a movie simply by using hand gestures,  a process Microsoft has dubbed “snap mode.”

The new Xbox One console, sensor and controller. (Microsoft)

The new Xbox One console, sensor and controller. (Microsoft)

The idea of using a game system as a sort of Trojan Horse to take over the living room is nothing new. The PlayStation 2, for instance, was released in 2000 with DVD playback capability. Last year, Wii U aimed to fully integrate TV and Web functionality into the machine.

Some have worked better than others — I’m happy utilizing the Wii U format for services such as Hulu, and using the Wii U’s Gamepad as a TV remote is a nice bonus now and again, but as someone without a cable subscription most of the add-ons are superfluous. It’s simply quicker to access what I want when I want without using the game system (or in the case of my home Xbox, without needing a Xbox Live subscription).

Xbox One hopes to make cross-media functionality easier than ever before by working closely with your cable box and incorporating a retooled Kinect that better recognizes movement and voice into the console. What’s more, today Microsoft said Xbox One essentially runs three operating systems, making jumps between games, Skype apps, movies, the Web or television happen instantaneously on the same screen (or by accident, depending on what Xbox trigger words you say, although Kinect upgrades are promised to have pitch-perfect voice recognition).

Examples shown illustrated how users could split their screens to use Skype while watching TV or playing a game. Partnerships with the NFL will bring more Web content onto the screen and it looks as if users can search for movie times or scroll through TV guides without having to leave a film or a game. By connecting with your cable box, the Xbox One, in theory, will more powerfully and seamlessly allow for mergers of online, linear and interactive entertainment.

These are all nice features but until the Xbox One is in our living rooms we won’t really know how beautifully they all intersect, although the 8-core x86 processor, 8 gigabytes of system memory and a 500 GB hard drive will certainly help. Unlike Sony’s PS4 announcement, which emphasized sharing content and better accessing games through streaming, Microsoft today tried to pitch the Xbox One as part game machine and part smart TV overlord, seeking to house all the distribution channels we use for entertainment in one ecosystem. And tools like Smartglass automatically pair the game console with compatible smartphones and tablets, so these portable devices can interact with the TV as a remote control.

A view of the movies screen on the new Xbox One. (Microsoft)

A view of the movies screen on the new Xbox One. (Microsoft)

Whether that excites you or not likely depends on how dependent you are on your current multi-screen setup — TV, laptop, tablet, etc. — and how comfortable you are talking to your TV. Or if you agree with Microsoft that the family room has become “too complex” (I think it’s pretty simple, personally.) Or, finally, how comfortable you are with the fact that the Xbox is always listening to you, since its operation is keyed by certain voice commands such as “Xbox on.”

Microsoft has already tried to squash any privacy concerns, but since Xbox One’s “advanced noise isolation lets Kinect know who to listen to, even in a crowded room,” it can hear you. Suddenly it seems rather meta that Ubisoft’s upcoming game “Watch Dogs,” based on a premise of listening to civilians by hacking personal devices, is coming to Xbox One. And it’s important to note that unless the Xbox One has DVR capability it may still be an accessory for most people.

While the current iteration of Kinect is a bit sloppy — it’s more or less useless in my small living room, in which the TV is about five feet from the couch — Microsoft went out of its way to show that new advancements will ensure its usability has improved. It is so powerful that it can supposedly read a heartbeat, which may sound odd but should make for more accurate fitness games.

What the presentation was lacking were specific examples of what the Xbox One is supposed to do best — offer an enhanced gaming experience — though one of the most exciting bits of news today was that Microsoft Studios is currently developing eight original titles to release within a year of the Xbox One launch.

In the words of Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer, “The groundbreaking tech at the heart of Xbox One will broaden the landscape and canvas for the storyteller.” Hopefully. More content — and content that isn’t a sequel or tied to an already known brand — is good news indeed, especially considering that Microsoft, like Sony, made the mistake of not ensuring the system is backward compatible.

Most of the games shown this morning were sports-related, and the sports did indeed look impressive, although it’s unknown whether what we saw was actual game play. Spencer did single out “Quantum Break” from “Alan Wake” developer Remedy, which looks to integrate lots of live action content into its game play.

It seemed a little bit like a TV show and a little bit like a game, with a young child who has the ability to seemingly plug-in to other’s minds and send players into the graphic world of the game. No doubt this is  what Spielberg, whose name was tied to LucasArts classic “The Dig,” means when he talks about the intersection of interactivity and storytelling.

Ultimately, when it comes to the question of whether to invest in a new game system (no pricing info was divulged), it’s the stories that matter and not the voice commands that can switch on a split-screen.

Oh, and more Spielberg and “Halo” doesn’t hurt.

– Todd Martens

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


20 Responses to Xbox One: Microsoft focuses on managing content, not gaming

  1. Mike Litoris says:

    What kind of name is Xbox 1?

  2. Richard says:

    Hmmm. Well, I was looking for a gaming console, not something that's going to try to take over my living room. Once again the new Microsoft paradigm of one product that does everything across all devices is a disappointment on each specific device.

  3. JAMMA PCB says:

    No backwards compatibility, no carrying over of download games (XBL arcade games), cant control "basic" cable programming. But you CAN watch a movie by talking to your xbox or waving your arms around, and play games, and share obnoxious replays of your exploits nobody really wants to see but yourself.. So basically its a 360 with kinect packaged in, and better hardware specs…and a few bells and whistles that I cant use, or dont care to. Besides, you can do almost all that was shown on current gen consoles! That, and the graphics while impressive, just aren't leaps above the current gen. They might be in 2-3 years, when they optimize the engines and squeeze more from the hardware… but launch titles are always this way. In short, nothing here or in the PS4 reveal either, that make me feel the necessity of spending $400-$500 on a new system. That all said, I'd pick up either one of these before I ever got a Wii U! At least MS and Sony are trying!

  4. PS4evahfanboiyo says:

    MS just slit it's throat. The only people who are even interested in this box-o-cr@p are gamers, and the idiots at Redmond just alienated most of them. Why? The secondary market for games………you will now have to download the game to the hard drive which will then associate the game exclusively to your Live account, and if you want to loan that game to a friend, sell it/trade it in, or even have someone else play it on your console, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY MS $$$$$ FOR THE PRIVILEGE!!!! What an outrage. MS is saying that even after dropping $60 on a game, you don't own it and you can only do with it what MS tells you you can do with it. There's another article on the site about the tech barons and their estates; obviously, the greedy pigs at MS need bigger ones. This console is about ONE company controlling your entertainment choices, that is all it is. The tech of this device isn't cutting edge, it's merely a reflection of where most electronic consumer products are right now. After the boring intro (I watched it all on my 360, live today), Sony stock went up 9%, while MS stock dropped. duh…this system isn't the next big thing, it's a slap in the face of every gamer out there. I won't be buying into this sham, and if Sony follows MS down this path, I won't be buying the PS4 either. These companies are out of control with their obsessive over reach on how the product is used after it's purchased. People hand down, re-sale, share, EVERYTHING and have been doing so since time began. Now these tech corps want to change the way humans do things, it's insulting. What's next, GM telling me that they want a cut of the sale price when I sell my used car? I think I'm done with MS. No more Windows OS computers and certainly never another Xbox. buh bye…….

  5. John says:

    So if you spent a small fortune recently on a smart hub TV set, which bit of the reveal excites you?
    Very disappointed as a gamer, as really I wanted the emphasis to be on a gaming console not an entertainment centre.
    This unit will appeal to the very casual gamer who currently plays games on their mobile device and watches movies.
    Furthermore if you have two kids and a gaming dad in the house, how many living rooms will you now need?

    ** Oh and don't even think of charging £500 sterling for a unit that costs $500 us dollars either! **

  6. Glen B. says:

    I bought the original xbox. When the xbox 360 came out, I didn't get it as a replacement for the old one until 2011. I played real computer games on a computer instead. I eventually hopped to xbox 360 because Steam account cloud computer games were getting lame with a time lag and continual updates that interrupted my control of playing….even with a decent internet connection. So when Xbox one comes out, it they quit making games for the 360, I will probably do something else but I don't expect to get an xbox one unless it becomes something that will allow gameplay without a constant internet connection. I just don't like the idea of being connect all the time to the internet. You can call it hacking phobia or desire to be in control of my own gaming which I only do in single player mode.

  7. PS4evahfanboiyo says:

    Just think about this box-o-cr@p for a moment….. almost every TV and Bluray player now comes with internet connectivity and apps for your subscription services, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Viki, blah blah, so MS wants you to not only pay those subscription fees, but pay MS a yearly fee so that you can watch those services on the Xbox? How does that even make sense? Then, they want you gesticulating in your living space to move around a menu instead of just sitting there with a remote and pressing a button. Yeah, that's progress…………and voice recognition? That tech may be on devices, but it is at least a decade away from any practical use. Does anyone you know actually use Siri? The Kinect device is always on, watching you do bad things…………a virtual spy welcomed into your living space with open arms….srsly? There is nothing that the Xbox-o-cr@p offers that is remotely compelling enough to buy ONE. There are plenty of reasons though, not to buy ONE. The DRM on the secondary market games is the killer for me. I just can no longer tolerate the insane level of control that tech corporations are trying to exert over products that you have purchased and should belong to you to do with whatever you want. What other product can you name that you have bought that tries to tell you how it can be used, when it can be used, and by whom it can be used? These tech corporations have skewered the law to their favor using OUR so called representatives to pass restrictive laws that turn consumers into digital hostages. And when I saw how big of a chunk of time in the presentation they gave to EA (one of the vilest companies in gaming), I knew the worm had turned. MS and EA, the harbingers of digital slavery to the gaming world.

  8. splendid says:

    I saw a lot of what others are saying, and mostly agree with the sentiment that they may have misfired a bit on this one. To begin, my family currently uses the 360 for a lot of their entertainment. We all have our favorite Netflix shows and games, and just recently discovered that we already can talk to our Xbox via the current Kinect. I will also say I love the Kinect as a concept, but hate the fact that no games have simply utilized it as a substitute for the controller. I was hoping for more Kinect based gaming. I would be the first in line to never have to use a controller again. I would like to play Madden (or an actually good football game) with no controller, using arm motions and speech to make the plays happen. I would like to play A game until I work up a sweat, because IMHO I believe that is what game developers should trying to bring to my living room. I would've appreciated a bigger move toward this as almost a 'holodeck' in my living room. I do not have any interest in shelling out $500 (no pricing announced, but we all know how it adds up at initial purchase.

  9. splendid says:

    Part 2
    The things that make this a nonpurchase in my home, have been said over and over, but cannot be emphasized enough. The biggest issue I have has to be that all of the content that I have purchased from Microsoft with their frickin lame point system, apparently will not be tranferable. So they are telling me that as a good customer I should just forget those games. I cannot believe they do not understand how badly this will hurt the initial sales, keeping in mind that this will not launch with 50 or 60 games. The unbelieveable one way street that Intelectual property has become blows my mind (not just Microsoft either). I cannot resell something I bought when I want, and it will be deemed useless when THEY decide. I am deifinitely not the only person with hundreds of dollars in gamer content on my (not included) 300gb hard drive of my 360.
    Lastly the worst part of all this is that making it a TV centric video entertainment center would have been cool if it were much smaller. It may actually be 10 times the size of a Roku box, and if it is as noisy as the 360, who the hell wants to hear the moving parts over the whispered dialogue of some movie that you have to lower because your kids are asleep.

  10. caleb says:

    Well my opinion is that Microsoft killed them selves big time so I have been a Xbox person for for a long time but from what i seen a couple of days ago Xbox one is nothing but an expensive dvr nothing more so very very very disappointing so going ps4 for good PlayStation is rising R.I.P xbox

  11. PS4evahfanboiyo says:

    One last thing, and then I will never utter another word nor waste another thought on this box-o-cr@p (possibly), why wasn't this article in the tech or business section? The MS box-o-cr@p is a piece of technology that WAS suppose to drive the MS gaming division to new heights of profit. I know the editors argument would be that this box-o-cr@p is nothing innovative tech wise, and that after the reveal MS stock took a dive, and that this box-o-cr@p is nothing more than a big, ugly media hub…………OK, never mind. And to splendid: there are a lot of people who don't have huge living spaces that they can move around in. Think of every kids bedroom that has an xbox and remember you need at least, at least 5 ft. of space before Kinect will even recognize a shape. So it's nice that you have a big enough space to get your exercise on, but most people don't.

  12. Common Sense says:

    For all the critics:
    1) What were you expecting?
    2) Did you expect better graphics than a PC?
    3) If the best PC in the world can't give you the next-generation breakthrough graphics that you were hoping for, why would you expect a gaming console to do that?

    Once everyone gets over the fact that the next-gen systems aren't really next-gen, they'll see that the
    Xbox One offers a lot more than the PS4.

    The only thing that will kill the Xbox One is the used game fee BS. Microsoft will dump that once it starts hurting their sales. And if Sony chooses to go the same route as far as a fee goes, then it won't make any difference.

  13. Ray says:

    I hope that you are right, common sense, but I am not holding my breath. You are forgetting the patented Microsoft “We are always right” attitude. I have zero interest in the non gamsing aspects of the console, especially if MS is going to charge me a premium just to access functionality that is otherwise free. The hard fact is that I have no interest in being harvested for a marketing machine nor in paying for functionality that I neither need nor want. I still might have considered it if MS weren’t requiring internet connectivity and an xbox live account just to play games that I already own, so I’ll wait and see if you are right. I will not be holding my breath. I will not buy any console that forces me to get the permission of the manufacturer to play games I own. I very much doubt that I am going to make the purchase for at least two years.

  14. RICHS986 says:

    I just hope Microsoft heeds its gamers opinions and change their strategy before their stock takes a really big hit. Gamers is what put the Xbox on the map in the first place, and it seems Microsoft is has us going the way of the dinosaurs.

  15. Ray says:

    Well, Richs986, like I said, I’m not holding my breath on that one This is Microsoft we are talking about after all. I have to say that I very much doubt that E3 is going to make any difference, at least it won’t for me. I just don’t care how good the games might be because there is just too much going on with the console that I find unacceptable. The always on Kinect is a case in point. It’s too creepy for words. As for the DRM, like I said, its a deal breaker, piracy or not. I’m not going to pay MS to hand me its problems. The truth is that I think that I have already decided to walk away from this console. This whole thing has been a PR disaster, and I just don’t trust MS enough to buy its product.

  16. Ray says:

    Oh, something I forgot to say. If I am right about this console vis a vis the gamers, then you know what? If the gamers aren’t buying the console, then the devs aren’t going to be selling xbox one games. This business threatens a lot more than just Microsoft.

  17. laveos says:

    From what I have been reading this new "Next-Gen" machine is nothing more than a computer engineers dream that does not apply to the real world. Sure I have an xbox live account and love it but when hard times come some things like internet become sacrificed to make ends meet sometimes for months. But my current 360 still works without connectivity and has seen more use since then as a DVD player, game player, music player (at times), among other things. If this is what MS is going to do then I hope Sony has something to offer me because I like taking my games from my place to my brothers or swap games with someone, knowing that I can play offline without paying for it each time. Don't screw this up MS if in the unlikely event that you read what the people that you know are buying this crap that pays for your homes, cars, wives, GF's, kids, mistresses (you never know). If these what may seem as marvels to you (kinect camera that watches you, no resell of used games, Not being able to own said payed for games, the need to constantly charge for everything, and constant internet connectivity) then you lost a huge Xbox supporter that has bought into your BS for years and going with the competition. And good luck with the falling stock prices HAHA.

  18. repr says:

    Wow. What a POS xbox one is looking like. DRM, tons of crap no gamer cares about., what's to like? Never have so many waited for so long for so little. Hello PS4, goodbye Xbox 360.

  19. repr says:

    Wow. What a POS xbox one is looking like. DRM, tons of cr@p no gamer cares about., what's to like? Never have so many waited for so long for so little. Hello PS4, goodbye Xbox 360.

  20. guest says:

    I have to agree with pretty much everyone on this board. I love my 360 but RIP xbox one.

    – always on kinect? no thank you. hackers are inventive creatures, only a matter of time before they take over x boxs. I enjoy privacy.
    – pay to access movies with nextflix and hulu? can do with my computer and smart tv.
    – stream stuff using smartglass from phone or tablet/computer? no thank you. I have kids and a spouse, so why would I hog the tv streaming stuff from my devices when I can just do things on them seperately.
    – continually pay full price for games at 70 bucks a pop? not that rich.
    – use kinect to pause and start movies or access content? only when I feel like shouting because the kinect always seems to ignore me (seems it has selective hearing).
    – not be able to trade games in i've already played without paying a fee? nope.
    – plus who knows if it'll be able to play blu-rays? probably not. yawn.

    ps4 is looking mighty good right now. of course if moves in the same direction it'll be pc for me. i'll be watching microsoft stock like crazy, and laughing all the way.

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